Waterford United 1 Sligo Rovers 2

Two opportunistic and well-taken goals from Fahrudin Kudozovic earned Sligo Rovers full points from this keenly contested tussle at the RSC on Friday night last. The result means United have now suffered three successive defeats and have only won two out of their last eleven league outings.

In truth, these are tough times for the Blues, a situation underlined by the fact that only 705 fans paid through the gate on Friday night. The management committee certainly has its work cut out keeping the club afloat financially but, as far as survival on the pitch is concerned, things are not hopeless by any means.

Hapless Longford, with six points deducted, are unlikely to get off the bottom rung and United are still only one point below Galway even though the Westerners have a game in hand. UCD are also within easy reach, especially following their 1-0 defeat by Longford on Saturday night last. The Blues are a better team than their lowly league position suggests and, with a bit of luck, a mid-table position at the end of the season is not out of the question.

Friday night’s game was finely balanced throughout but, in the end, the visitors just about deserved their victory although United could so easily have achieved a share of the points. These two sides played a 1-1 draw at the Showgrounds in April and it should be another absorbingly close contest when they meet again at the RSC in the FAI Cup on August 17th..

The play

United opened the scoring on 19 minutes when a long ball by Ray Scully dropped between Karl Bermingham and defender Jamie McKenzie. Bermingham, making his home debut for the Blues, reacted first and, from just inside the area, steered the ball into the net wide of the advancing goalkeeper, Richard Brush.

Rovers equalised on 33 minutes when goalkeeper Dean Delaney failed to cut out a cross from the right from Conor O’Grady and the inrushing Kudozovic tapped the ball into the net from close range.

At times, the game was played at a very fast pace with some nice passing movements from both sides. The next goal could have come from either side but it was Sligo who took the lead on 70 minutes when Raphael Cretaro raced down the right wing before crossing low and hard from the right for Kudozovic who drilled an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net from 12 yards.

A minute beforehand, Delaney pulled off a double save from Matthew Judge who was played into a scoring position by an excellent pass from O’Grady.

Early in the first half, it was the visitors who looked more likely to score. Raphael Cretaro’s snap-shot after only three minutes shaved the outside of the upright. On 12 minutes, a skilful build-up involving O’Grady and Cretaro saw Delaney drop Judge ‘s flashing header at the far post although he snatched back possession before he could be punished.

Super tackle

Sligo attempted to up the tempo from the restart and a glancing header by Gavin Peers from a Stephen Manson cross after only three minutes was well held by Delaney. With the United defence under pressure, it took a super tackle by David Breen on 53 minutes to prevent Manson breaking clear on goal. Two minutes later, Judge unleashed a fierce, angled drive from the edge of the area but Delaney got his body behind the ball and held it well.

Substitute Willie John Kiely was denied an equaliser on 63 minutes when he beat Brush with a powerful header from a Vinnie Sullivan cross but the ball rebounded back into play off the Sligo crossbar. Ten minutes from time, Darryl Kavanagh pounced on a throw-in from Robbie Hedderman but his stinging shot shaved the paint on the outside of the far upright.

Waterford United: Dean Delaney, Pat Flynn, Robbie Hedderman, Kenny Browne, David Breen, Dave Warren, Karl Bermingham (Willie John Kiely, 58 minutes), Paul McCarthy (Robert Brosnan, 75 minutes), Vinnie Sullivan, Darryl Kavanagh, Ray Scully (Cathal Lordan, 62 minutes). Substitutes not used: John Hayes, Packie Holden.

Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush, Seamus Coleman, Daniel Ventre, Gavin Peers, Jamie McKenzie, Conor O’Grady, Stephen Manson (Keith Foy, 62 minutes), Adam Hughes (Mark Boyd, 67 minutes), Matthew Judge, Fahrudin Kudozovic, Raphael Cretaro (Gary Curran, 92 minutes). Substitutes not used: Mikey Creane, Thomsclav Arcaba.

Referee: Alan Kelly, Cork.