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Waterford draw level with the leaders after Akinade's brace sinks Dundalk

Waterford join Dundalk and Cork City on 31 points at the top after a pulsating encounter at the RSC.

Izzy Akinade celebrates scoring his sides second goal Izzy Akinade celebrates after giving Waterford the lead. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Waterford 2
Dundalk 1

Paul Dollery reports from the RSC

THERE’S A THREE-WAY tie at the top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table this evening after Waterford maintained their undefeated home record by getting the better of Dundalk.

All three goals came during an extended period of additional time at the end of the first half, which was a consequence of an injury to Dundalk midfielder Stephen O’Donnell.

Izzy Akinade netted twice to register his first league goals for Waterford following his winter move from Bohemians. Ronan Murray produced an immediate response for the visitors to leave them trailing 2-1 at the break, but that’s how it remained at full-time after a pulsating contest played in front of a raucous 3,508 crowd.

Dundalk’s second visit to the south in the space of eight days brought them their second defeat of the season. The Lilywhites went down 1-0 against Cork City at Turner’s Cross last Friday.

Courtney Duffus and Stephen O'Donnell Courtney Duffus of Waterford under pressure from Dundalk's Stephen O'Donnell. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Waterford, who have now won seven of their eight home league games in 2018, join Dundalk and Cork on 31 points at the summit of the table. Dundalk’s superior goal difference keeps them on top, although Cork will move ahead tomorrow if they avoid defeat at home to Limerick.

This was Dundalk’s first visit to the RSC since November 2012, when a Michael Rafter brace secured the Louth outfit’s top-flight status via a 4-2 aggregate victory in the promotion/relegation play-off. Six years later, both clubs find themselves in very different circumstances.

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny named an unchanged side from their 5-0 win over St Patrick’s Athletic on Monday. Waterford boss Alan Reynolds — who was again without key defender Kenny Browne — made two adjustments from their 1-0 victory against Bohemians. Dave Webster returned at the back at the expense of Derek Daly, while Gavan Holohan was restored to the midfield in place of Faysel Kasmi.

Dundalk were in control for much of the first half, with Michael Duffy continuing his impressive recent form by posing plenty of problems for Waterford down the left flank. The former Celtic winger curled an effort wide early on as he searched for his eighth league goal of the season. He was later played through by Robbie Benson, but the Derry native’s shot across the face of goal was always drifting away from Lawrence Vigouroux’s far post.

Murray also threatened on a couple of occasions. The ex-Ipswich Town forward volleyed wide from close range as Waterford struggled to clear their lines, and moments earlier his free-kick deflected off the wall and safely into the arms of Vigouroux.

Izzy Akinade scores his sides first goal Akinade heads Waterford into the lead. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The home side went close to taking the lead against the run of play when they finally tested Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers in the 37th minute. Stanley Aborah’s cross from the right found the head of Akinade, but Rogers produced an excellent save.

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The game was then halted for over five minutes due to what looked like a serious knee injury sustained by O’Donnell. The Dundalk skipper went down under a challenge from Aborah, who was subsequently booked. The reaction of both sets of players was telling, as O’Donnell was clearly in severe discomfort.

The veteran midfielder was stretchered off and replaced by Chris Shields as time ticked beyond the 45th minute. However, in spite of the impending arrival of the interval, the game then sprung into life during a manic nine-minute period of additional time.

Akinade rose highest to head Waterford into the lead when he beat Rogers to Rory Feely’s long delivery from a free-kick. Despite requiring treatment after colliding with Rogers, Akinade doubled Waterford’s advantage five minutes later, finishing neatly from just inside the box.

While the home fans celebrated their side’s unlikely two-goal lead, Dundalk hit back just before the half-time whistle. John Mountney was fouled by Paul Keegan, before Murray beat Vigouroux with a superb strike from the free-kick.

Stephen O'Donnell injured as his team mates look on Stephen O'Donnell receives treatment. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Similar to their win over Cork City here last month, there was an increased sense of purpose about Waterford following the break. Gavan Holohan struck narrowly wide just after the restart, but the closest they came to increasing their lead was when Paul Keegan’s half-volley struck the post in the 62nd minute.

As they redoubled their efforts to draw level, Dundalk didn’t struggle to create chances. Notably, however, they failed to ask any serious questions of Vigouroux. Duffy and Benson both saw shots from distance sail wide, Hoban’s header from Murray’s cross went straight at the goalkeeper, while Benson and Hoban both should have done better with close-range efforts that missed the target.

There was a significant moment midway through the second half when Duffy appeared to be brought down in the box by Dylan Barnett, but the Dundalk winger was booked for simulation — much to the relief of the home support.

Dundalk’s desperate pursuit of an equaliser continued into the four minutes of additional time, but Waterford defended heroically, Webster and Akinade making crucial blocks to deny Shields and Jamie McGrath respectively.

WATERFORD: Lawrence Vigouroux; Dylan Barnett, Rory Feely, Dave Webster, Garry Comerford; Paul Keegan; Bastien Hery, Stanley Aborah (John Martin, 70); Gavan Holohan; Izzy Akinade; Courtney Duffus (Sander Puri, 84).

DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland, Dan Cleary (Jamie McGrath, HT), Dean Jarvis; Stephen O’Donnell (Chris Shields, 45), Robbie Benson; John Mountney, Ronan Murray (Dylan Connolly, 63), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban.

Referee: Derek Tomney

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Paul Dollery

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