New Waterford FC signing Paul Keegan proved the hero for the Blues as his goal handed the Blues an important three points in a 1-0 win against Longford Town on Saturday in the City Calling Stadium.
Keegan knew little about the goal as Town keeper Paul Skinner, who had denied the Blues with a couple of excellent saves, cleared the ball off the midfielder on 57 minutes and the ball sailed over the head of the unlucky netminder for what turned out to be a priceless winner.
It was Skinner who made a stunning save to deny the Blues the lead goal on eight minutes when Sean Heaney put in a brilliant delivery from the left that found the head of Shane O’Connor but his header was magnificently turned around the posts.
The Blues did have the ball in the back of the net on 14 minutes when John Martin headed home a right-wing cross from Shane O’Connor but the flag of assistant referee Trevor Conlon was raised for offside in what looked a tight call.
David McDaid went close to putting the Blues in front less than three minutes later when he got on the end of a left-wing delivery from Derek Daly at the near post but his left-footed effort from 12 yards was deflected over the bar.
Blues skipper Kenny Browne came to his sides rescue on the half-hour mark when Don Cowan got past the challenge of Heaney out on the right before crossing for Jake Kelly but his close-range, goal-bound effort was blocked by the defender.
There was a major talking point on 40 minutes when a superb ball from Kenny Browne behind the Longford defence saw McDaid square the ball to John Martin, who was clearly hauled down in the area but referee Alan Carey waved play, the ball rebounded to McDaid however his cheeky lob of Skinner was tipped over.
Longford did have the first chance of the second half on 52 minutes when Tristan Noack Hofmann knocked the ball down into the path of Jake Kelly but his effort from 16 yards flashed narrowly over the crossbar of Blues keeper Matthew Connor.
The Blues got a large slice of luck for the breakthrough goal that arrived on 57 minutes when Longford keeper Paul Skinner played a clearance straight off Paul Keegan and the ball looped over the netminder finding the left-corner of the net.
Skinner made amends for that mistake with an amazing save to deny the Blues their second goal on 74 minutes when Conor Whittle was fouled out on the right-side and Derek Daly’s free kick was somehow kept out and the rebound from Mark O’Sullivan was just wide.
Jake Kelly turned provider for Noel Haverty as the hosts forced three corner kicks in a row five minutes later but defender Haverty saw his header cleared out for another corner that saw the ball knocked back to the former, however he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
With Kenny Browne and Patrick McClean producing the goods with some brilliant defending for the Blues, it was the latter that showed his class with a last-ditch tackle to deny Karl Chambers when he raced clear on goal before Mark O’Sullivan did have a chance deep into injury time for the Blues but Skinner saved superbly.
The result, coupled with a 1-0 win for Cobh Ramblers, sees the sides meet at the RSC this Friday with the Blues six points clear of second-placed Cobh.
Longford Town: Paul Skinner, Aidan Friel, Tristan Noack-Hofmann, Noel Haverty, Dean Zambra, Jake Kelly, Kevin O’Connor (Kealan Dillon `84), Karl Chambers, Gavin Boyne (Cody Mulhall `71), Daniel O’Reilly, Don Cowan
Waterford FC: Matthew Connor, Conor Whittle, Patrick McClean, Kenny Browne, Sean Heaney, Paul Keegan, Shane O’Connor, Garry Comerford, Derek Daly (Dean O’Halloran `84), John Martin (Jack Lynch `90), David McDaid (Mark O’Sullivan `71)
Referee: Alan Carey (Dublin)