David McDaid’s 2nd half equaliser wasn’t enough for Waterford to hold top spot in the SSE Airtricity League First Division with rivals Cobh securing a 1-0 away win over Shelbourne. Despite large periods of domination in the game from the home side, the Blues failed to convert a number of chances that came their way with the Students defending resolutely throughout and goalkeeper Niall Corbett continuing his top form between the sticks for the visitors.
The home side started with intent from the outset, taking the game to UCD forcing a couple of early corners from which striker Mark O’Sullivan came closest on four minutes, being found at the edge of the area by Dean O’Halloran’s delivery but the Cork man’s effort drifted wide. O’Halloran’s game was to end shortly after. The winger, who has been in fine of form late, came off worse in a challenge with UCD captain Gary O’Neill which saw a lengthy delay as he received treatment on the pitch before being stretched off with suspected cruciate damage. Referee Rob Hennessy did proceed to book O’Halloran for the initial challenge as the was carried from the field. Kenny McEvoy was readied and replaced him in a like for like switch on the right wing.
Despite the set back of losing O’Halloran, the Blues kept up their intensity and chances continued to fall their way. First up on 17′ the 1,386 strong crowd almost witnessed a spectacular own goal when UCD left back mistimed his clearance on Shane O’Connor’s dangerous cross, instead volleying onto the crossbar with Corbett beaten. Substitute McEvoy also picked up where O’Halloran had left off, driving forward down the right flank to win another corner on 19′. From the resultant Derek Daly delivery, a melee ensued in the box with shouts for a handball by UCD centre half Max Kouogun not given.
The non-stop nature of the Waterford pressure didn’t let up as the Blues dominated both the possession and territory without finding an opening. On 29′ Kouogun’s clearance fell to O’Connor who found O’Sullivan but his strike was saved by Corbett before on 34′ right-back Robin Dempsey got down the line to delivery a dangerous ball into the box, McDaid was first meet to it but his effort was deflected wide.
With frustration growing in the Waterford ranks, UCD finally registered their first shot of the game on 39′ with the lively Daire O’Connor crossing for striker Georgie Kelly but his effort was easily dealt with by Matthew Connor in the Blues’ goal. O’Connor was to be involved in the next few chances as well as UCD finished the half strongly. Having switched from the right wing to the left wing, O’Connor cut in well from the flank on 44′ to drive an effort narrowly wide of Connor’s right-hand post while in the second minute of first half stoppage time, O’Connor and Kelly linked but the latter was denied by a strong palm away at full stretch from Connor.
The pressure eventually paid off however for the Students in the fifth minute of injury time. O’Connor’s cross found Kelly lurking in the box, his shot was initially saved by Connor but UCD winger Jason McClelland was on hand to follow up and tuck home to give the visitors the half time lead.
HALF TIME 0-1
The second half began with both sides enjoying spells of possession before the Blues finally won their first free kick of the night on 54′ although it came to nothing for the home side with frustration starting to grow.
Pressure however was beginning to build. On 66′ David McDaid burst into the box before pulling the ball back to strike partner O’Sullivan but the latter’s effort went wide despite getting into a great position in the 6 yard box. Three minutes later Anthony McAlavey was booked and forced off with a knock, replaced by Swindon Town loanee Tom Smith.
A fine solo goal soon followed. McDaid picked up the ball outside the area, held off the UCD defence under pressure and slotted his strike under the legs of the advancing Corbett to secure a deserved equaliser much to the delight of the RSC crowd.
With the home side back on top, Waterford went in search of the winner which wouldn’t have been unjust given their overall control of the game. On 79′ McDaid and O’Sullivan linked up superbly again but Corbett got out well to smother the ball 1 v 1 with the attacker when a goal looked likely. Six minutes later O’Sullivan again went close but his effort drifted narrowly wide.
The Blues continued to press hard as the game opened up. Two minutes after O’Sullivan’s effort, McEvoy was next to be sent through on goal but his strike went inches wide of the upright. A sign of UCD’s intent soon followed as the visitors replaced goalscorer McClelland with an extra centre back in Josh Collins, switching to a back five in the process in the hope of coming away with an important point.
The move paid off for UCD as the final minutes ebbed away and referee Rob Hennessy blew time on what was an entertaining affair, full of chances but that ultimately ended in a share of the spoils.
WATERFORD FC: Matthew Connor; Robin Dempsey – David Mulcahy – Patrick McClean – Derek Daly; Dean O’Halloran (Kenny McEvoy 14′) – Garry Comerford – Anthony McAlavey (Tom Smith 69′) – Shane O’Connor; Mark O’Sullivan – David McDaid.
Unused Subs: Matthew Sheehan, Gary Delaney, Conor Whittle, Dean Walsh, Jake Evans
UCD: Niall Corbett; Dan Tobin – Maxim Kouogun – Liam Scales – Evan Osam; Daire O’Connor – Greg Sloggett – Gary O’Neill – Jason McClelland (Josh Collins 87′); Cian Kavanagh (Gareth Coughlan 74′); Georgie Kelly
Unused Subs: Conor Kearns, Sean Coyne, Conor Crowley, Rob Manley, Ben Hanrahan
REFEREE: Robert Hennessy