WATERFORD UNITED2 (Kiely 6′, Nolan 45′)
SHELBOURNE2 (Coughlan 81′, Walsh 85′)
Report thanks to Extratime.ie
By Dean Hayes.
Shelbourne came from two goals down to draw against Waterford United at the RSC on Friday night. Late goals from Gareth Coughlan and Craig Walsh cancelled out two first-half strikes by Willie John Kiely and Brian Nolan in what proved an entertaining game on Suirside.
An encounter between two low-scoring teams wasn’t quite ideal Good Friday entertainment on the surface, but the home side proved to have more than one surprise in store for the 558 souls who came along to the RSC. Blues manager, Tommy Griffin, sent his side out in a 3-4-1-2 formation to begin the match and they immediately looked a more menacing presence than their previous incarnations in this early league season.
Some tidy build-up play through midfield ultimately won the home side a corner, and Anthony McAlavey’s whipped cross was diverted into the back of the net by Willie John Kiely for the opening goal on six minutes. Shelbourne seemed to struggle from the off with an answer to the Waterford shape and, despite some threatening moments, were on the back foot for much of the opening exchanges.
Nolan, the Waterford captain, was as instrumental as ever in midfield having passed a late fitness test. He proved his condition after 10 minutes, when he executed a fine standing tackle on the edge of his own area and powered past Shels players before laying the ball off inside the penalty box for Glenn Hawe to miss-hit a low cross.
The Blues were, at times, putting on a show for the home support, and Kiely almost sent the stadium into ecstasy just after the half hour mark when he thought he’d scored his second, only to see Greg Murray claw away his header at full stretch.
Those fans did have reason to be jubilant shortly afterwards, when Nolan produced a moment of magic that shone brighter than the enormous full moon hanging just above the New Stand. Spotting Murray off his line, Nolan drilled a stunning 45-yard effort over the backpedalling goalkeeper’s futile reach to send his side in 2-0 up at the interval.
If Shels made plans during the break to counter Waterford’s system, they were scuppered upon the resumption of play when the home side reverted to a 4-2-3-1. The gaps behind the wing-backs disappeared, but so too did Waterford’s attacking impetus. The Blues sat deep and tried to see out the second forty-five without too much incident.
For a long spell their plan worked; the game becoming slightly scrappier and Shelbourne enjoying plenty of the ball but without putting it in dangerous areas with much regularity. Matthew Connor in the Waterford goal was called into action after the hour however to acrobatically prevent Craig Walsh from pulling a goal back.
But pull a goal back they did, through one of the numerous set-pieces Shels forced their hosts to defend. Patrick Fitzgerald hauled down his man just outside his own area, and Gareth Coughlan stepped up to rifle a free-kick across Connor and inside the far post. The change in momentum was palpable and an equaliser seemed almost inevitable.
It came through yet another set-piece, this time Daire Doyle’s dangerous corner was diverted into the net by Walsh and Shelbourne’s players rushed back to restart play in search of a late winner.
It proved, ultimately, a goal too far for the visitors and Waterford held on to earn a draw that felt much more like a defeat, having squandered a late two goal lead. In the end a share of the spoils was probably the right outcome, as both sides more than played their part in staging a thrilling encounter which served as a good advertisement for a much-maligned First Division.
Waterford United: Matthew O’Connor, Dean Reidy, Shaun Corcoran, Patrick Fitzgerald (Anthony O’Donnell 90+3′), Shane Dineen, Anthony McAlavey, Brian Nolan, Dylan Mernagh, Glenn Hawe (Mark Walsh 78′), Willie Johm Kiely (Mikie Rowe 78′), Craig Burns.
Subs not used: Thomas Croke, Robert Birdsall, Sean Hurley, Greg Peel.
Shelbourne: Greg Murray, Daire Doyle, Evan Osam (Philip Hughes 50′), Ryan Robinson, Sean Heaney, Colm Crowe, Gareth Coughlan, Craig Walsh, Mark Sandford, Jordan Keegan (Alan O’Sullivan 74′), Alan Kehoe (Conor Earley 59′).
Subs not used: Jack Brady, Jake Donnelly, Adam O’Connor, Darragh Gannon.
Referee: Eoghan O’Shea (North Tipperary)
Extratime Man of the Match: Brian Nolan (Waterford United)