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Dublin: 21 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

Master beats pupil as Waterford get crucial win over Shelbourne

Former Ireland international John Sheridan makes his debut as Waterford manager and prevails over his former player, Ian Morris.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Shelbourne 0-1 Waterford

AN INTRIGUING GAME, played between two under-rated teams, told us plenty about the standard of the League of Ireland, and also a little about John Sheridan.

The one-time Ireland international has had a nomadic career (is there any other kind?) in football management. And this, ironically, was the first time he has managed an Irish side.

He got off to a fine start, though. Aside from the victory, there was plenty of other things to admire, their tactical astuteness, their pace, their energy. For their part, Shelbourne also look decent. They certainly have good intentions, their willingness to try and pass from the back defying the perception that this league only has a couple of good sides.

On this evidence, that’s wrong. There’s decent depth to the league but you wonder if there is genuine depth to Waterford’s squad. One or two more signings could turn them from mid-table operators into something more. 

As it is, Sheridan will be more than happy.

In an interesting first half, they edged it, courtesy of John Martin’s 15th minute goal and also a reluctance on their part to allow Shelbourne set the terms and conditions of the game.

Time after time, Morris’ young side attempted to build from the back, an admirable enough strategy, but one that repeatedly came unstuck, as Sheridan’s midfield quintet positioned themselves astutely to squeeze the space Shelbourne were looking to exploit.

john-sheridan John Sheridan on his debut as Waterford manager. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Further back, there was so much to admire about Waterford’s defence, not just in terms of Sam Bone’s composure and Robbie McCourt’s tenacity, but also the willingness of their wide players, to push forward.

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sam-bone-with-dan-byrne Sam Bone wins a header under pressure from Dan Byrne. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Sure enough it was from this route that their goal came as Tyreke Wilson’s deep, left-sided cross was headed back across goal by Tunmise Sobowale, a downward header which eluded Matthew Smith but not Martin, who sidefooted home from close range.

Ahead, Waterford’s confidence grew. There was a calmness to their play – encouraged, no doubt, by the presence of Brian Murphy in goal. Further forward, the contest on Shelbourne’s right, between Aidan Friel and Waterford’s Smith, was a fascinating one, a microcosm of the overall battle.

By half-time, Morris knew he had to make changes. Ryan Brennan was introduced for Alex Cetiner and the third quarter was a strong one on their part. They had chances – Brian McManus had an attempt on goal; Karl Sheppard would have scored only for McCourt’s bravery while Jaze Kabia shot over.

Waterford regrouped and when the final quarter came, and the game opened up, the ebb and flow of the match was fascinating to watch.

You couldn’t help but admire Sobowale, a clever, athletic, direct and fast player, who was surrounded by decent ballplayers.

Where Waterford struggled was in their ability to provide Kurtis Byrne, their centre forward, with sufficient support. 

Morris, too, played a clever hand – making five second half subs, ensuring they were fresher in the final passage of the game, which they dominated. Ciaran Kilduff made a difference but in the end, it wasn’t enough. Waterford, tired at the end, held on. They move fourth. 

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About the author:

Garry Doyle

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