Bohs blow race open
Gypsies survive Rovers rally to rock the leaders at Dalymount Park and cut gap to two pointsBOHEMIANS supporters have fallen in and out of love with their players a couple of times this season thanks to some poor defeats, but the love affair was cemented back in place at Dalymount Park last night.
The 2010 Airtricity League Premier Division title, which seemed certain to end up in the hands of Shamrock Rovers just a few weeks ago, could now go right down to the wire as reigning champions Bohs played themselves right back into contention with a 1-0 win over the Hoops at Dalymount Park last night.
Tallaght native Jason Byrne, with his well-taken first-half goal, was the scourge of the league leaders who, of course, are now based in his home town. Bohs, who looked not only dead and buried but utterly demoralised after a run of three games without a win in the summer, are real live contenders again and Pat Fenlon's side could even go top of the table briefly on Saturday with a win away to St Pats, though Rovers could regain leadership by beating Sporting Fingal later that day.
That would make the final two games (Bohs play Galway United and Dundalk, Rovers take on bottom two Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers) crucial and the title race could even go down to the last day of the season.
This was an unthinkable scenario back in August when Bohs had dropped down to fourth place in the table, eight points behind the Hoops, a bad run which included that infamous European defeat by TNS.
"We have given ourselves a lot of confidence with that win and put a bit of doubt in Rovers' minds. I know Rovers are still a decent side, they have been up there all season so they deserve credit for that, but it's at this stage of the season where things are won and lost and we wanted to keep going, keep winning games and see what happens," said Fenlon, paying tribute to the Bohs support whose loyalty has been tested by hard times this year.
"Over the time we have been here at the club we've had a few blips, like the TNS game and losing away to Rovers, but that will happen. You won't have things comfortable every week when you play for a club like Bohemians, when you have defeats you have to take them on the chin and move on.
"So I am delighted for everyone after last night, especially the supporters.
"The players were particularly fantastic this week, they were a credit to themselves as it was a tough week for them but they showed tremendous character to come and win the game," added Fenlon, aware that Bohs won the league title last season with a late surge that coincided with a Rovers slump.
"We're not looking back to last season, we're taking each year as it comes. We won a game last night, we had a decent result against Rovers but it's important that we don't get carried away. We need to have another decent result against Pats at the weekend to make it count," he added.
"Hopefully they (Rovers) will slide another bit. Saturday is a massive game for us, it's just disappointing that it's at one o'clock in the afternoon. We have to win that game; if we don't win it then last night's game becomes irrelevant. We have to go and win the game in what is a difficult place to play, Pats are a good side who've had a great season so we know we're in for a hard game."
Many of the pre-match predictions guessed that the game would be won or lost with a moment of magic from someone but it was a strong finish from one of the old stagers on the field, veteran Byrne, which proved crucial.
Byrne put Bohs in front on 21 minutes, finishing well after Ken Oman had flicked on Glenn Cronin's cross, with the first real chance of the game.
Former Shels man Byrne didn't last too long after that with a calf injury and was replaced by Paddy Madden on 31 minutes. But Byrne had certainly earned his wages and his team-mates delivered with a very strong defensive display subsequently.
That came about as Rovers looked a lot sharper in the second half, boss Michael O'Neill making a half-time tactical switch by replacing Pat Kavanagh with Tommy Stewart and Bohs really had to dig deep to keep them at bay.
A real moment of danger was of the home side's own making seven minutes into the second half when a high back pass to keeper Barry Murphy from Ken Oman put the keeper under significant pressure and Rovers saw chances from Billy Dennehy, Gary Twigg and James Chambers kept out.
Time and again Rovers posed a real threat -- Aidan Price was close on 58 minutes while Dennehy just missed a connection with Stewart's ball on 76 minutes -- but the home side, who struggled against Rovers so often in recent years, held on, the back four protected by a superb display from midfielders Paul Keegan and Cronin.
But Bohs held firm and held on, and while it will be scant consolation for Rovers supporters and players today they did play a part in what was a very passionate and impressive occasion.
"I think last night was a good advert for the league," added Fenlon.
"Anyone watching that on TV will have seen a good game, two decent teams and a cracking atmosphere, there was only 3,500 at the game but it felt like there was a lot more than that. It's just a pity that we can't get that every week."
"The atmosphere was great last night and both sets of supporters were a credit to their clubs. Our supporters were brilliant as that was the first time the place has been rocking for a while.
"I was delighted for our fans, they had to come away from Tallaght with a 3-0 defeat earlier in the season and that wasn't nice, having to face the music in work the next day and take the stick.
"So I am just happy that our supporters went away happy last night and will have the bragging rights in work today."