Waterford 2, Derry City 1
DERRY CITY suffered a miserable opening night of the season at a rain-drenched RSC as league newcomers Waterford came from behind to clinch a precious victory.
New signing, Armin Aganovic made a dream start to his City debut giving the visitors a 19th minute lead from a close range header.
However, two minutes before the break Gavan Holohan drifted past three City defenders before driving the ball under the body of Gerard Doherty to get the Blues back on terms.
Waterford dominated the second half and deservedly celebrated their long awaited return to top flight football when Dean O'Halloran bundled the ball home from four yards.
The game was in doubt due to the incessant rain at the RSC as the club called on help from volunteers who worked frantically on the pitch to make sure the game got the go-ahead. And after a FOURTH inspection from the match officials it eventually got the thumbs up despite the deluge.
Kenny Shiels handed debuts to Swedish defender, Aganovic, Jamie McDonagh and the Hale brothers, Ronan and Rory. And Conor McDermott made the starting XI despite fears over his fitness following a hip injury sustained in pre-season.
There was no room on the Waterford team for ex-City defender, Patrick McClean who was initially named on the bench but later replaced by Derek Daly.
The Munster men started impressively with French man, Bastien Hery getting the Blues ticking from the middle of the park.
It was his clever ball in behind the Derry defence which set Izzy Akinade free on four minutes and the big striker was checked by Darren Cole to earn the home side a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.
Gary Comerford's curling free-kick needed to be punched clear by the alert Doherty.
Derry's first effort arrived on 17 minutes from a Nicky Low free-kick as Aganovic flicked it towards his centre half partner, Cole who volleyed over the bar.
For all of Waterford's early dominance on the ball, the Blues found themselves behind on 19 minutes.
McEneff whipped in a free-kick from the left and Aganovic found himself in acres of space as he peeled off his man and stooped to head the ball into the corner for a debut goal for the Candy Stripes.
In an almost carbon copy of the goal, McEneff swung in a free-kick from the left on 25 minutes and found Aganovic in space as the Swede sent his glancing header the wrong side of the post. The offside flag went up but it was another warning sign for the home side.
The driving rain was making conditions difficult and City skipper, Doherty had to make himself big as he made a superb double block from Akinade and then Dean O'Halloran as a ball over the top from Hery got stuck on the edge of the penalty area.
The Blues were back in the game two minutes before the interval thanks to a terrific jinking run by Holohan, who weaved his way past four City defenders before striking low under the body of Doherty and into the net.
There were big shouts from teh home support for a penalty on 51 minutes when Akinade got onto the end of a sublime pass from Hery before he went to ground under the challenge from Aganovic but the referee correctly waved play on.
McEneff attempted a speculative strike from 35 yards as he latched onto Corbet's clearance in the middle of the park and it sailed narrowly over the crossbar during a rare City attack.
Waterford hit the front for the first time in the game with 11 minutes remaining following a fine move.
Stanley Aborah found Comerford with a lovely flick and the Blues defender sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal and O'Halloran was on hand to tap it home at the back post.
Doherty parried O'Halloran's powerful strike behind for a corner as Waterford looked for a third late on.
The final whistle went and the 2,502 attendance celebrated a winning return to Premier Division football but Derry have plenty of work to do to get their season up and running.
Waterford - N. Corbet; R. Feely, K. Browne, D. Webster, G. Comerford; P. Keegan; B. Hery, S. Aborah (D. Barnett 80); G. Holohan, O'Halloran (D. Walsh 90); I Akinade; Subs Not Used - M. Connor, P. Daly, S. Puri, F. Kasmi, J. Kavanagh.
Derry City - G. Doherty; C. McDermott (D. Kayode 81) D. Cole, A. Aganovic, B. Doherty; J. McDonagh (R. Curtis, 55), Rory Hale, N. Low, A. McEneff; Ronan Hale (N. Boyle 85), R. Patterson; Subs Not Used - E. Grimes, E. Toal, N. Boyle, J. McIntrye, S. Whiteside.
Referee - Robert Hennessy.