A brace from Jessica Ziu kept Shelbourne’s Women’s National League title hopes alive as they ran out 3-1 winners over Bohemians at Oscar Traynor Road on Saturday. Despite a wonderful goal from Lisa Murphy from inside her own half, the Gypsies fell to their fourth straight defeat in the league.
Shels headed into the game just four points off the pace; a win would see them overtake Wexford Youths into 2nd place. Ziu was the sole change from their 2-0 win over Galway, with Abbie Larkin having to make way. Likewise, Bohs made just the one change, with Katie Lovely coming in for Aoife Robinson.
It may have been a dull afternoon in Coolock, but Shels made a bright start to the day’s proceedings. Alex Kavanagh’s useful free kick swung dangerously into the Bohs box, with the subsequent header fading just left of the post.
Noel King’s side was very well-organised, giving the home team very little room in the midfield to pose any real threat. Abbie Brophy pressed well for Bohs down the right wing, but poor touches from the hosts prevented them from stringing together credible attacking chances.
Add that to a series of poor throw-ins from Bronagh Kane, and it looked set to be a frustrating afternoon for the Gypsies, despite an impressive work-rate from Brophy throughout the game.
Meanwhile, Shels were making superb progress, especially on the left flank. Their promising attacks were cancelled out by pesky offsides. However, the positive play they exhibited in the opening stages suggested it was only a matter of time before they made the breakthrough.
The visitors got their goal on 20 minutes. A strong break down left lots of space for Ziu to pick her spot and ease it past Courtney Maguire. So far, so good for Shels.
They came very close to doubling their advantage 10 minutes later, but Ciara Grant was denied by a brave block from Lisa Murphy, who picked up a knock for her troubles. Bohs appeared to be caught out in the 34th minute, when Maguire failed to control a pass back to her. She cleared it just in time to spare her side’s blushes. With wave after wave of poor Bohs attacks, Shels were able to get to half-time with relative ease.
As the sun began to break through, the hosts looked far more lively in the early minutes of the second half. Emma McGrath made a superb run from the left, dancing through defenders and summoning a powerful shot from 25 yards, which just faded to the left and wide.
The visitors may have dropped off slightly in defence, but their attack was as vibrant as ever - Saoirse Noonan got on the end of a wonderful through-ball in the box, but her attempt only found the side netting.
On the hour mark, a divine back-heel flick from Noonan in the centre circle was collected by Grant. She managed to hold off the Bohs tackle and, controlling the ball, rolled it to Jessie Stapleton, who slotted it snugly into the bottom-right corner.
The visitors pressed the Bohs back-line in search of a third goal, and managed to put the home defenders in all sorts of trouble.
Then, out of nowhere, Bohs were back in it. Murphy gathered the ball in her own half, spotted the Shels’ keeper Budden off her line, and lobbed a beautiful ball which dipped under the crossbar for a terrific Beckham-esque goal. With their lead cut to one, Shels began to tense up ever so slightly - after all, a draw here would hand the league title to Peamount United.
Up stepped Ziu. A Shels corner dropped into the hosts’ box and, after a brief skirmish, the ball fell to the midfielder, who had the easiest of finishes to put the game beyond doubt.
Substitute Lara Phibbs seemed to reinvigorate the home side, who pressed hard to get a goal back late in the game. But a disciplined display from the centre-back pair of Shauna Fox and Pearl Slattery snuffed out any Bohs attacks, and the away side took all three points from the Oscar Traynor.
The win means that Shelbourne are just two points away from leaders Peamount with the title race going down to the final day.
Meanwhile, Bohemians remain in 6th place, just ahead of Athlone Town on goal difference.
Shels boss Noel King told ExtraTime.com that he was delighted with his team’s performance. “I’m very happy with our performance,” King said. “The only thing that was missing was a bit of clinical finishing. I think we had good patches of play and good control.”
“[Our season] has all come down to that game against Peamount, where we blew it, but we played some very good football throughout the campaign. We still have one more game to go, and then a cup final, so hopefully we can finish the season on a high.”
Bohemians WFC: Courtney Maguire; Lisa Murphy, Katie Lovely, Isobel Finnegan, Ally Cahill; Sophie Watters, Chloe Darby (Lara Phibbs 46), Emma McGrath; Bronagh Kane, Erica Burke, Abbie Brophy.
Subs not used: Trish Fennelly, Ciara Mulligan, , Niamh Kenna, Sadhbh Moran.
Sent off: None.
Shelbourne FC: Amanda Budden; Jessie Stapleton, Pearl Slattery (Mia Dodd 86), Chloe Mustaki, Jessica Gargan, Shauna Fox; Jessica Ziu, Alex Kavanagh (Leah F Doyle 86), Ciara Grant (Taylor White 86), Rachel Graham; Saoirse Noonan.
Subs not used: Sophie Lenehan, Keeva Keenan, Rebecca Creagh.
Booked: Jess Gargan.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Daniel Murphy .
extratime.com Player of the Match: Jessica Ziu