End of Season Report Card 2018 - Waterford

Thu, Nov 08 2018

RSC Credit: Michael P Ryan

Team: Waterford

Manager: Alan Reynolds

Top Scorer: Courtney Duffus (10)

Stadium: Regional Sports Centre

Highest Attendance: 3,684 v Cork City 

Lowest Attendance: 1,603 v Sligo Rovers

Star Player: Bastien Héry 

Courtney Duffus and Ishmail Akinade provided a cutting edge up front with powerful running and hold up play, Paul Keegan and Sander Puri provided class in midfield and Kenny Browne has provided the solidity and platform for those ahead of him but Bastien Héry has been a class apart though.

His probing and link-up play kept the side constantly ticking over. Always available for a pass out from a defender, he instigated numerous attacks. Even against the best midfielders, he has stood apart.

Best Young Player: John Martin. 

Signed from St. Patrick’s Athletic, the underage international impressed when he has played. He had a crucial role in helping the club get promoted in 2017 and proved his ability at the top level. Being assisted by the likes of Keegan, Héry and Puri, and learning from strikers like Hunt and Akinade, can only bring on his game. The young attacker has a bright future ahead of him.

Best New Signing: Bastien Héry

Dessie Hutchinsonchipped in with some goals towards the end of the season, Gavan Holohan has provided a spark of creativity from midfield and Lawrence Vigouroux was a safe pair of hands prior to his return back to England but the nomination goes to Héry again. It is not a surprise he has been named on the league’s team of the season. The ex-Limerick man never looks under pressure.

What we expected they would do:

Given investment behind them, decent recruitment in pre-season and a support base eager to witness Premier Division football again, much was promised by Waterford. The key was not to get caught up in a relegation fight, so a good start was demanded. An outside bet for a European spot or perhaps one of the cups. 

What they actually did: 

From the opening night, it was clear that Waterford were determined to crash the party and make their presence felt in the Premier Division. A comeback victory against Derry City in front of packed RSC. An impressive beginning saw them put it up to the big two of Cork City and Dundalk.

The club’s only losing away games in the first ten fixtures which also included a feisty Munster derby victory for the Blues. A reverse to Derry saw the ending of this run and an erratic spell of form. They managed to beat Dundalk but drop points to the likes of Sligo Rovers, Bray Wanderers, and Limerick at home in an encounter that finished 6-3 to the away side. 

This threatened to derail their ambitions for a European place, especially as other teams around them started to reclaim ground on them. A mixture of loan players returning to parent clubs, injuries and suspensions begun to wear strongly on the squad.

A thumping win against Derry promised a return to form but they remained inconsistent. An up and down spell saw only two wins from eleven plus an exit from the FAI Cup at the quarter-final stage at the hands of U.C.D. 

A series of wins against some of the bottom-half sides got them back on track. As a result of both Dundalk and Cork reaching the cup final yet again, fourth place was guaranteed European football. They might have been a few points off Shamrock Rovers in the chase for third but comfortably clear of any of the teams below them. 

What they need to improve on for next year: Discipline for one. Over forty yellow cards aligned with seven red cards meant that the team was hamstrung in those games and missing for others. This also extended to occasions where players dived in conceding free-kicks or penalties from which they coughed up goals.

A period where Sander Puri was missing due to international duty on friendlies with Estonia did not help. Nor did the forced return of several players who had been integral to the side due to loans ending.

The bones of a decent squad are present at the moment. It remains to be seen what the ambitions of the club are. Do they strive to merely stay in the league or aim towards a title challenge?