Kildare County 0 – 2 Waterford United
Waterford United came away from Station Road with all three points following another strong away performance last night. In what is becoming something of a modus operandi for the Blues in recent games, they matched their hosts in the opening 45 before upping the ante in the second half, outplaying and outcompeting the home side to run out deserved victors, albeit partially thanks to a fantastic Michael Devine save when the score was 1-0.
An unchanged Blues side were quickly into action, when John Kearney’s floated 4th minute free kick was cleared only as far as Kevin Murray, and his volley was charged down by centre back Liam Tiernan. Eight minutes later the home side had a good sight of goal at the other end, Philly Hughes’ flick on from a goal kick catching out the Blues backline, allowing Trevor Bowers to drive in to the right of the area, only to pull his shot well wide of the far post. As an evenly matched game swung from end to end, United came closest yet on 21 minutes. Stephen Grant dinked a clever ball through the middle for Kevin Waters, and he chose finesse over power, clipping a sweet lob over Kildare keeper Darren Kelly but onto the top of the crossbar.
On 26 minutes Hughes put Blue hearts momentarily in mouths when he worked space for himself 30 yards out with Devine off his line, but his attempted lob had far too much on it, and from then on the visitors began to tip the attacking balance in their favour. David Grincell, chasing onto a long ball, looked to have been brought down by Tiernan just a minute later, but the half-hearted appeal, and the chance, came to naught. Almost immediately the young striker was in action again, when Murray returned a goal kick with a thumping header that set him clear, and though keeping ahead of two chasing defenders, he put his low shot wide of the far post. On 34 minutes a neat 1-2 between Waters and Dave Warren in midfield teed up the left sided player for a well struck effort from the edge of the area that looked to be curling in over Kelly until he flung up a hand to tip it over. Grincell had a couple of further sights of goal on 41 minutes, first firing wide of the near post on the volley from Kearney’s left wing cross, and then forcing an unconvincing parry from Kelly after he had cut back inside on the left edge of the Kildare area. The ball rebounded invitingly for Waters, but his drive was blocked up and over the crossbar.
The home side were first out of the blocks after the break, Trevor Bowers with a 30 yard snap-shot a yard or so wide of the right post, but the Blues upped it a couple of gears from then on, and as Graham Cummins began to get more freedom up front there was a certain inevability about the opening goal. On 53 minutes a great ball into the right channel from Stephen Grant found the big man free, but he elected to square it to Grincell instead of shooting, and the move was blocked. Five minutes later though the roles were reversed, and United were one up. This time Grincell got to the bye line on the left side of the area, chipping in for Cummins to get across his marker and stab home at the near post from six yards out.
Willie John Kiely, already lined up to come on, replaced the goal provider moments later, and almost immediately he had a fantastic chance to double the lead, but a Kevin Waters cross from the left bounced up at him awkwardly and he could only steer it straight at Darren Kelly from the edge of the small box. Two minutes later Kiely almost made amends, doing superbly well to chase down a loose ball in the box, feeding Grant who drove goalwards but then scuffed his shot around the far post. Waterford might have been made to rue those missed chances if the home side had converted two good chances of their own as the half wore on. On 64 minutes a David Lee knockdown found Philly Hughes unmarked 12 yards out but he shot straight at Michael Devine, and thirteen minutes later the Blues netminder earned his bonus with an outstanding save, low to his right, to keep out a perfectly struck Trevor Bowers drive from 20 yards.
In between, Kiely again was involved, winning possession wide on the right, and fizzing a low cross to the far post where it only just eluded the inrushing Waters, as United again began to put the squeeze on their hosts, and went looking to secure the three points. Kieran Fitzgerald tested Kelly to the fullest with a cracking 20 yard left-footed first-time volley which brought a flying save with five minutes left on the clock, and the sub was instrumental in the second goal just two minutes later, as his pin-point cross from the right was met with a looping header from Cummins that caught Kelly flat-footed. The keeper slipped as the ball dropped in over his head, and could only scoop it clear after it had crossed the line. Kiely, following in, might for a second have thought he had scored as he tucked it away from four yards, but the assistant referee had already flagged for the goal. The Blues played out the final moments of the match without incident, and another tidy 2-0 win on the road was secured. Not without some scares from a Kildare side that have been transformed in recent weeks, but a comfortable enough victory nevertheless.
Kildare County: Darren Kelly, Craig Purcell, David Long, Liam Tiernan, Dean Lawrence, Trevor Bowers, David Jackson, Darren O’Brien, Christy Doran (Colm Daly 50), Philly Hughes, David Lee (Baba Issaka 82) – subs: Matt Byrne, Stuart Cullen, Colin Cassidy
Booked: Tiernan, Long
Waterford United: Michael Devine; Alan Carey, Kevin Murray, Kenny Browne, John Kearney; Dave Warren (Kieran Fitzgerald 83), Seamus Long, Stephen Grant (Paul Walsh 73), Kevin Waters; David Grincell (Willie John Kiely 59), Graham Cummins – subs: Kevin Burns, Paul Carey
Goals: Cummins 58, 87
Booked: Grincell, Browne, Kearney, Kiely
Referee: Padraig Sutton (Clare)