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Dublin: 4°C Friday 26 February 2021

High-flying Waterford have shown they're a force to be reckoned with since returning to the top flight

With five wins in their opening seven matches, manager Alan Reynolds is extremely satisfied with how things have gone so far.

Stanley Aborah celebrates Friday's win.
Stanley Aborah celebrates Friday's win.
Image: Seb Daly

THEY MAY HAVE only returned to the big time, but Waterford certainly haven’t been overawed by life back in the Premier Division during the opening six weeks.

Apart from defeats to the top two, Cork City and Dundalk, Alan Reynolds’ Blues have recorded five wins to sit level on 15 points with the Lilywhites and just one back from the current champions.

Friday night’s 2-1 win over Shamrock Rovers in front of the RTÉ cameras at the RSC was another terrific result, and although the Hoops had Ally Gilchrist controversially red-carded in the first half, the home side looked strong yet again.

As well as the formidable midfield featuring Bastien Hery, Stanley Aborah, Paul Keegan and Gavan Holohan, former Everton academy player Courtney Duffus caused problems up front and was rewarded with two goals.

Waterford v Shamrock Rovers - SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Frenchman Bastien Hery (pitcutred alongside Shamrock Rovers captain Ronan Finn) has been excellent since arriving from Limerick. Source: Seb Daly

Despite the bad weather and the fact that it was being shown live on television, 3,010 fans attended the game and Reynolds was delighted to have the backing of a strong crowd.

It was fantastic to see all the supporters come out and get behind us,” the Waterford boss said. “The noise they made. Sometimes you can go to games and supporters turn up and they’re very quiet. Ours were passionate and I speak to players about feeding off their energy.

“I thought we should have made it 2-0 when Courtney could’ve made the decision to pass to Gavan [Holohan] and I would have fancied him from there  but then they go the other end and score. Rovers are a good side and even though they were down to ten, they have good movement with [Graham] Burke, [Greg] Bolger and some really good players. But we have some really good players too. We don’t make it easy for ourselves, that’s for sure.

Alan Reynolds Waterford boss Reynolds. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

The two goals from Cheltenham-born Duffus brings his tally for the season up to three and Reynolds believes there is a lot more to come from the forward, who is capped for Ireland at U21 international.

“We’ve been looking at him in training and one thing you’ll say is that he’s an outstanding finisher,” he said. “I think there’s more in him and I’ve said that to him. He can push himself to be even better again, and we’ve other lads pushing him too so you have to be at the top of your game. But he’s a great find.”

Waterford v Shamrock Rovers - SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Duffus scored twice against the Hoops. Source: Seb Daly

With Kenny Browne unavailable, the versatile Garry Comerford slotted into centre-half alongside Dave Webster and the 24-year-old impressed his manager.

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“Kenny was suffering from concussion and we have to look after his welfare,” he added. “The easy thing to do is throw him in there but, first and foremost, we look after the players’ health. He was a massive loss as he’s really good in the dressing room, but we put Garry in and he had no problems.

He took to it like a duck to water, he was comfortable and he put in a great challenge in the last few minutes. It was just a good performance from everyone.”

With their experienced squad, Waterford were widely-tipped as a club that could have a say in the top half of the Premier Division this year, and so far those predictions have proved accurate.

Friday’s fixture away to Limerick is next up and Reynolds has hinted at freshening things up and injecting some youth into the side as the busy schedule already begins to take its toll on some players.

“It’s hard to call,” he says, when asked if he could have imagined such a good start to the campaign. “You come into pre-season and you’re not looking too far ahead but you say ‘Jesus, they’re not bad’ and we’ve got decent players.

“We’ve been taking it game-by-game, but there’s been nothing between us [and the other sides]. We went to Sligo and scored in the last minute, we went to Pat’s and I thought we won comfortably but going away to those teams is difficult.

“We go again, there are a few fellas with knocks but we’ve others itching to play too so some young lads might get a chance.”

- Reporting by Brendan White 

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Ben Blake

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