Waterford United 0-2 Shamrock Rovers
Once upon a time in Ireland there was a supermarket chain by the name of H. Williams. This was one of the first of its kind and where you were guaranteed of always getting good value. Sadly, H. Williams is long gone but these days we have Dean Williams and you can be sure that whenever the diminutive striker is lurking around the box you are always going to end up getting value for your money.
Today at the Waterford Institute of Technology Sports Campus young Williams scored a brace but probably should have had a hat-trick as a dominant Hoops side continued on their winning ways.
You can always expect a hard game against Waterford at any age level, home or away. The Blues have a good pedigree and have enjoyed some success at underage level in recent years.
The Hoops had an interesting central midfield with the gifted and nimble Brandon Kavanagh and the tenacious team captain Harry Cornally joined in the starting line-up today by the considerably strong Evan White.
The combination worked a treat along with wide men Eric Abulu and Emmanuel Lawal. At the back they were equally strong with international ‘keeper Kian Clarke holding the fort and Sean Callan, Cian Collins and Conor Gleeson ensuring a formidable presence.
This trio are now in their fourth season together having won the Under 17 league title with Rovers back in 2015. The starting line-out was completed by the presence of the two Deans – Williams and Dillon, both of whom are undoubted proven goal getters.
It would be wrong to say that Waterford didn’t have their chances. Make no mistake about it, the Hoops had to work hard for this win but by the end of the 90 minutes they were worthy winners. They dominated for long spells, especially in the second half and probably should have finished the game with a higher tally. To put into the words of some Blues fans who were having a conversation “it was men against boys”.
Full credit is due to the Hoops’ management and S&C coach Pat Deans. The U15s, U17s and U19s all won this weekend and all extended their respective unbeaten sequences of straight wins since the campaign began. The fitness levels of each of these teams has been undoubtedly been a major factor.
In the very first minute of today’s game Dean Dillon forced the Blues’ keeper to save at the expense of a corner. Four minutes later Kavanagh delivered a 30-yard shot that the keeper again had to extend himself to save. The Hoops set out their stall right from the word go. The action throughout the first half was tense as both sides sought to attack. In the tenth minute Colm Whelan went close for Waterford with a header over the bar.
The Hoops put a super move together in the 14th minute when Sean Callan carried the ball all the way down field before releasing it to Manni Lawal on the right and from Lawal’s delivery into the box Williams went just wide. Eric Abulu had two good efforts in the immediate time that followed, one he made himself and the other after Conor Gleeson bore down the left.
At this stage Waterford weren’t threatening the Hoops at the other end at all and they almost went behind in the 29th minute after Dean Dillon set Brandon Kavanagh up for a shot which Blues’ keeper Paul Martin palmed over the crossbar.
Three minutes later though Waterford had a corner which did create an anxious moment at the other end but the ball was headed out by Harry Cornally. The home side had a great chance to take the lead in the 42nd minute when Jack Larkin put his chance over the bar after he tried to chip the advancing Clarke.
The Hoops ‘keeper was the first of the two in action after the break when he had to punch away a corner ball in the first minute. Larkin again placed his shot over the bar minutes later but within a minute of that a defensive error at the other end was paid for when Williams struck to send the Hoops into the lead.
Thirteen minutes later Rovers increased their lead further. Lawal delivered a great ball into Williams who again wasted no time in taking control of it at his feet and planted it into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
A terrific run by Evan White resulted in a corner kick and demonstrated how much the Hoops had taken control of the game at this stage. They should have gone further ahead after they mounted a swift counter attack in the 85th minute when Richie English and Evan Smithers combined to send Lawal on his way but it wasn’t to be.
This was a five star performance from the Hoops against one of the better sides in their division. It was a true team effort with great shape and discipline. It would be unfair to pick out any one individual from today’s encounter as there were so many fine individual performances. Just to say though that on the evidence of the games played so far both Conor Gleeson and Emmanual Lawal seem to have much-improved form and deserve recognition for that.
Shamrock Rovers: 1. Kian Clarke, 18. Sean Callan, 16. Cian Collins, 5. Conor Gleeson, 22. Evan White, 8. Harry Cornally, 7. Brandon, 17. Emmanual Lawal, 3. Eric Abulu, 9. Dean Dillon, 19. Dean Williams.
Substitutes: 25. Adam Kenny, 10. Richie English (for Kavanagh h.t.), 14. Evan Smithers (for White 79 mins), 2. Darren Prendergast (for Dillon h.t.), 11. Kenny Cunningham (for Abulu h.t.), 4. Adam O’Connor, 20. Clayton Walsh.
Match report and photos by Robert Goggins.