Homepage photography courtesy of Eddie Lennon
Sean O'Connor continued his superb run of goal-scoring form with a spectacular winner for St Patrick's Athletic as they overcame Dublin rivals Bohemians 3-2 at Dalymount Park on Friday night.
Bohemians have spent the better part of the season looking for an attacking presence to compliment a young and inexperienced side but who would have thought that the answer to their problems was lurking, all along, in their back line.
Towering centre back Evan McMillan has recently been deployed in the Gypsies' attack by manager Aaron Callaghan and the former Pats player was a constant source of discomfort to a visiting defence that were never allowed to relax.
McMillan got on the end of a Luke Byrne cross as early as the eighth minute, but at full stretch he could only direct the ball into Barry Murphy's hands. Later, on 22 minutes, he again beat his man in the air, sending a cushioned header bouncing through the visitors' six yard box, though on this occasion there were no takers.
But three minutes later McMillan has his reward. Having executed a sublime Cruyff turn inside the centre circle, he skipped past two challenges and sent Michael Barker racing into space on the right. Barker found new signing Kevin Devaney and his cut-back was powered home from six yards by McMillan.
Two minutes after that Devaney almost made it two, tearing on to a ball over the top and evading the keeper on the edge of the box, only to see his chipped effort from a reducing angle smack off the butt of the far post and away to safety.
Bohs looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves but the next chance fell to Pats when Bolger chipped wide having been played in by Vinny Faherty. The home side failed to heed the warning and promptly conceded an equaliser.
Seven minutes from the break Sean O'Connor's free kick from wide on the right found James Chambers beyond the far post and his side-footed volley beat debutant Bohs keeper Greg Murray to find the far corner of the net.
Three minutes into the second half and Bohs found themselves behind when a sleepy moment at the back allowed Chris Forrester to nip on to a cross from Sean O'Connor and poke the ball past Murray from close range.
Not long ago a setback like that might have proven terminal but there is a new confidence when Bohs set their sights on the opposition goal and two minutes later a looping ball over the top towards McMillan forced Kenna into a defensive header that almost found his own goal. From the subsequent corner another of Bohs' defensive stalwarts, Kevin Feely, rose to send a powerful header into the Pats net.
A frantic period of play followed as both sides sought to re-take the lead and both keepers did well to prevent that happening. Barry Murphy did spectacularly well to prevent his own defender beating him at his near post while Murray came out bravely to punch a Sean O'Connor cross away from the danger area.
But with 20 minutes left there was nothing Murray could do to stop O'Connor from putting Pats back into the lead. It was Bolger who created the opening, flicking the ball into space, where O'Connor didn't hesitate, unleashing a perfectly hit volley that spun over Murray and just inside his left hand post.
The home side never gave up on an equaliser, switching to a three man attack when Ken Carr came on in the final minutes and there was a furious reaction from the home crowd when the sub was flagged having appeared to beat the off-side trap.
Moments later Carr almost got on the end of Devaney's lobbed pass but was denied by the outstretched boot of a defender. With one minute left McMillan's downward header to Devaney was intercepted and McMillan himself headed a cross narrowly over the Pats bar.
But in the end Liam Buckley's side had enough composure to see out the home team's spirited finale and took the three points they needed to continue their pursuit of European qualification and the vaguest hope that they might yet catch Sligo at the top of the table.
Bohemians: Greg Murray; Dave Mulcahy, Evan McMillan, Roberto Lopes; Michael Barker, Derek Pender (Ken Carr 84), Daniel Joyce (Dwayne Wilson 58), Keith Buckley, Luke Byrne (Keith Ward 80); Evan McMillan, Kevin Devaney,
Subs not used: Andy McNulty, Stephen Traynor, Karl Moore, John O'Connor.
Booked: Pender (40), Devaney (61).
St Patrick's Ath: Barry Murphy; Ger O'Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham (Greg Bolger 23); Sean O'Conor, Chris Forrester, James Chambers, Jake Carroll, Jake Kelly (Hernany Macedo 68); Vinny Faherty (Christy Fagan 66).
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke, Aidan Price, Pat Flynn, Ryan Coombes.
Referee: Graham Kelly.
Extratime Man of the Match: Evan McMillan (Bohemians)