Galway United got back to winning ways as they defeated Waterford FC in a hard-fought battle to go 10 points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League First Division.
Edward McCarthy opened the scoring in the 33rd minute before David Hurley doubled the Tribesmen’s lead from the penalty spot with just over 20 minutes left to play.
Waterford pulled one back through Ronan Coughlan 10 minutes from time, but United held out to record a huge victory.
John Caulfield made one change to the side which tasted defeat for the first time this season on Monday, as Regan Donelon returned from injury to replace Maurice Nugent at left-back.
The opening exchanges saw United with a lot of possession, looking for a breakthrough from the outset. The first effort on target came with 17 minutes played as Colm Horgan’s cross went through to Killian Brouder, who controlled beautifully and struck a half-volley towards goal, but it was too central and was smothered by Paul Martin in the Waterford goal.
Just moments later, Francely Lomboto breezed past Tunmise Sobowale down the left wing and pulled a dangerous ball across the box, but it somehow evaded everybody and the scores remained level.
Waterford fashioned their first opportunity as Connor Parsons carried the ball down the left and cut inside before firing a shot that could only hit the side netting.
With 25 minutes on the clock, McCarthy won the ball back on the halfway line and sprung a counter-attack as he charged towards goal and slipped the ball through to Stephen Walsh, who looked to find the return ball to McCarthy, but he had been forced too wide and it came to nothing.
Ryan Burke found himself with an opportunity in the United box in the 31st minute, but he was crowded out by the hard-working home defence and it was cleared.
Moments later, United found the breakthrough as David Hurley’s cross wasn’t cleared and it fell to McCarthy at the back post, who volleyed into the far bottom corner to send the vocal home support into raptures.
Waterford almost pulled one back five minutes before half time when Shane Griffin fired a free kick towards goal which bounced in front of Brendan Clarke, who could only parry it. Parsons struck the rebound low, but Clarke got down and made a great save with his feet to deny the visitors and send United in a goal to the good at the break.
Conor O’Keeffe was introduced at half time and replaced Colm Horgan at right back.
Lomboto looked to create again at the beginning of the half as he played the ball to Walsh, but he could only find the side netting with his strike.
Waterford began to up their efforts for an equaliser as Parsons found himself in the box looking to create a chance for the visitors, but Rob Slevin got across to put in a strong tackle for the hosts, which was greeted with huge applause by the home fans.
With 66 minutes played, Regan Donelon controlled the ball in the box and touched the ball away from Griffin, who flew into a tackle and referee Kevin O’Sullivan pointed to the spot. David Hurley stepped up and buried his penalty low into the bottom corner to double United’s lead and grab his sixth goal of the season.
United held their lead well and looked strong defensively for the next 15 minutes before Ronan Coughlan dropped into space and pulled a shot into the bottom corner to halve the deficit with 10 minutes left to play.
Waterford began to throw bodies forward in their pursuit of an equaliser as they looked to have four up front for the last 10 minutes, but the United defence dealt with the pressure and looked dangerous themselves on the counter.
Five minutes of stoppage time offered the visitors the chance to bring goalkeeper Martin up for a last-minute corner, but it was well cleared, and the referee blew the full-time whistle to the delight of the Maroon Army.
The 2-1 victory sees United extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points with 13 games played and puts Monday night’s loss behind them as they look to go on another winning run.
Manager John Caulfield spoke to the media after the full-time whistle:
We knew it would be a tough game, in the first half we were really good, I thought we were totally dominant.
“In the second half, we expected Waterford to open up a bit more, which they did, but we were defending really well, working really hard.
“After Monday night we felt we needed to get back to working hard and moving the ball quickly.”
Galway United: B. Clarke, C. Horgan (C, O’Keeffe 46’), R. Slevin, K. Brouder, R. Donelon (M. Nugent 85’), E. McCarthy (O. O’Reilly 90’), V. Borden, C. McCormack, F. Lomboto (M. Rowe 71’), D. Hurley, S. Walsh.
Scorers: E. McCarthy (33′), D. Hurley (68′).
Waterford FC: P. Martin, R. Burke, E. Nolan (D. McMenamy 78’), G Phillips, T. Sobowale (R. Idowu 59’), B. Baggley, S. Griffin, D. Larkin W. Aouachria 61’), N. O’Keeffe, C. Parsons, R. Coughlan.
Scorer: R. Coughlan (80′).
Next up, Galway United face Wexford FC at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday, May 12th, kick-off is at 7:45pm.