Waterford FC continue to impress on their return to the Airtricity League Premier Division, writes Joseph Scully.
With fifteen games played, current First Division champions, Waterford FC, currently sit in third place, level on 31 points with Dundalk and three points behind the current champions Cork City as their fairy-tale start to the season continues.
It’s been quite a run of results for Alan Reynolds’ side, but can they sustain this form and go on to win the league or break up the duopoly of the Cork City and Dundalk, who have dominated the league since 2014.
Waterford’s 2-1 win over Stephen Kenny’s side last time out sent a loud and clear message that this squad see themselves as genuine title contenders. That win, added to their victory over the champions Cork City, means Waterford are in with a real chance of claiming top spot.
A demoralising injury-time defeat to the Louth side would have broken hearts, but they have bounced back well, an indication of the character this squad possesses.
It is their impeccable home form which is sustaining their title challenge currently as they remain unbeaten at the Regional Sports Centre (RSC) with six wins, and one draw (Sligo Rovers).
Their away form is less impressive and Reynolds will be concerned with four defeats and just two wins from their six games.
The problem they face however is the fact that both Cork and Dundalk have similar home records, with John Caulfield’s Rebel Army having a 100% record from their seven home games, conceding just the one goal.
Dundalk are also unbeaten at home with six wins and two draws, and they currently have the meanest defence having just conceded six goals in their 15 games.
Speaking after Friday night’s win over Dundalk, midfielder Bastian Hery said the club are more than capable of winning the league.
“We believe in the team. In the dressing room, we focus, and we know we’re capable. We beat Cork, we beat Dundalk. They’re at the top of the table, we’re still here.
“We’ve shown that we can be there for more than one day. We’ve been here for 15 games and we’re still up there and we’re going to challenge for it.”
Star striker and former Everton player Courtney Duffus is happy with how the season has gone personally and also from the team’s perspective.
“We just want to get as many points as we can, and we go out wanting to win every game, so we will see where we finish”.
There is certainly enough quality in the current Waterford team to sustain a title challenge throughout the season, with the likes of Sander Puri, Gavan Holohan, Izzy Akinade, Paul Keegan, Kenny Browne, Courtney Duffus and former PSG man Bastian Hery, showing that the correct blend of youth and experience can lead to strong performances.
With the experienced Alan Reynolds at the helm of the ship things are looking rosy for the Blues, and while twenty-one games remain to be played, one would not bet against Waterford continuing to cause problems for all teams in the division.
One thing that may help Waterford as the season goes on is the fact that both Cork and Dundalk will be competing in Europe, and this may cause tiredness and affect their league results when the fixtures start to pile up.
Whatever happens this season there can be no doubt that Waterford FC are here to stay for the long haul, and one feels it is only a matter of time before they break into the top two and potentially bring a Premier Division title back to the RSC.
Waterford travel to Tallaght on May 11th to face Shamrock Rovers.