Goals from David McDaid, Derek Daly and Dean Walsh secured all three points for Waterford FC after a 3-1 win at home to Athlone Town on Friday night at the RSC to maintain the Blues nine-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League First Division table with six games remaining.
After John Martin had a goal ruled out for offside on six minutes when he powered a header past Igor Labuts, the Blues did strike for the lead goal on 10 minutes when Labuts came out to clear but lost out to David McDaid and he found the net with a 30-yard lob into an unguarded net.
Athlone were back on level terms on 13 minutes when Ethan Keogh got free down the right channel before crossing to the back post where Dragos Sfrijan was on hand to hammer the ball to the net from close-range.
It was Igor Labuts that produced a fine save to deny the home side regaining the lead five minutes later when a brilliant through ball from Patrick McClean picked out the run of McDaid but his shot was kept out before Derek Daly’s delivery from the left soon afterwards was nearly turned into his own net by Stephen Walsh.
The visitors could have got their noses in front on 29 minutes when Sfrijan whipped in a cross from the left that wasn’t held by Matthew Connor and when the ball broke to Sean McGrane, the netminder redeemed himself to divert the ball out for a fruitless corner kick.
The Blues did regain the lead with a contender for goal of the season on 36 minutes when Derek Daly took a simple pass from Shane O’Connor on the right-side of the penalty area and from 25-yards, his magnificent left-footed strike gave keeper Labuts no chance whatsoever.
After Daly had another effort ruled out for offside three minutes in what was another tight call, it was Enda Curran that went close to levelling at the other end on the stroke of half time but his first effort was blocked by Patrick McClean before his second effort deflected out for a corner.
With the home side making a couple of early changes in the second half, it was Dean Walsh that netted just five minutes after replacing David McDaid on 67 minutes. He headed home from close range after Kenny Browne was denied by keeper Labuts following a Paul Keegan left-wing corner kick.
Anthony McAlavey could have extended the Blues lead after 78 minutes when he got his head on the end of another left-wing delivery from man of the match Derek Daly at the back post but his effort at the back post went wide.
Stephen Walsh had a chance to pull a goal back from a deflected free kick four minutes from time but the ball went wide before Rob Spelman got his head on the end of the resulting Jason Lyons corner kick however he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Waterford FC: Matthew Connor, Conor Whittle, Kenny Browne, Patrick McClean, Sean Heaney, Paul Keegan, Shane O’Connor (Anthony McAlavey `58), Garry Comerford, Derek Daly, John Martin (Dean O’Halloran `85), David McDaid (Dean Walsh `62)
Athlone Town: Igor Labuts, Ian Fletcher, Stephen Walsh, Cormac Raftery, Liam McCartan, Sean McGrane, Rob Spelman, Ethan Keogh (Claudio Silva `68), Enda Curran, Jason Lyons, Dragos Sfrijan
Referee: Eoghan O’Shea (North Tipperary)