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Dublin: 9°C Sunday 18 April 2021

'Seven games in 21 days is ridiculous'

Waterford boss Alan Reynolds feels the League of Ireland’s hectic schedule is having an impact on his side.

Waterford manager Alan Reynolds (file pic).
Waterford manager Alan Reynolds (file pic).
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

WATERFORD BOSS ALAN Reynolds was left frustrated after seeing his side suffer a 2-0 loss to Premier Division table toppers Dundalk at Oriel Park on Monday.

The hosts dominated the first half and deserved their 1-0 lead at the break, but the Blues showed impressive resilience and came back to control the game for much of the second period.

However, following a Rory Feely penalty claim and an audacious Sander Puri attempt that came back off the post, the Lilywhites scored on the counter-attack in the dying seconds to seal a hard-fought victory.

The result comes amid a hectic schedule in the League of Ireland. Monday’s match was the sixth of seven taking place in a 21-day period for Waterford, while other Premier Division teams have it similarly tough.

The Blues, however, have struggled especially during this intense barrage of games. They started the run at the beginning of the month with an impressive victory over Dundalk at the RSC — a result that saw them go level on points with Stephen Kenny’s men at the time. Since then, though, Waterford have failed to win any of their five subsequent matches and find themselves 10 points behind leaders Dundalk following this latest setback.

And Reynolds believes the hectic schedule has taken its toll — they were missing a key player in on-loan Oldham striker Courtney Duffus, while Stanley Aborah was suspended. To add to their woes, captain Paul Keegan went off on 34 minutes with a muscle injury.

“We’ve a small squad,” Reynolds said after the game at Oriel Park. “Every manager has talked about it.

Seven games in 21 days is ridiculous… We’re coming out the end of it now, but Paul Keegan pulls out tonight.

“The crowds, we were in Bray last week and there were 400 there — people don’t have the money to spend as well as [the schedule impacting] the quality of the football.

“I thought the first half was really poor tonight, it was flat. That’s probably on the back of last Friday [where they had to chase the game against Limerick] and trying to do it again.”

Reynolds feels Premier Division fixtures should be spread out more and thinks his side tend to be more affected than others, owing to their relatively small squad.

“We’re picking up injuries every week, we play so often. I’m not saying we’re as good as Cork or Dundalk, far from it, but I think we would be closer [were it not for the hectic schedule]. But we’re doing well, we want to keep going and we’ll see how it goes.”

Despite fatigue seemingly contributing to their loss, Waterford produced a much-improved second-half performance and were ultimately somewhat unlucky not to come away with a point. What did Reynolds say to inspire his lethargy-ridden side at the break?

I just asked them to play without any fear [in the second half], to go out and have a go. We were 1-0 down, we had nothing to lose, we had to be better than we were in the first half when we weren’t at it. We just juggled it around player-wise and brought on a few and I thought dominated a lot of the second half.

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“I thought it was a penalty myself [when Rory Feely appeared to be taken down in the box by Gary Rogers] and there was the [shot] that hit the post. They caught us on the break, which was a mistake, but we gambled.

“We put [Feely] up there [further forward in attack], he’s a big athletic lad and we thought he’d get on the end of something. I thought it was a gamble, it didn’t pay off, but he done well.”

Reynolds will hope to bolster his squad come July, when the League of Ireland transfer window re-opens, but emphasised that the task of bringing in the appropriate individuals to boost his squad is no mean feat.

“I will add a few, it’s just finding the right [players]. It’s very hard to get players from other clubs in the league — Dundalk or Cork aren’t going to give me any players.

“The owner [Lee Power, who also owns Swindon] has his contacts, so we’ll have a look at that. But in saying that, I need them at the start of July, I don’t need them at the end of July [when many footballers will be coming back for pre-season training in Britain].”

Swindon boss Phil Brown was among the interested spectators at Oriel Park on Monday and he will have been impressed by the performance of his club’s goalkeeper, Lawrence Vigouroux, who is currently on loan at Waterford, with the 24-year-old due to return to his parent side later on this summer.

“I hope it’s only Vigouroux that he’s having a look at,” Reynolds added. “I think the goalkeeping coach was with him. I think [Vigouroux will] go back before the break — he needs to get a rest before he goes again.”

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