It’s amazing what a change of management does in completely rejuvenating a side. Seven days ago, Bohemians suffered their twelfth defeat of the season in Dundalk, extending their winless run which stretched back to late April and leaving them just a point off the bottom.
This evening, the long road to survival and perhaps the most important set of fixtures in the club’s history began with a hard fought 3-1 victory over fellow relegation candidates Bray Wanderers at a scorching Carlisle Grounds.
The dismissal of Adam Mitchell on the hour mark may have made the task slightly easier but there was no doubt the Gypsies thoroughly all three points. Dinny Corcoran struck twice late on after Jason Byrne’s penalty had cancelled out Ryan McEvoy’s first-half spot-kick to separate the sides in a closely fought encounter, meaning Bohs are now just a point from safety.
The departure of Aaron Callaghan and appointment of Owen Heary as caretaker manager seems to have rejuvenated all at Dalymount Park and there was no doubt those in a red and black striped jersey had an added spring in their step on Friday evening.
Owen Heary, who was forced to watch from the stands through suspension, had no hesitation in stamping his authority on the side as he made several changes to the side who were beaten convincingly at Oriel Park. However, it was the hosts who started on the front foot as they looked to take advantage of a new-look centre-back partnership of Luke Byrne and Roberto Lopes.
It nearly paid immediate dividends as the former failed to deal with a low cross from the left, allowing former Bohs favourite Jason Byrne a sight of goal but Dean Delaney saved well. The Gypsies had failed to score in five of the last six Airtricity League games but soon hit the front despite starting on the back foot.
Bray seemed to have dealt with the initial threat of Keith Buckley’s run down the right but when the ball arrived at the feet of Chris Lyons in the box, Shane O’Connor recklessly committed the foul and referee Tomas Connolly had no hesitation in pointing to the spot before McEvoy calmly converted.
The visitors had the bit between their teeth and went in search of a second goal and very nearly got it thanks to a lapse in concentration by Darren Quigley. Darragh Reynor’s harmless cross was spilled by the Bray ‘keeper, allowing Dinny Corcoran to divert it goal wards but O’Connor made amends for his concession of the spot-kick by rushing back to hack off the line.
Despite their dominance, Bohs looked vulnerable at the back and should have been pegged back but Ismahil Akinade failed to make proper contact with Dempsey’s set-piece with only Delaney to beat.
As the half wore on, the Seagulls got themselves back into the game and John Mulroy went inches from levelling proceedings from twenty-yards just before the break.
The home side began the second-half with more energy and determination to get back into the game but their momentum was halted somewhat on the hour mark when Mitchell received his second yellow card for a rash challenge on Karl Moore.
However, Bray were soon level despite having a man less. Former Bohs striker Byrne went down under the challenge of Dave Mulcahy and to the astonishment of the visitors and their fans, the referee awarded a penalty. The veteran striker dusted himself down and slotted past Delaney to bring his tally for the season to ten.
In an attempt to utilise their numerical advantage, Heary introduced Conor Murphy and within minutes of coming on, the striker had two guilt edge chances but squandered both. It wasn’t all one way traffic however as Marty Waters went within inches of putting his side into the lead with a speculative long-range effort.
Spurred on by a large travelling contingent, Bohs finally made their possession count with just ten minutes remaining. John Mulroy lay stricken on the far side of the pitch with cramp but the visitors proceeded in playing on and Moore’s cross was fired home by Corcoran from twelve yards.
A nail-biting conclusion was in store for the Gypsies but their nerves were eased a couple of minutes before the end as Corcoran extended the lead after Murphy’s initial effort was saved by Quigley.
The final whistle was greeted with sheer relief and delight by Bohemians players and fans alike as their bid for survival begins. Meanwhile, the result leaves Bray looking nervously over their shoulders as we enter the final series of fixtures.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Eoin Hyland (Dave Webster 64), Adam Mitchell, Shane O’Connor, Conor Earley (Kevin Knight 81); Marty Waters, Gary Dempsey (Ryan Coombes 68), Dean Zambra, John Mulroy; Ismahil Akinade, Jason Byrne.
Subs not used: Daire Doyle, Sean Noble, Niall Cooney, Shane Redmond.
Booked: S O’Connor (10), J Byrne (26), Mitchell (41)
Sending off: Mitchell (60)
Bohemians: Dean Delaney; Derek Pender, Roberto Lopes, Darragh Reynor, Luke Byrne; Keith Buckley (Kevin Deveney 81), Dave Mulcahy, Ryan McEvoy, Karl Moore; Dinny Corcoran, Chris Lyons (Conor Murphy 68)
Subs not used: Ciaran Nangle, Michael Barker, Lorcan Shannon, Dave Scully, Greg Murray.
Booked: Lyons (54)
Referee: Tomas Connolly.
Attendance: 2,500 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Dinny Corcoran (Bohemians).