A 50th league goal for Robbie Benson and a first for Marco Tagbajumi proved decisive as Dundalk put a massive dent in Waterford FC’s title challenge by strengthening their position at the top of the table at Oriel Park last night.
Just 17 days ago Alan Reynolds’s side beat the Lilywhites at the RSC to move level on points with them. A failure to win since then, coupled with four wins on the bounce for Stephen Kenny’s side, has seen them fall 10 points behind the table-toppers who increasingly look like they are in a two-horse race with champions Cork City once more.
Dundalk showed just why they are top with a commanding display for the most part but a failure to take their chances meant they were hanging on towards the end as the Munster men pushed hard.
It was one-way traffic right from the off with the home side taking the game to their opponents. Their first chance arrived on six minutes when Daniel Cleary rose highest to head Michael Duffy’s free kick goalwards but Lawrence Vigouroux sprung to his left to claw the ball behind for the first of the Louth men’s 13 first-half corners.
The visitors were clinging on at times and perhaps no more so than on 24 minutes when Vigouroux pulled off a sensational save to tip Duffy’s dipping effort from 25 yards over the crossbar.
Then came the breakthrough on 38 minutes. Chris Shields broke up an attempted Waterford break to release Duffy on the left. Just as he had done earlier in the half, he pulled the ball back to the edge of the area for Benson. This time the midfielder took a touch to steady himself though before rifling high to the net for his fifth of the season.
Dundalk dominated again on the restart and should have been two up within two minutes when, with only the keeper to beat, Pat Hoban blazed high and wide.
Duffy passed up a big chance to put the result beyond doubt on 68 minutes when he raced clear only to fire straight at Vigouroux.
Dundalk had a big let-off two minutes later when Faysel Kasmi’s free picked out Rory Feely unmarked at the edge of the six yard box but he could only glance wide with the goal at his mercy.
Feely felt he should have had a penalty after going down under a challenge from Rogers on 77 minutes but only a goal kick was given.
There would be late drama then as Sander Puri hit the post for Waterford in the 90th minute before Dundalk broke upfield where Duffy squared to Tagbajumi for a tap-in to ensure the victory.
Rogers; Hoare, Gartland, Cleary, Massey (Jarvis HT); Shields, Benson; Connolly (Adorján 66), McGrath, Duffy; Hoban.
Vigourox; Feely, Browne, Webster, Barnett; Keegan (Puri 34), Hery, Holohan, Martin (Daly 74); Akinade, O’Halloran (Kasmi 58).
Rob Hennessy (Limerick).
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