Dundalk maintained their two-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table as goals from Robbie Benson and Marco Tagbajumi secured a 2-0 win over Waterford at Oriel Park on Monday night.
The Lilywhites were unchanged from the side that won at Bohemians on Friday night while Waterford made two enforced changes from their shock defeat against Limerick, with Paul Keegan and Dean O’Halloran coming in for Stanley Aborah, who was serving a one-match suspension, and Courtney Duffus, who’s loan agreement stipulates that he can’t play on an artificial surface.
Dundalk created the game’s first chance after six minutes when a Michael Duffy free-kick from the left found the head of Daniel Cleary, who forced the scrambling Lawrence Vigouroux into a save.
The hosts were certainly having the better of the opening exchanges and Robbie Benson should have done better when firing over the bar after some neat play between Duffy and Patrick Hoban.
A superb cross from right-back Sean Hoare, who was man of the match in the win over Bohs, found Jamie McGrath but he looped his header well over the bar and Chris Shields then tried his luck after finding himself in space, but his shot was never really troubling Vigouroux in the Waterford goal.
Stephen Kenny’s side did get the goal their efforts merited right on the stroke of the 39th minute though, when some outstanding play from Shields, who seamlessly took the ball past three Waterford players, played in Soccer Writers’ player of the month Duffy, who hit a seemingly overhit cross that found its way to Benson, who finished superbly to put Dundalk into a deserved lead.
Waterford produced their first shot on goal two minutes before the break when midfielder Gavan Holohan found himself in space before firing a shot at Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers who had to save and defender Dave Webster saw his goal chalked off from the resulting corner due to a foul.
Dundalk should have really doubled their advantage two minutes after the restart when McGrath played in Dylan Connolly, who used his electrifying pace to beat Dylan Barnett before putting the ball on a plate for Hoban, who somehow fired over when it looked considerably easier to score.
The visitors came into the game a lot more in the second period with Dundalk having to resort to a more counter attacking style, which was used to good effect when Duffy took the ball away from Bastien Hery before running at the Waterford back four, but his tame shot was straight at Vigouroux.
Waterford were now looking the more likely as they chased that equalising goal and substitute Faysel Kasmi whipped in a brilliant free-kick in which was flashed across goal by the head of Rory Feely.
Kasmi again played in Feely, who started at right-full but was now playing in an uncompromising centre-forward position, and he appeared to have been fouled by Rogers but referee Rob Hennessey was not interested much to the bemusement of Alan Reynolds and indeed the Waterford support.
The Blues came agonisingly close to snatching an equaliser in the last minute of normal time when Estonian international Sander Puri smashed his effort off the post with Rogers well and truly beaten.
However, it was the Lilywhites who sealed the points in stoppage time when Duffy broke down the left before squaring to substitute Marco Tagbajumi, who couldn’t miss as Dundalk recorded their fourth consecutive win.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Hoare, Brian Gartland, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey (Dean Jarvis 46); Dylan Connolly (Krisztian Adorjan 66), Robbie Benson, Chris Shields, Michael Duffy; Jamie McGrath, Patrick Hoban (Marco Tagbajumi 70).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Stephen Folan, George Poynton, Ronan Murray.
Booked: Chris Shields (67), Marco Tagbajumi (73).
Waterford: Lawrence Vigouroux; Rory Feely, Kenny Browne, David Webster, Dylan Barnett; Paul Keegan (Sander Puri 34), Bastien Hery, Gavan Holohan, John Martin (Derek Daly 74); Ismahil Akinade, Dean O’Halloran (Faysel Kasmi 58).
Subs not used: Niall Corbet, Colm Whelan, Justin Croke, Dean Walsh.
Booked: Rory Feely (63).
Referee: Robert Hennessy
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Chris Shields (Dundalk)