League of Ireland, Premier Division
Waterford FC 4
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a season of wisdom and foolishness. It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. It was a season of light. It was a season of darkness. It was a season of hope. It was a season of despair. It was a season which saw 30 players wrapped up in an enigma that became an extraordinary riddle. Yes, it was a very strange campaign to say the very least.
Supporters left the RSC on Friday night last asking the question “What if?”. During the past few months the Waterford FC team were every bit as good as any team in the league but the coming and goings during the early part of the season proved costly.
That said to finish in sixth position was a wonderful achievement and hopefully plans will now be put in place quickly for 2020 because a solid and settled Blues squad would more than hold their own in the top flight.
The fact that Aaron Drinan finished as top goal-scorer with seven goals tells its own story because he came here on loan from Ipswich Town and did not return to Waterford after the mid-term break.
The Blues went close to opening the scoring with their first attack on three minutes when Kevin Lynch sent in a cross to JJ Lunney, but his shot from deep inside the penalty area was straight at UCD keeper Gavin Sheridan.
Blues defender Rob Slevin denied UCD with a brilliant last-ditch tackle on nine minutes and
eight minutes later the students nearly gifted the home side the lead when Evan Farrell played a clearance straight to Walter Figueira but his cracking shot, that beat Gavin Sheridan, came crashing back off the far post.
Waterford scored the goal their dominance deserved on 23 minutes when Liam Scales attempted to clear a Michael O’Connor cross as Shane Duggan prepared to shoot and the ball flew past keeper Sheridan.
Walter Figueira should have doubled the Blues lead on 30 minutes, but his free header went wide.
UCD grabbed an equalising goal from the penalty spot on 32 minutes. Goalscorer Duggan bundled over former Blues underage player Dara Keane and Jack Keaney beat Matt Connor from the spot. The Blues midfielder limped off injured on 39 minutes and was replaced by Georgie Poynton who regained the lead for the Blues on the stroke of half time.Eagled eyed referee Anthony Buttimer saw Liam Scales push Walter Figueira in the area and Poynton hammered the ball past Sheridan from the penalty spot. The Blues stretched their lead three minutes into the second half when Zack Elbouzedi powered an unstoppable right-footed shot past Sheridan.
Elbouzedi turned provider for a fourth Waterford goal on 52 minutes when he picked out Michael O’Connor who directed a close-range header to the left-hand corner.
The Blues young player of the year brought the crowd to their feet on 72 minutes when he broke from the halfway line, but his effort across the area was cleared .A third penalty of the night was awarded by referee Anthony Buttimer five minutes from time when his assistant Rafael Pieper spotted that Kevin Lynch had handled a goal-bound header from Liam Scales and Jack Keaney beat Matt Connor for the second time from the spot.