By Mfoniso Williams
Dakkada ended their six-game winless streak by defeating Heartland 1-0 at the Nest of Champions on Sunday.
Osimaga Duke netted late on to hand Caleb Esu’s team all three points — after Femi Ajayi spurned several chances — to move the Uyo club up to fifth in the Nigeria Professional Football League table.
Heading into the game on the back of two straight home draws, Dakkada were under pressure to claim victory.
The early signs were positive for the hosts. They had so much of the ball and created a flurry of chances, but they couldn’t find a breakthrough until the 89th minute when Ajayi set up Duke to fire past Ikechukwu Ezenwa at the near post.
Ajayi was guilty of profligacy. The striker, who went into the game hoping to score his first goal at home since the 4-1 victory over Adamawa United on January 5, blew away many scoring chances. His miserable evening was summed up by a second-half sitter miss.
In terms of attacking threat, the visitors offered very little. Fidelis Illechukwu’s team, who were looking to bounce back from a home defeat against Rivers United, failed to hit target all evening. They went close just twice. Julius Emiloju fired wide after latching onto a pass in the 75th minute. Kingsley Ezeali then sprinted behind Harrison Ibukun to latch onto a through ball, but the Dakkada defence tracked but to stop him from troubling goalkeeper Vincent Edafe.
Despite the loss, the Naze Millionaires remain 11th on the log.
The behind-closed-door game started slowly, but became lively after Unwana Asuquo wriggled his way past his marker, sprinted into the box before squaring the ball to Femi Ajayi. The striker controlled the pass but sent his effort over the bar from 12 yards.
The no.35 also headed high from close range after being found by Bassey Spencer’s cross, before volleying wide from the edge of the box.
Eso Archibong, who proved a handful for the visitors, forced Ezenwa into a smart save from a tight angle after controlling a high ball. He also saw his curling effort sail just wide of the far post after turning away from his marker.
Ten minutes after the break, the hosts made claims for a penalty following a foul on Ajayi but the referee was not moved.
Bassey looked certain to hit the back of the net after controlling Ajayi’s headed pass. He hesitated, though, and was denied a chance to test Ezenwa by a well-timed tackle.
Ezenwa then produced a brilliant save to deny substitute Wisdom Prince at the near post.
With two minutes of normal time left, Ajayi failed to tap into an empty net after the ball was put on a plate to him. The disappointment on the bench was visible.
But just when it looked like the Uyo side were going to share the spoils with the away side, Duke surged forward to score his second goal of the season and earn his side a well-deserved win.
Ajayi chested down a long ball into the path of Eso Archibong, who passed the ball to Duke. The no.4 in turn sent the ball to Ajayi. Duke then stabbed home from close range after Ajayi returned the favour.
Esu’s side celebrated wildly and saw off the remaining minutes — which included nearly seven minutes of stoppage time — to claim the win.
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