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Brian de Salvo was in position at the RSC on Friday evening to cast his eye over the latest installment of the South East derby.

Like the man said, it’s a funny old game. All smiles pre-match at the RSC with Pat Fenlon stepping out of his way to shake my hand and manager Alan Reynolds giving me a warm welcome.   

The Blues, top of the table, step out to face bottom club Wexford in a local derby in front of 1,500 fans. It has all the ingredients for an extraordinary evening and so it proves.

Waterford dominate possession and are too fast and too clever for their cross border opposition. They constantly infiltrate the Wexford back line’s feeble attempt at an offside trap and speed through on the flanks, particularly on the left where Derek Daly is giving Craig McCabe a difficult evening. Visiting keeper Corey Chambers is constantly in action producing an excellent save after ten minutes when a smart passing movement between McClean and Browne puts Whittle clean through only for the advancing keeper to deflect his shot over. Seven minutes later he advanced too far under a looping free kick from McAlavey but back pedaled in time to tip the ball over.

Waterford amass eight first half corners but fail to capitalize on any of them. At the other end their keeper Matt Connor doesn’t even have a goal kick to take.   But he does concede a goal.

It’s a sucker punch just before half time. A rare misplaced cross field pass has Waterford skipper Kenny Browne struggling to reach it and Wexford’s on loan striker Aaaron Dobbs nips in to claim the ball on the touch line. Andrew O’Connor embarks on a surging run through the massed ranks in the home penalty area and slips the ball back to Dobbs on the left. His low cross zips across the Waterford goalmouth for the unmarked Dean Kelly to return it into the net.

The credit for the goal belongs to O’Connor, a twenty seventh minute substitute for the injured McCabe. O’Connor was one of the discoveries of Wexford Youth’s season in the Premier Division but seems to have fallen out of favour in the current campaign. His performance on Friday might spark a run in the side.

Aaron Dobbs, on loan from Shamrock Rovers, came in to lead the Wexford line and, with Hanlon suffering a serious ankle injury in training, young striker Danny Doyle was retained to play on the right.

There were probably not many smiles in the Waterford dressing room at the interval and the team returned with a second striker, David McDaid, called in to replace midfielder Garry Comerford. This proved to be a smart move as McDaid had a good forty five minutes and scored the equalizer from the penalty spot.

John Martin beat O’Connor and sped in for goal. The trailing O’Connor thought about bringing him down from behind but it would have been a certain red card and the full back was returning after suspension so he demurred. Ross Kenny did the job for him, eliminating Martin with all the finesse of a fly swatter dispatching a bluebottle. McDaid sent Chambers the wrong way from the spot.

Now, surely, Waterford would turn possession into profit. But Chambers had already carried on from where he left off in the first half. Prior to the penalty he had celebrated the opening of the second period with a brave, point blank block of Martin’s attempted volley.  After the equalizer he had flung up his left arm to divert a McDaid blockbuster for yet another corner.

Waterford took the lead when Mark O’Sullivan finally made a Waterford corner count with a bullet header from Daly’s kick on the left.  But there was still only one goal in it as the minutes ticked by and a point was still within Wexford’s grasp.

For the game had become more end to end after visiting manager Damian Locke had boosted his midfield by bringing on Conor Sutton for the scorer Kelly and subsequently Shane Dunne for Aaaron O’Connor.   Matt Connor had to look sharp to take a high through ball and then dive to his right to hold a Dobbs drive.   The last chance fell to Shane Dunne but his volley from Porter’s cross flew wide and it was all over bar the shouting, tinged with relief, with which the locals celebrated. 

Attendance: 1,508

Waterford FC: Matt Connor; Conor Whittle (Robin Dempsey, 90+1), Kenny Browne, Patrick McClean, Sean Heaney; John Martin, Anthony McAlavey, Shane O’Connor, Garry Comerford (David McDaid, H/T), Derek Daly; Mark O’Sullivan (Dean O’Halloran 85). 

Wexford FC: Corey Chambers; Craig McCabe (Andrew O’Connor, 27), Owen McCormack, Ross Kenny, A.J. Lehane; Dean Kelly (Conor Sutton, 61), Danny Doyle, Mikey Byrne, Eoin Porter, Aaron O’Connor (Shane Dunne, 73); Aaron Dobbs. Not used: Mark Slater, Conor Dunne, Micheal Walsh

Referee: James McKell

 

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