Dundalk advanced to the EA Sports Cup semi-final on Tuesday evening with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Waterford United at the RSC. Goals from Stephen Maher and Faz Kudozovic cancelled out Willie John Kiely’s earlier strike to put the Airtricity Premier Division leaders into the semi-final draw.
Alan Cawley and Ross Gaynor came in for the starting 11 while Stephen Henderson returned James O’Sullivan, Willie John Kiely and Paul McCarthy to his starting squad. George O’Callaghan did not make the match day squad noted as a late injury but was not present at the RSC, strengthening rumours of a swift departure.
The first real chance of the game fell to the Premier Division side as Ross Gaynor chased a long ball over the top but ran into Waterford keeper Chris Konopka. Both quickly got to their feet with Gaynor collecting the ball. With Konopka hurtling back toward his goal, Gaynor went for the chip but Seamus Long got back to head away from the open goal.
Dundalk continued their pressure and had another chance a minute later. Gaynor’s right wing cross found the head of Garry Breen but the centre-backs header drifted just wide of the far post. Another chance fell Dundalk’s way shortly after when Konopka saved well from Kudozovic after Ross Gaynor had blocked down Kevin Murray’s attempted clearance.
Waterford United’s first chance of the game arrived on the half hour. Paul Carey crossed to the back post where Liam Kearney headed back into the penalty box. His header found James O’Sullivan but his shot from 15 yards flew over the crossbar.
The opening goal arrived on 33 minutes, and despite all their early pressure, Dundalk fell behind. James O'Sullivan fed the ball into Vinny Sullivan who chipped to the back post. Willie John Kiely misses his attempted header but the ball fell to Liam Kearney at the back post. Kearney controlled and fired toward goal but Peter Cherrie saves brilliantly. The ball landed at the feet of Willie John Kiely and he slotted home from 12 yards.
Waterford had a great chance to double their lead when John Hayes found space to shoot in the Dundalk penalty area, but Wayne Hatswell blocked brilliantly.
The equalising goal arrived on the stroke of half time. Ex-Blues midfielder Alan Cawley swung in a left wing corner which met the head of Wayne Hatswell. His header found Stephen Maher and he fired low into the bottom corner.
The start of the second half saw Waterford come out as a more attacking threat but the final ball let down the Munster side. Vinny Sullivan, Paul McCarthy and Liam Kearney linked up well but Wayne Hatswell intercepted. Dundalk then went up the other end and grabbed what would turn out to be the winning goal.
Faz Kudozovic picked up the ball on the left wing and ran at full back Paul Carey. Kudozovic then struck a shock toward goal that was half blocked by Carey but the ball looped over stranded Waterford keeper Chris Konopka and found its way into the net. The fortuitous manner of the goal was hard on Waterford who had bossed the second half up to that point.
The remaining 24 minutes were all about Waterford attacking but Stephen Henderson’s side inability to shoot ultimately proved their downfall. 11 minutes after Dundalk had taken the lead, Waterford had a great chance to level. James O'Sullivan battled in the penalty area, won possession and somehow got the ball to Vinny Sullivan but Cherrie was quickly out to make the save.
Another chance arrived five minutes from full time. Substitute Gary Keane fed the ball to O’Sullivan in the Dundalk penalty area. O’Sullivan skipped past the first tackle and the second tackle but ultimately lost the ball as he tried his luck at defender number three.
That would go down as the last real chance of a second half where Dundalk showed their defensive class and held out for a win and a semi-final place against Shamrock Rovers, Monaghan United or Sligo Rovers. For Waterford United, it was the response Stephen Henderson was looking for, a much better display following the weekends defeat to Derry.
Waterford United: Chris Konopka, Paul Carey, Seamus Long, Kevin Murray, John Kearney; James O’Sullivan, Paul McCarthy (Gary Dunphy 83’), John Hayes, Liam Kearney; Willie John Kiely, Vinny Sullivan (Gary Keane 79’).
Substitutes not used: Timmy Purcell, Kevin Waters, Gareth Cambridge.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Ciaran McGuigan, Wayne Hatswell, Garry Breen, Nathan Murphy; Michael McGowan (Tiernan Mulvenna 76’), Tom Miller, Alan Cawley, Stephan Maher, Ross Gaynor; Fahrudin Kudozovic (Johnny Breen 73’).
Substitutes not used: Neale Fenn, JJ Melligan, , Matt Gregg.
Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork)
Extratime Man of the Match: Peter Cherrie
Brendan White is Extratime News Editor and is responsible for the news section of Extratime.ie. Brendan also covers matches in Dublin and Waterford. You can contact Brendan on twitter @whitebrendan.