Derry City striker James Akintunde hopes derby winner makes up for spurned Riga chance

WALKING OUT of the Skonto Stadium in Latvia on Thursday night James Akintunde cut a lonely figure and admitted he would lose sleep over his gilt-edged chance in the first half against Riga.

By Simon Collins
Monday, 18th July 2022, 4:55 pm

Fast forward three days and the Englishman was transformed into a redeemed hero for scoring a dramatic 93rd minute winner the North West derby against rivals Finn Harps in Ballybofey.

That goal sparked incredible scenes as a relieved Akintunde raced towards the travelling City fans who sang a noisy rendition of the new terrace anthem which had been performed loud and proud in karaoke bars in Riga the previous few nights.

The sheer joy and relief in the face of Akintunde as he wheeled away to celebrate told its own story and the striker hopes the goal, which sent Derry into second place in the table, was enough to make up for that missed chance in Riga.

“It was good to get the winner but credit to the boys, going 1-0 down away from home to Finn Harps is always tough so to get the win is just amazing,” he beamed afterwards.

“Riga was a tough one to take,” he admitted. “First half we played really well and just didn’t take our chances, including me, so the boys were disappointed. That’s all a part of football and we just had to come back stronger and we did today.

"I hope it makes up for it. I was kicking myself with that chance because you never know how the game will change with an early goal. I suppose that’s all part and parcel of the game . To score today doesn’t exactly make up for it but it’s always a good feeling.

Since arriving in the League of Ireland Akintunde has scored five Premier Division goals in or after the 90th minute. It was the second time this season he netted a 93rd minute winner, the last time down in Dalymount Park in a 2-1 comeback win against Bohemians in April. He’s certainly got a knack for scoring late, vital goals and he revealed Shane McEleney had predicted he would get the winner against Harps as he made his way onto the pitch.

James Akintunde wheels away towards the Derry City fans after netting a late, late winner against Finn Harps in Ballybofey. Photo by Kevin Moore.

“I’m not sure what’s going on this season, I’m getting a few headers and I’m not sure where they’re coming from. I came onto the pitch and Shane said ‘you’re going to score the winner’. I was just in the box when the free-kick came in. I just crowded around the boys and managed to get my head on it and see it go in. It was an amazing feeling. Credit to the boys, the staff and to the fans as well. They’ve been amazing and always kept faith in me.”

It was his fourth goal of the season, the same total he registered in the two previous campaigns but he’s hoping there’s plenty more to come.

"When you’re not stating you can’t be too down about it. We’re a great team so all you can focus on is coming on and making sure when you do come on if you get a chance you take it.

“I 100 per cent want to beat four goals. I’ve got quite a few games to beat that. I want to score as many goals as I can and hopefully I do get quite a few more.

“The fans have always got my back and even made a song for me. I hear them singing it in the karaoke bar in Riga and it’s just great that they have faith in me.”

With the recent additions of Sadou Diallo and Ryan Graydon who made a big impact off the bench on Sunday, Akintunde believes the squad is in a good position going into the second half of the season but he’s not getting carried away.

“As you saw Diallo is just calm and confident. On the ball he’s amazing. And 'Graydo' as well - non stop running and that hard work paid off because that non stop running got him the goal.

"He made a run off the fullback and got his header on it. The two boys were amazing today. We’ve got a little break now but we’re not getting too ahead of ourselves. We make sure we do everything right and focus on the next game.”

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James Akintunde nets dramatic 93rd minute winner for Derry City in North West de...