While off-field developments haven’t been positive for Waterford this week, the Blues faithful had something to cheer at the RSC.
Before a crowd of 2,604, Alan Reynolds’ side were the superior outfit in the second half and were rewarded thanks to Shane Duggan’s lead goal before Zack Elbouzedi wrapped things up injury time. The home fans sang, “One team in Munster,” and the result means that City have now gone five league games without a win, losing four of those.
Both sides – who began the game tied on 11 points – had endured difficult weeks, for different reasons. A loss at UCD on Monday night made it four games without a win for City, while their hosts were still adjusting to the news that UEFA had ruled that they wouldn’t be competing in Europe in 2019-20 – the announcement was too late for the match programme, which carried an advertisement for Europa League away-leg travel.
City welcomed Conor McCormack back from injury and he kept Bastien Héry quiet for much of the first half as the visitors had the better of the play. They were once again using a 4-2-2-2 formation, with teenager Darragh Crowley given his first start alongside Graham Cummins.
Despite Héry having an early half-chance, firing an overhead kick wide, the Rebel Army enjoyed better territory, creating chances without fully testing goalkeeper Matthew Connor. The closest they came was a low Cummins cross which was just out of reach of Crowley while Garry Buckley and James Tilley had efforts which were off-target before a good Rory Feely tackle prevented Tilley from making more of a good long pass from Dan Casey.
City’s full-backs Conor McCarthy and Shane Griffin got forward well to provide width and, just after the half-hour, it was a cross from McCarthy that led to what appeared to be the opening goal. Graham Cummins met the ball on the volley with Connor saving and Garry Buckley tapping in the rebound, but the flag was up for offside.
After that let-off, Waterford had the better of the remainder of the opening period. A Shane Duggan chance allowed Zack Elbouzedi to find space but his effort was wayward. While McCormack did have a long-range chance which was just wide at the other end, Waterford created the best opportunity of the first half on 39 minutes, when Héry’s through ball found Elbouzedi but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
In the final minute of normal time, good work from former City man Aaron Drinan on the break allowed Héry a shot but he couldn’t force McNulty into a save either. The momentum generated continued to propel Waterford on the resumption and they forced the issue more in the third quarter.
Two minutes after the restart, an inviting free kick from Lynch looked destined for the head of Drinan but he was just unable to get enough contact in it. Soon after that, Shane Duggan – another who previously wore the City colours – forged his way in from the right flank and sent a dangerous shot goalwards, with McNulty saving at the expense of a corner.
It took until just before the hour for City to create anything of note, Conor McCarthy heading wide from a Griffin corner, but the Blues continued to enjoy the better quality of chances. Feely had a header cleared off the line from a JJ Lunney free kick, then Ismahil Akinade had a low shot wide and it was he whose backheel gave sub Karolis Chvedukas a sight of goal on 74. Though McNulty saved from him, Waterford recycled the play and Duggan’s left-footed effort from outside the area ended up in the net, with a slight possibility of a deflection taking it away from the goalkeeper.
Midfielder Dáire O’Connor – out injured since the Bohemians game on March 15, City’s last win – was brought on as they sought to salvage something, while the Rebel Army finished the game with subs Darragh Rainsford and Dan Smith up front.
Unfortunately for them, chances of an equaliser were rare. Duggan had a go at a second but his low shot was easy for McNulty.
The signalling of six minutes of added time gave the visitors hope but, when a corner was cleared, Elbouzedi used his pace to ease clear and – just as he had at Turner’s Cross in February – slotted home to secure a 2-0 win.
Connor; Simpson (Poynton 72), Feely, Delaney, Lynch (Chvedukas 56); Duggan, Lunney; Elbouzedi, Héry, Drinnan, Akinade (Walsh 90).
McNulty; McCarthy, Casey, McLoughlin, Griffin; McCormack (D O’Connor 77), Morrissey; Tilley, Buckley; Crowley (Smith 67), Cummins (Rainsford 81).
N Doyle (Dublin)