Dundalk edged out Waterford by a single goal in a six-pointer at Oriel Park. It was an enthralling game as both sides fought to put some distance between them and the drop zone.
Dundalk started bright and Sean Murray looked a cert to put the home side in front with five minutes played, when he was presented with a chance seven yards out and the goal at his mercy, but he miskicked, and the ball ambled harmlessly on. Daniel Kelly could do no better with the spilled ball giving Waterford an early scare.
The Lilywhites had the lion’s share of chances without being remarkable. Michael Duffy had fans hovering over their seats with his effort that pinged narrowly wide. Murray and Kelly both went close on the end of balls over the top but were denied by some heroic goalkeeping.
Vinny Perth’s side looked dangerous going forward but they looked almost as likely to sabotage themselves defensively at times. A few heart in mouth moments arose out of the home side getting caught in possession in or near their own box.
But Dundalk got their just desserts and went into the half time break one goal to the good. The half seemed to be petering out after the forced substitution of Greg Sloggett but in the added minutes of the 45, the Lilywhites finally broke the deadlock. Sean Murray took the ball under control in the center of the park and expertly picked out the run of Daniel Kelly on the right. Kelly timed his run to perfection, slipping behind his man and finishing deftly with a first time finish past Paul Martin in goals.
In the second half, Dundalk picked up where they had left off. By far the dominant side and fashioning numerous chances, but they could not find that second goal. Murray, Hoban, Duffy and the introduced Ben Amar all went close.
It was a man of the match performance from Paul Martin in the Waterford goal. On another night, the Louth men could have routed the Blues by five or more. Stand out saves include stopping Sean Murray’s effort on the line and a double save from a Michael Duffy rocket and subsequent rebound from Hoban. His heroics in goals meant that Waterford always had a chance, and occasionally there was cause for alarm from the home supporters.
With twenty minutes to go, Peter Cherrie was called upon to make his first save of note: Denying Quitirna Junior as he raced onto a ball over the top. It would have been a cruel turn of events had Dundalk been undone in such a fashion, but as fans of both these sides know, football can be a cruel game.
The closing ten minutes wasn’t exhibition stuff. Waterford getting frustrated looking for that one last chance, an aspiration at odds with tired legs having chased the ball for much of the night.
For Dundalk, it’s another very welcome home win to offset disappointing away performances and three more points to safety. Finn Harps loss means Waterford still sit above the relegation play-off zone as they did before kick off.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle (c), Darragh Leahy; Michael Duffy, Raivis Jurkovskis, Sean Murray, Will Patching, Greg Sloggett (Cameron Dummigan 45); Patrick Hoban (David McMillan 85), Daniel Kelly (Sami Ben Amar 74).
Subs not used: Alessio Abibi, Sonni Nattestad, Mayowa Animasahun, Mark Hanratty, Ryan O'Kane, Han Jeongwoo.
Booked: Sean Murray (78), Daniel Cleary (84).
Waterford: Paul Martin; Greg Halford, Kyle Ferguson (Niall O'Keeffe 62), Cameron Evans, Darragh Power, Jack Stafford; Shane Griffin (Romero Ronaldo Greene 62), Junior Quitirna, Anthony Wordsworth; John Martin, Phoenix Patterson.
Subs not used: Kyle Cooke, George Forrest, Jeremie Milambo, Isaac Tshipamba, Jamal Dupree , Callum Stringer.
Booked: Anthony Wordsworth (87) .
Referee: John McLoughlin
extratime.com Player of the Match: Paul Martin (Waterford)