The gap between bottom of the table Waterford and fifth place Finn Harps was fairly evident over the course of the full 90 minutes at the RSC on Monday night, as Harps picked up another three points in a 2-1 victory.
Waterford started the better of the two teams and dominated the opening 30 minutes against a sluggish Harps side who may have been feeling the effects of the long bus journey down to the South East.
Marc Bircham’s side were certainly boosted when they opened the scoring in the third minute, James Mascoll cutting through from the left back position to strike the ball past Mark McGinley.
Mascoll, who joined the club from Bolton Wanderers, was very impressive for the home side in the opening 30 minutes and he gave visiting right back Ethan Boyle lots of trouble during this period.
Waterford were unable to maintain their level of performance beyond the opening half hour though as Harps, a physically stronger side, began to take control of the contest.
Tunde Owolabi was a handful throughout for the Waterford defence and he managed to find the net in the 36th minute only for referee Rob Hennessy to disallow the goal for an earlier foul by Owolabi on Darragh Power.
Newly appointed boss Bircham will have been pleased to see his side hold the 1-0 lead up to the half time whistle while acknowledging that their opponents looked increasingly dangerous as the game progressed.
The second half was all about Ollie Horgan’s side however, helped in no small way by the introduction of Adam Foley and Karl O Sullivan. Horgan, who was suspended and forced to watch the game from the stands, felt confident enough to withdraw a midfielder as well as Sean Boyd and introduce two attacking players.
O Sullivan and Foley, as well as the hard-working Owolabi then formed a three-pronged attacking unit which Waterford struggled to contain.
It was no surprise when the equaliser came in the 75th minute when Darragh Power brought down Owolabi as he powered into the box, Barry McNamee stepping up to drill home the resultant penalty.
Waterford had no time to recover from this setback as Foley powered down the right wing on the resumption of play and slipped the ball past Brian Murphy for a second goal for Harps only sixty seconds after drawing level.
Waterford had run out of energy and ideas at this stage and they were bombarded with free kicks and Ethan Boyle's long throw ins for most of the remainder of the second half.
Waterford’s lack of experience on the bench meant that Bircham was unable to bring on fresh legs, Eric Molloy’s introduction for Cian Kavanagh being their only substitution throughout the 90 minutes.
Harps fully deserved their three points which keeps them very much in contention for a top four spot while Waterford will need to get some of their injured senior players back in action as soon as possible if they are to have any hope of getting out of relegation territory.
Waterford: Brian Murphy (gk); Darragh Power, Jamie Mascoll, Cameron Evans, Josh Collins, Adam O Reilly, Niall O Keeffe, Shane Griffin, James Waite, John Martin, Cian Kavanagh (Eric Molloy, 72)
Subs not used: Paul Martin (gk); Matt Connor (gk); Sam Morrissey, Liam Kervick, Ivan Homoki, Cian Browne, Katlego Mashigo.
Booked: James Waite (44)
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley (gk); John Dunleavy, Ethan Boyle, Kosovar Sadiki, Shane McEleney, Mark Russell (Mark Timlin, 70), Mark Coyle (Karl O Sullivan 62), Will Seymore, Barry McNamee, Tunde Owolabi, Sean Boyd (Adam Foley, 61)
Subs not used: Patrick Mc Garvey(gk); Ryan Connolly, Tony McNamee, Joel Bradley Walsh, Conor Barry.
Booked: Shane McEleney (7), Mark Coyle (18), Karl O Sullivan (70).
Referee: Rob Hennessy
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Tunde Owolabi (Finn Harps)