Long: 'My Bohemians team is good and will get even better'
Keith Long says there are no limits to what his Bohemians side can achieve this season.
Despite their recent impressive record against bitter rivals Shamrock Rovers, the fact that Rovers were on an eight game winning run and were on top of the table going into Tuesday's derby at Tallaght Stadium threatened to deflate the good news story that has been Bohemians in 2019.
That bible of the betting community, the Sporting Life, predicted that a ninth straight win for Rovers "should be recorded fairly comfortably". Instead it was a most uncomfortable night for Rovers, who had two men sent off, lost 1-0 and saw their lead at the top of the table reduced to just five points, and the teams immediately below Rovers, Bohs and Dundalk, have a game in hand.
It's a case of heady heights for Bohs but manager Long says that his panel, one of only three part-time squads in the league, are not going away.
"I've said it before, we're not going to put limits on what we can achieve this season and we won't," he said, still on a high from the win over Rovers, a fifth win in six games for Bohs against the Hoops.
"There was a belief in the group that we could come here and cause an upset.
"It's a crazy schedule at the moment, Waterford on Friday, Derry next Monday.
"Last year when we came and won in Tallaght, we went to Derry and lost, we can't allow that to happen this year, we've got to make sure we utilise our squad wisely, we've got a little bit more depth in terms of our squad this season we feel.
"The players have belief, we've come to Tallaght and won before, it's not unnatural to them. They have belief in terms of performances, the way they've been playing since the start of the season.
"They're getting better as they gel and as they evolve, and I think we've got some good players in the team.
"We came here with the intention of bridging the gap between ourselves and Rovers and lucky enough we've been able to do that.
"Hopefully we can follow up this win with another win on Friday night against Waterford."
The 2,800-capacity Jodi Stand at Dalymount Park has been sold out for all home games so far this season and the club expect another full house against Waterford on Friday, Long sensing the good mood around the club.
"We've a sense of where we're at as a club at the moment, we've an understanding where we're at, where we want to go, what we want to achieve, so Tuesday was a big night for us really," he added.
"Rovers were on an eight-game winning run. So to come here, obviously we were aided by the two sending offs but that's not the narrative really: our performance, our young players, our team, our togetherness really needs to be talked about as well," Long added.
Rovers boss Stephen Bradley praised the resolve of his players for staying in the game, and almost earning a draw, when they were down to nine men but he was very unhappy with the decisions by match referee, especially Paul McLaughlin's call that Lee Grace had handled in the box, leading to a second yellow card for him and a penalty, which Dinny Corcoran converted to win the game.
"I thought the players were unbelievable. If they produce that will, fight and desire between now and the end of the season, we'll be right there," said Bradley. "They showed unbelievable character, togetherness. On another night, we could have nicked a draw out of it. But it's not good enough, we keep coming in after big games and officials are after making unbelievable decisions. And it's costing us, it's not acceptable.
"You have Lee Grace. It (the ball) hits his head and the ref couldn't wait to give the peno. It's terrible refereeing. Big, big games and they're making these decisions. I don't think you can put everyone in the same bracket but we need to look at it, in the big, big games, who is refereeing them. The fourth official on Tuesday (Robert Hennessy) is one of the best in the League.
"Why is he not doing the game? In the big, big games we need to sit down and look at who does these games. Because the decisions are frightening, they're ruining games. They're just so quick to give them, it seems there's one rule against us in Inchicore (failure to send off St Pats' Lee Desmond) and here (Clarke's red card) it's totally different. It's frightening," added Bradley.
He will need to reshape his defence for tomorrow's trip to Oriel Park, with Trevor Clarke and Grace banned.