Ronan Boyce header seals victory for Derry City at Waterford
Waterford 0 Derry City 1
RONAN BOYCE's early first half header clinched Derry City's third victory of the season at Waterford as the Brandywell club maintained their unbeaten run on the road under Ruaidhri Higgins
Boyce headed home Will Patching's freekick after just four minutes for the Ramelton man's second goal of the season that proved to be the winning strike.
Derry have gained 10 points from 12 on their travels since Higgins took charge and the win moves them seven clear of bottom of the table Waterford ahead of the visit of St Pat's to Brandywell on Monday night.
Higgins made two enforced changes to the team which drew 1-1 with Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght last Saturday as striker David Parkhouse and experienced defender Danny Lafferty sat out through suspension.
In came Patrick Ferry for his first senior start to lead the line while Fitzgerald was restored to the starting line-up. The game came too soon for winger Marc Walsh who failed a late fitness test.
The incentive for Derry was to put daylight between themselves and bottom club Waterford and move closer to the teams directly above them.
After a chaotic couple of weeks at the RSC, ex-QPR and Millwall star Marc Bircham was beginning his reign as Waterford boss after limited time on the training pitch with his new side.
The former Canadaian international, who met his players for the first time on Zoom calls while self-isolating, had to plan without the suspended Tunmise Sobowale and Kyle Ferguson, Prince Mutswunguma, Jack Stafford, Oscar Brennan, Jamie Mascoll, Daryl Murphy, Kian Kavanagh for a mixture of both quarantine reasons and injury.
The Blues, then under former boss Kevin Sheedy, registered a 2-1 win at the Ryan McBride Brandywell when the teams last met back in May thanks to Oscar Brennan's rebounded spotkick before the same player saw red.
Derry made the perfect start to the match as they broke the deadlock after just four minutes.
Goalkeeper Brian Murphy came racing out of his penalty area but was beaten to the ball by James Akintunde who was pushed to the ground by the experienced keeper.
From the resultant free-kick Patching found Boyce at the near post and the defender steered his header into the net from close range.
Derry looked a real threat from set-pieces and Patching found skipper Eoin Toal from a corner three minutes later but his header went over the crossbar.
Murphy got Waterford off the hook on 18 minutes when Patching nicked the ball off Darragh Power in the home side's final third but the ex-Man City Academy playmaker's shot from just outside the penalty area was parried away by Murphy.
The ball fell kindly to Akintunde eight yards from goal but when he took a touch and attempted to take it around the advancing keeper, Murphy managed to get a foot to it and the chance was lost.
From a short free-kick Joe Thomson's blistering strike bounced off the chest of Murphy from 30 yards and Ferry's follow up from just inside the box was deflected behind for a corner.
Patching attempted an audacious lob from 35 yards having spotted Murphy drift off his line but the retreating former Ireland international managed to get his fingertips to the ball and gathered at the second attempt on the line.
Shane Griffin tested Nathan Gartside for the first time in the game five minutes before the break with a curling free-kick from 25 yards but the Derry keeper managed to turn it behind at full stretch.
That effort will have given the home side hope having been camped into their own half for the majority of the opening half.
James Waite tried his luck with a left footed effort from the edge of the penalty area at the start of the second half but Gartside got down to save comfortably.
There were warning signs for Derry on 58 minutes when Jamie Mascoll crossed invitingly from the left and Adam O'Reilly had a free header 10 yards from goal but headed harmlessly over the crossbar.
From an inswinging Mascoll free-kick John Martin peeled off his marker at the back post but his header was a poor one and Cameron McJannet managed to close out the danger.
Waterford were growing in confidence and Mascoll's shot on the turn was saved low by Gartside on 84 minutes as they searched for the equaliser.
Fitzgerald was replaced by Darren Cole as Higgins attempted to hold onto his slender lead for the final minutes.
Toal came so close to sealing the points from a corner kick but directed his powerful header the wrong side of the far post.
It mattered little as the final whistle blew and Derry made the long trek north with three points intact.
Waterford: B. Murphy: D. Power, C. Evans, J. Collins, J. Mascoll; J. Waite, S. Griffin, A. O'Reilly, N. O'Keefe, E. Molloy (C. Kavanagh 76); J. Martin; Subs Not Used - P. Martin, M. Connor, K. Mashigo, I. Homoki, C. Stringer, S. Morrissey, C. Browne, L. Kervick.
Derry City: N. Gartside; R. Boyce, E. Toal, C. McJannet, C. Coll; W. Fitzgerald (D. Cole 85) C. Harkin, J. Thomson (J. Malone 74), J. Akintunde; W. Patching; P. Ferry (C. McLaughlin 61); Subs Not Used - J. Lemoignan, M. McChrystal, D. Cole, D. Lupano, M. Harris, M. Glynn, B. Barr.
Referee: John McLoughlin.