Dave Donnelly reports from the UCD Bowl
Pearl Slattery’s perfectly-placed header deep in injury time earned Shelbourne their second win of the season at the expense of a much-improved DLR Waves at the UCD Bowl on Saturday night.
It was a heartbreaking moment for the home side, who were sure they had secured their unbeaten start to the season when Niamh Prior scored direct from a free kick against her former club.
Ciara Grant’s second goal of the season had put the Reds in the driving seat but Waves battled back and will feel particularly hard done-by not to have taken at least a point from the game.
Waves came into the game without having scored so much as a goal against Shels in three years but the fact they took it to their opponents suggested they’d used the ten-month enforced break to good effect.
The home side’s urgency appeared to take Shelbourne by surprise in the opening stages as they were caught in possession in their own half on several occasions.
One such unforced error yielded the game’s first chance after eight minutes, when the high press forced a turnover and last week’s goalscorer Katie Malone shot narrowly wide from outside the box.
The UCD Bowl surface – which was badly cut up and well below its usual standard – played its part too as both sides struggled to weight passes on the heavy, uneven grass.
Two minutes later, Waves registered the first shot on target as Nadine Clare picked the ball off high up the pitch but she couldn’t generate the power to unduly worry Shels keeper Rachael Kelly.
Shauna Carroll was the next to go close moments later as the Shels again coughed up possession in their final third, but she couldn’t keep her shot down.
There were signs last year’s runners up were starting to click, however, as Kate Mooney was twice played through but Waves bravely stuck to the high line in defence and played her offside.
Avril Brierley called Kelly into action once more with a shot from 25 yards and Rachel Graham had to be alert to snuff out a through ball that would have left Carroll a clear run on goal.
Shels finished the first half strongly and Prior did well to take the ball off Emily Whelan’s toe following a good run from Jessica Ziu, and Eve Badana saved well from Alex Kavanagh.
The second half produced a moment of pure comedy as a toddler burst onto the pitch and, momentarily out of his parents’ clutches, entertained the crowd with a flip.
Whether the incident helped to ease the tension, it’s hard to tell, but the game began to open up, Rebecca Cooke twice going close with shots from distance.
For long periods of the game, Ireland midfielder Jessica Ziu was unplayable and it was no surprise that she was the architect of the opening goal.
A nice pivot in midfielder allowed the teenager to play it through for Grant and, with Badana committed, the former Irish international calmly lifted the ball over the keeper and into empty net.
Waves manager Graham Kelly introduced Kerri Letmon, Aimee Maher and Orla Casey and the injection of fresh legs helped turn the tide back in their favour.
A strong run down the right from Katie Malone saw the striker hauled down by two Shels defenders and a free kick awarded 25 yards out.
Spotting Rachael Kelly off her line in anticipation of the cross, Prior aimed a shot towards the top corner that the keeper eventually caught, but not before she was deemed to carry it over the line.
The visitors were enraged by the decision but the lineswoman was in the perfect position in line with the endline to make the call.
If any team was to win it from there, it looked more likely to be Waves, with Malone inches from connecting with a Letmon cross before testing Kelly down low with a shot from an angle.
Badana produced an outstanding full-stretch save to deny the tireless Cooke as she stole in at the back post in the fourth minute of injury time and it looked set to end all square.
Shelbourne had other plans and, when the resulting corner was cleared, a pinpoint cross from Kavanagh found Slattery free in the box and she glanced her header into the bottom corner.
DLR Waves: Eve Badana; Nicole Keogh, Oleta Griffin (Sinead Gaynor 84), Niamh Prior, Aoife Brophy; Fiona Donnelly, Nadine Clare, Avril Brierly (Aimee Maher 59); Shauna Carroll (Kerri Letmon 59), Catherine Cronin (Orla Casey 72), Katie Malone.
Subs not used: Erica Turner (gk), Ally O’Keeffe, Rachel Doyle.
Shelbourne: Rachael Kelly; Rebecca Cooke, Pearl Slattery, Rachel Graham, Izzy Atkinson; Jamie Finn, Alex Kavanagh, Ciara Grant; Kate Mooney, Jessica Ziu (Jess Gargan 72), Emily Whelan (Niamh McLaughlin 57).
Subs not used: Amanda McQuillan (gk), Jess Gleeson, Mia Dodd, Taylor White, Ella O’Connell.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Jessica Ziu (Shelbourne).