Longford Town 0; Waterford United 3
Prior to this game played on a rather wet night in Flancare Park on Saturday last many Waterford supporters wondered if Gareth Cronin’s team could reach the heights they hit when drawing with Shelbourne the previous Monday in Tolka Park. Those people need not have worried because the Blues team bossed the game all through and if anything they played even better than they did in Dublin six days earlier.
Every player played his part in what was a wonderful display of teamwork by a side who are growing in confidence as we enter the final furlong of the season. All of the Waterford players were superb but it has to be put on record that Dave Warren played his best ever game in a blue shirt. He ran the middle of the park and was involved in everything positive from a Waterford point of view.
Kevin Waters also followed up his Tolka Park performance with another brilliant display.
David Grincell, who was just about to be replaced after an hour, scored a peach of a goal and created another during the final 30 minutes. This was the third time Waterford defeated Longford this season and it was their third clean sheet in a row also. On Friday night Athlone Town are the visitors to the RSC. The Blues have yet to beat the midland club in the league this season but if they can turn on the style once again in that game there is no doubt that victory will be recorded over Athlone at the fourth time of asking.
Promotion is still very much on the cards for this current Waterford team who may be timing their challenge to perfection. On Sunday in Century Homes Park, Monaghan United staged a dramatic comeback to draw with the leaders Dundalk. The Lilywhites were leading 2-1 with injury time being played but Monaghan equalised (Scully 92 mins) so now the gap between the Blues and Dundalk is only two points. If Gareth Cronin’s team win their remaining games (including the home tie with Dundalk) they will be crowned champions and of course get promoted.
The Waterford team showed four changes from the side which drew with Shelbourne the previous Monday. Kenny Browne came in for the suspended (and injured) David Breen. Michael Foley replaced Gary Dunphy. Karl Bermingham made way for David Grincell and Luke Fitzpatrick came in for Kieran Fitzgerald.
Longford won a corner kick after 10 minutes which was taken from the right by Gary Murphy. His flag kick was met by the head of Ronan Frawley but the Blues goalkeeper Pakie Holden pulled the ball from under his crossbar with ease. The home side should have taken the lead six minutes later when left full back Alan O’Riordan ran down his flank and crossed to the right full back Luke Hardy but he poked the ball wide from close range when really he should have hit the union sack.
Longford were to rue that miss because Waterford took the lead on 22 minutes.
Vinny Sullivan was fouled by Luke Hardy. Dave Warren sent over the free kick with pace and Kenny Browne marked his return to the team with a strong header which gave goalkeeper Neal Gallager no chance whatsoever from six yards. Browne almost scored once again on 36 minutes when he rose to meet a Kevin Waters corner kick from the left but on this occasion Gallager was equal to the task. Waterford continued to press forward and they very nearly increased their advantage after 39 minutes through David Grincell who controlled a pass from Kuke Fitzpatrick but he dragged his shot across goal from the right side of the penalty area.
Penalty seals points
Longford brought on their leading goalscorer Darren McKenna at the start of the second half to play alongside Jason Oladele up front. Gary Murphy was the player who made way. Andy Bermingham played the ball over the Waterford defence nine minutes into the second half. Darren McKenna raced forward to meet Bermingham’s ball but Pakie Holden advanced bravely to take the ball off McKenna just inside the penalty area. Waterford launched a counter attack and won a corner kick.
Kevin Waters took the flag kick from the right but Vinny Sullivan’s header was headed off the line by defender Ronan Frawley with goalkeeper Neal Gallagher all at sea. Alan Lynch of Longford cracked in a good effort from 30 yards on 57 minutes but Packie Holden produced a fine diving save. The goal which wrapped up the points came from the penalty spot on the hour mark. David Grincell who was just about to be replaced by Karl Bermingham turned brilliantly and drilled the ball forward to Luke Fitzpatrick who raced into the penalty area only to be pulled down by goalkeeper Neal Gallager.
The netminder was booked before he faced Gary Dunphy from the penalty spot but he dived the wrong way and from then on it was all one way traffic. Kevin Waters and Dave Warren combined brilliantly on 71 minutes but Neal Gallagher produced a wonderful save by diving to his left. Kevin Waters created the third Waterford goal on 88 minutes by splitting the Longford defence and when David Grincell controlled the ball he ran five yards before finding the net low from 20 yards with pure class. Wonderful football from a good team.
Longford Town: Neal Gallagher, Luke Hardy, Alan O’Riordan, Daire Doyle, Ronan Frawley, Shane Harte, Gary Murphy, Damien Rushe, Jason Oladele, Alan Lynch, Andy Bermingham. Subs: Darren McKenna for Murphy (H-T) Robert Douglas for Rushe (61 mins)
Waterford United: Packie Holden, Stephen Quigley, Robbie Clarke, Kenny Browne, John Hayes, Dave Warren, Kevin Waters, Luke Fitzpatrick, Vinny Sullivan, David Grincell, Michael Foley. Subs: Gary Dunphy for Foley (32 mins), Kieran Fitzgerald for Hayes (64 mins), Karl Bermingham for Sullivan (80 mins).
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).