Keith Ward, the match-winner against Sligo Rovers on Saturday night, believes that Dundalk are starting to really find their groove.
The Lilywhites play host to Cork City on Friday looking to stretch their unbeaten run to six games and are now sitting in fourth place in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division table – just six points off the summit – thanks to Ward’s headed goal – the first of his career.
Winter arrivals Archie Davies, Hayden Muller, Wasiri Williams, Rayhaan Tulloch, Johannes Yli Kokko and Connor Malley all played their part in the win and after a natural settling-in period, Ward believes that Stephen O’Donnell’s new batch is beginning to flourish.
“They were brilliant on Saturday,” he said. “They’re new lads to the league and they’re still very young and don’t have a lot of senior football behind them so playing professional games will only make them stronger every week.
“The back four in particular were brilliant against Sligo,” he added. “We’ve had a lot of chopping and changing all season but everyone that comes in to start or comes off the bench is putting in a real team effort.
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“Hayden has been playing at centre-back and left-back and I think Archie’s probably been our best player over the last few weeks. He’s been brilliant. Waz has come back from suspension and has been exceptional and Nathan Shepperd kept a clean sheet which will keep him and the defenders happy so everyone’s buzzing and it’s great. Long may it continue.”
Lilywhites head coach Stephen O’Donnell paid tribute to Ward and said the 32-year-old was playing the best football of his career.
“Wardy is the fittest he’s ever been, he’s been doing extra work in the gym and he’s been absolutely immense,” said O’Donnell.
“People don’t see what he’s like around the place and his quality, and I’m genuinely so happy for him because when he’s played this season, he’s been excellent and he deserved that moment,
“He’s a brilliant footballer and a brilliant person. There’s nothing to beat that winning feeling and scoring with a header, the first of his career, I think, made it even better.”