James Akintunde says Derry City strikers given license to thrill

Derry City striker James Akintunde has netted four times this season.Derry City striker James Akintunde has netted four times this season.
Derry City striker James Akintunde has netted four times this season.
JAMES AKINTUNDE has praised Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins for giving his team a license to thrill.

That new-found attacking freedom the front three have been thriving on in recent matches has helped shoot Derry into fourth place and they’re now hot on the heels of third placed Sligo Rovers after another three goal haul against Longford Town on Friday night.

That’s eight goals in the last three league matches as Derry’s attacking talent hit form at just the right time in the race for European qualification. For so long in the season, defenders Ronan Boyce and Cameron McJannet, and midfielder Will Patching, now back at Dundalk, were Derry’s main scoring threat but finally the Brandywell club’s strikeforce have found their range.

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Joe Thomson has also been in fine goalscoring form prior to his three match suspension but the front three of Akintunde, Jamie McGonigle and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe have really stepped up to the plate. Junior’s neatly taken strike against Longford was his fifth goal in eight league appearances since returning to the club on loan from Dundalk while McGonigle’s opener was his fourth in nine as he gradually gets up to speed with his match sharpness following his summer transfer from Crusaders.

Akintunde’s deflected effort in the first half, which doubled Derry’s lead on the night, was the Londoner’s fourth of the campaign as he equalled his tally from last season. Admittedly his game is more about goals but he’s been in top form for the Candy Stripes in recent weeks and clearly knows where the net is.

Higgins has put an onus on playing offensive, free-flowing football and the front three are clearly relishing playing with such attacking freedom.

“It’s always good to get a goal,” said Akintunde after the comprehensive 3-0 win over Longford. “The boys played well and having the extra fans, the 2,000 fans definitely lifted the boys. We managed to get three goals. We had a few chances and could have got more but we go again and look forward to Shamrock Rovers now on Friday.

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Ruaidhri is a really good manager and he tells us attackers to play with expression,” he revealed. “Don’t hold back. Do what you have to do and obviously Junior and Jamie are good, electric players who are good on the ball and off it. The goals are coming in for them.”

The former Cambridge United striker’s goal against Bohemians in the 93rd minute showed his capabilities as a frontman as he displayed speed, strength and composure to burst through and deftly lift the ball over the head of James Talbot.

There was an element of good fortune about his strike on Friday as it took a wicked deflection before it nestled into the net, however, Akintunde wasn’t complaining.

“Tonight’s goal, if you don’t shoot you don’t score,” he smiled. “It took a little deflection but you take those all day long. Being an attacker is all about goals and that’s the main thing I’ve been trying to work on and improve.

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“As a whole, as a team I think the boys did well. Junior and Jamie both scored again and it’s always good when the attackers score.”

As Shamrock Rovers look to close in on back-to-back league titles, Derry will have to be at their best to stretch their seven match unbeaten league run on Friday night but Akintunde believes the Brandywell side will go to south Dublin with real confidence after recent performances.

“We’re not really looking past the next game and hopefully the results keep going our way. Shamrock Rovers are a good side. They won the league last year.

“Going away to Rovers is always going to be a tough game but like I said, the boys have always shown great character right throughout the season so there’s no reason why we can’t go there and put in a great performance.”