Dundalk dropped two points in their quest to retain their League of Ireland crown on a dramatic Friday night at Dalymount Park.
It took a 94th minute goal from Richie Towell to earn Dundalk a point with Bohemians feeling hard done by that they couldn’t hold onto the 2-1 lead they took into injury time. The Gypsies came within seconds of inflicting the Lilywhites’ second league defeat of the year – their only league loss still remain at the hands of Bohemians from earlier in the season.
The physical centre-back combination of Andy Boyle and Brian Gartland were up against the Bohs lone-striker Ismahil Akinade who brought his own presence in front of goal. The 6’3’’ striker proved a handful for the Dundalk defence all night and it was his first half assist and second half goal either side of a Stephen O’Donnell goal that took them within a whisker of all three points before the late drama.
Bohs, who were beaten by Bray 1-0 in the FAI Cup last Friday, made just one change to their team with Dylan Hayes coming in for the injured Anto Murphy. Stephen Kenny meanwhile made seven changes to his Dundalk team that progressed to the quarter-final of the FAI Cup at Galway United’s expense last time out.
David McMillan’s header after two minutes was the closest that the Lilywhites came to scoring in the opening period but Dean Delaney was equal to the task early on smothering the effort. McMillan, playing as the lone striker for Dundalk, was given very little room after that. Derek Prendergast went in the book after only 7 minutes when he went through the back of McMillan in an aerial challenge. Stephen Best was lucky not to be given the same treatment by referee Padraigh Sutton for another heavy challenge on McMillan six minutes later.
The opening goal came on 17 minutes from great play by Akinade who dropped out wide on the left to whip in a deep cross over Dane Massey’s head to Keith Buckley. The Gypsy right side midfielder took the ball down deftly and slotted home past the advancing Gary Rogers to give Bohs the lead.
Mid-way through the half, Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell was next to go into the book after Paddy Kavanagh had nipped the ball by him before the Galwayman took him down. Lorcan Fitzgerald lined up the free kick which he got up and over the Dundalk wall but couldn’t quite get it to dip below the crossbar.
Dundalk did manage to get forward when certain opportunities arose but a Towell volley from the edge of the area saved by Delany was as clear a chance as they could create in the opening period.
Akinade almost doubled the Gypsies lead just after the half an hour mark. The striker ran onto Prendergast’s ball over the top and left Gartland on the ground. He wrapped the outside of his foot around the ball but couldn’t get sufficient curl to take the ball into the back of the net. The home side had to do with a 1-0 lead at the break.
Towell’s turn and shot 10 minutes into the second half from the edge of the box brought out the best from Bohs ‘keeper Delany who tipped over the shot at full stretch. Bohs broke from the resulting corner with Adam Evans driving by Sean Gannon on halfway with Gannon attempting to take down the Bohs player. Evans stayed on his feet but was forced wide nullifying the chance with Gannon going in the book when the ball next went out of play.
It was O’Donnell who got the equaliser for Dundalk on 64 minutes as he turned in Daryl Horgan’s cross, lifting the ball over the despairing dive and outstretched hand of Delany.
Both teams then traded chances to retake the lead with Towell’s ball down the right channel on 64 minutes giving McMillan a sight of goal but he swiped his shot wide with the ball clipping the side of the net en-route.
Akinade was sent clear four minutes later but Gartland did really well to come across and close off the space before getting a block on the ball sending it behind for a Bohs corner.
Dundalk stepped up their play after that as they sought the lead. Finn’s effort with the outside of the boot was saved by Delany before Dundalk had a goal ruled out for pushing after Gartland powered home a trade mark header from a corner.
It was the home team on 78 minutes though who retook the lead, with Akinade scoring. His delightful run and finish off Fitzgerald’s ball down the left came as the striker held off the retreating Dundalk defenders before opening up his body to curl the ball low into the back of the net for what looked like the winner.
Keith Long’s team almost held on for the victory until Towell somehow squeezed home the winner late on. His shot deep in injury time took a deflection before finding the space in between Fitzgerald’s feet who was standing on the line with the ball sliding through to earn Dundalk the point much to the dissapointment of a determined Bohs side.
The title may well have some more twists and turns before the season is out but Stephen Kenny’s team dug deep to at least claim a point which may prove crucial. With Cork City winning against Galway United, Dundalk’s lead at the top has been cut to eight points with a big few days ahead in the league. Cork face St. Pat’s on Monday night with the champions welcoming Shamrock Rovers to Oriel Park on Tuesday evening.
Bohemians: Dean Delany; Dylan Hayes Stephen Best, Derek Prendergast Lorcan Fitzgerald; Keith Buckley, Dave Mulcahy, Roberto Lopes, Paddy Kavanagh (James O'Brien 77), Adam Evans; Ismahil Akinade.
Subs Not Used: Lee Steacy (gk), Jason Caffrey, Karl Moore, Kealan Dillon, Aaron Ashe, Jason Byrne.
Booked: Prendergast (7), Hayes (36), Mulcahy (61), Fitgerald (86).
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; John Mountney (Darren Meenan 46), Stephen O’Donnell, Richie Towell, Ronan Finn (Sean Maguire 83), Daryl Horgan; David McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 67).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Shane Grimes, Chris Shields, Paddy Barrett.
Booked: O’Donnell (21), Gannon (56).
Referee: Padraigh Sutton.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Ismahil Akinade (Bohemians).