United keep promotion in sight with nervy win over Kerry

Maurice Nugent heads the ball to score the only goal of Galway 
United's win over Kerry FC in the SSE Airtricity League game at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night.

Maurice Nugent heads the ball to score the only goal of Galway United's win over Kerry FC in the SSE Airtricity League game at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night.

Galway United edged out a determined Kerry FC side to maintain their lead at the top of the First Division on a nervy night in Eamonn Deacy Park last Friday.

The visitors were driven to avoid a repeat of the 9-1 reversal in their previous trip to Terryland from the kick-off. They set-up with a back five and two deep-lying midfielders to stifle United’s attack.

The attacking trio of the visitors carried a threat and they managed to fashion two good chances in the first half for striker Ryan Kelliher. His first effort, a snapshot from the edge of the box, was well saved by Brendan Clarke. Later in the half, the ball bounced kindly for him after industrious work from Sean McGrath. He failed to convert from 8 yards, his half-volley flying over the bar.

Despite being comfortable for large patches, Kerry conceded the early goal they had set out to avoid in the 11th minute. Regan Donelon’s wand of a left foot provided the magic. He found space on the left and curled a superlative cross that Maurice Nugent steered home to the corner of the net.

Thereafter, United got little joy from their long diagonal balls as Kerry’s set up nullified their direct play. However, Ed McCarthy went close after good trickery from Ronan Manning on the left. He rose well on the back stick to nod across the goal but there was nobody there to provide the finish. As time ran out on the half, Nugent nearly doubled his tally only for the bar to save the visitors after a vicious David Hurley delivery.

Although Kerry were growing into the tie, they relied on the woodwork again in the 57th minute when Vince Borden's header came back off the post after another quality delivery from Conor McCormack.

Kerry pushed further forward as the half progressed and they had the chance of the game to level when a deep cross landed on the head of Leo Gaxha. He hit the target but was denied by a majestic save by Clarke. The veteran stopper has been an inspiration for United at the back this season and showed agility that belied his years to react to the point blank effort and keep his side in front.

Kelliher went close again from the resulting corner as the unease grew in the home stands. United were acutely aware of the danger and introduced defender Killian Brouder to shore up the rearguard. It had the desired effect as despite an under-par performance United held on for a crucial three points.

Their levels will need to raise significantly if they are to meet the challenge posed by an in-form Cobh side on an often unforgiving surface in St. Colman’s Park tomorrow night. Shane Keegan’s side have their last four straight games to climb the table to third, deservedly sitting as best of the rest behind the runaway pair of United and Waterford.

Aside perhaps from the games remaining at home and away to Waterford, this trip is likely to be as difficult as John Caulfield’s side will face in the run in. It therefore stands as both a big challenge to their title credentials and an opportunity to lay down another marker in their quest for silverware.

In this task, United’s hand has been strengthened with the announcement that Wassim Auoachria has joined from Waterford FC. The powerful striker will be familiar to Galway supporters for his goal in the playoff final in Limerick last year. They will hope for a similar impact in maroon in the second half of the season.

 

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