One of the stand out performances of the weekend in the fifth round of the FAI Junior Cup was the victory for Willow Park over Ferrybank FC at DPD Park. Few would have given the home team much chance of creating an upset against fancied opposition but the Waterford outfit were duly dispatched by Padraig Dully’s men.
On a miserable wet Sunday afternoon, Willow lit up the gloom over Athlone with a controlled display in a typical cup tie atmosphere. As expected, hot favourites Ferrybank started brightly but Willow quickly got into their stride and almost took the lead following a corner kick when Shane Fitzsimons came close.
What proved to be the winning goal arrived at the half hour mark. Brian Fogarty did well to hold the ball up in midfield until support arrived. Dylan Stewart then took full advantage of the excellent approach play to fire the ball into the corner of the net. It was a lead comfortably held by Willow until the closing stages when tired limbs set in a little.
The home team kept Ferrybank at bay but the former club of ex-Irish international John O’Shea pressed hard to force the tie into extra time. For most of the second half, it was fairly straightforward for the hosts but they almost paid the price for defending in depth as the half progressed.
A series of corner kicks kept the pressure on the Willow rearguard. Ferrybank piled forward in desperation but could find no way past a resolute defence. Man of the match Klaudiusz Matczak made a number of excellent saves in the last few minutes of a tense tie. Two brilliant saves in quick succession by the Willow goalkeeper kept the lead intact and when the final whistle sounded, he was surrounded by his jubilant team mates.
The losers also recognised his brilliance as they to acknowledged his fine performance. The victory was built on a solid display at the back where experienced duo Mickey Kelly and Declan Fallon were most prominent. The good run of recent results continues for the Combined Counties league outfit. Willow now have much to celebrate over the Christmas period with a place in the sixth round secured. Action resumes in the competition in the second week of January when the last 16 of the largest cup competition in Europe will be decided upon.
Ballinasloe Town could not make home advantage count as they crashed out against Westport United at the Curragh Grounds. A penalty kick miss late in the game proved costly as United advanced with a single goal scored just after the hour mark following a free kick. Ballinasloe paid the price for losing possession following a throw in to concede the needless free. Liam Lynch blasted his spot kick over the bar on a luckless afternoon for the Roscommon League outfit. Another substitute could have forced extra time but, in the last action deep into stoppage time, Mark Richardson’s effort drifted just wide of the post.