Waterford FC took another step in the race for the Premier Division title after a narrow 1-0 win at home to UCD on Friday night. Shane O’Connor’s solitary first half goal was enough for the Blues to pick up three points.
It was a night when the Blues players had to grind out another result in front of a 1,068 attendance and with just four games remaining in the title race, Waterford hold a seven-point advantage on second placed Cobh Ramblers but have a far superior goal difference.
The Blues were denied the opening goal of the tie inside five minutes when Conor Whittle played in a brilliant through ball that saw Paul Keegan beat the offside trap out on the left but his low right-footed shot that had keeper Niall Corbet beaten came crashing back off the near post.
It was Corbet that came to his sides rescue with a super save to keep the Blues at bay on 13 minutes when a magnificent long ball out of defence from Kenny Browne picked out Garry Comerford, who raced clear on goal but his shot was well kept out by Corbet.
Waterford FC were celebrating the lead goal on 27 minutes when Whittle sent in a fantastic cross from the right that found the head of Shane O’Connor and he planted a diving header from ten yards past a helpless UCD Niall Corbet to the right-hand corner of the net.
After the Blues lost Derek Daly to injury soon afterwards, it was his replacement Dean O’Halloran that did well down the right channel ten minutes later to set up David McDaid but he just failed to get a proper connection on his delivery.
The home side had a goal ruled out for offside in the final minute of the half when Garry Comerford powered home a header after a free kick from Shane O’Connor but assistant referee Dave Berry raised his flag for offside, much to the surprise of the midfielder and his teammates.
Sean Heaney went close to doubling the Blues lead on 49 minutes when the defender got his head on the end of a left-wing Paul Keegan corner kick but his effort went inches wide of the near post with the home faithful waiting for the net to rattle.
Blues keeper Matthew Connor was called into action to make a stunning save to deny the Students an equalising goal with 67 minutes on the clock when Robert Manley sent in curling cross that found the head of Georgie Kelly but the netminder kept the ball out.
Mark O’Sullivan, who replaced David McDaid on 73 minutes, nearly doubled the Blues lead two minutes after his introduction when Heaney won a fantastic tackle that saw him set up the centre forward but despite cutting in from the left, he couldn’t beat Students’ goalkeeper Corbet.
It was hearts in the mouth stuff for the home side on 77 minutes when Dean O’Halloran was judged to have fouled on the left-side of the penalty area and Timmy Molloy’s delivery was headed over the bar by Robert Manley when he looked certain to score.
With the Students pressing for an equalising goal in the final ten minutes, the Blues defended resolutely and it was O’Sullivan that could have ensured a 2-0 success deep into injury time when he got free down the left-side but he fired into the sidenetting.
Waterford FC: Matthew Connor, Conor Whittle, Paddy Barrett, Kenny Browne, Sean Heaney, Paul Keegan, Shane O’Connor, Garry Comerford, Derek Daly (Dean O’Halloran `36), John Martin (Anthony McAlavey `85), David McDaid (Mark O’Sullivan `73)
UCD: Niall Corbet, Daniel Tobin, Evan Osam, Liam Scales, Joshua Collins, Greg Sloggett, Robert Manley, Timmy Molloy, Georgie Kelly, Cian Kavanagh (Ben Hanrahan `87), Neil Farrugia
Referee: Paula Brady