A second half revival kept Waterford’s run of positive results going as Anthony Wordsworth’s 77th minute goal cancelled out Sean Murray’s fifth minute opener for Dundalk at the RSC on Friday night.
The game had barely got going when Dundalk took the lead. It was Sean Murray who bundled in a ball that the home defence should really have cleared. Credit, though, to Daniel Kelly who worked his way into the penalty area from the right creating an opening that Murray finished gratefully
It’s tempting to say that this early set back knocked Waterford off their stride, but there had been worrying signs before the goal. After just two minutes kyle Ferguson almost coughed up a goal-scoring chance for Dundalk, tumbling over the ball when under pressure from Pat Hoban.
Cameron Evans was there to tidy up but Dundalk’s high press was causing Marc Bircham’s men problems and throughout the opening half it was the visitors who looked more in control.
Twenty-one minutes in and Sam Stanton fired in a low shot from distance that Brian Murphy in the Blues’ goal fumbled. Sadly for the Lilywhites no one was on hand to take advantage.
Will Patching fired over Murphy’s bar on 27 minutes and four minutes later Cameron Evans saved the day by whipping a ball off Sean Murray’s toe just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Injury was literally added to insult for the home side when left-back Jack Stafford retired injured ten minutes before half-time and despite a scrappy free kick that Dundalk failed to clear on several occasions, the home side went into the break one-nil down.
Anthony Wordsworth was brought into the Blues lineup for the second half, taking over the midfield anchor role that Evans had performed in the opening period. But the first act of the half had little to do with football. Dan Cleary’s foul on Patterson sparked a melee that led to three yellow cards and a disruption to Waterford’s momentum.
For twenty minutes the game idled along, a directionless exhibition of misplaced passes and poor control. It was not until Greg Halfor entered the fray on 73 minutes that some electricity was injected into proceedings.
Junior Quitirna, who had come on ten minutes previously, suddenly plugged himself into the game and with his willingness to take on defenders, Halford’s ability to fling throw-ins right into the six-yard box, and a plethora of free kicks that Shane Griffin drove into the Dundalk box, the game came alive.
With ten minutes left it looked like a Griffin free kick had beaten everyone but it fizzed inches wide of Alessio Abibi’s far post. Tow minutes later Abibi got a vital touch to another Griffin free kick, also punching away Junior’s follow-up cross.
Pat Hoban then headed away a corner as Dundalk summoned all hands to the defensive line. His clearance led to another cross, which in turn led to another corner. And so it continued, right up until the ninety minutes expired and four minutes of added time were announced.
Halford flung in three consecutive long throws, before the final act, a corner deep in added time. As a Dundalk head rose to meet it and the immediate danger ebbed, referee John McLoughlin blew his whistle and the contest ended with honours even.
The large home crowd will have gone home satisfied, This Waterford team lack nothing in terms of heart and a draw with Dundalk keeps the Lilywhites behind them and their revival on track, Visiting fans, meanwhile, will be both relieved and satisfied to have escaped with a point.
Waterford: Brian Murphy; Darragh Power, Kyle Ferguson, Eddie Nolan, Jack Stafford (Jeremie Milambo 36); John Martin, Niall O’Keeffe (Greg Halford 73), Cameron Evans (Anthony Wordsworth 46), Shane Griffin, Phoenix Patterson; Cian Kavanagh (Junior Quitirna 62).
Subs Not Used: Matt Connor (gk), George Forrest, Max Hutchison, Isaac Tshipamba, Prince Mutswunguma.
Booked: Niall O’Keeffe (49).
Dundalk: Alessio Albbi; Cameron Dummigan, Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle, Sam Stanton; Daniel Kelly (Mark Hanratty 90+3), Greg Sloggett, Will Patching, Sean Murray (Mayowa Animashun 83), Sami Ben Amar (Han jeongwoo 79); Patrick Hoban.
Subs Not Used: Cameron Yeates (gk), Peter Cherrie, Michael Duffy, Ryan O’Kane, Jack Kavanagh.
Booked: Dan Cleary (48), Pat Hoban (49), Andy Boyle 74, Han jeongwoo (81).
Referee: John McLoughlin
Extratime Player of the Match: Shane Griffin (Waterford)