Marc Griffin scored late on to secure a 1 - 0 win for ten man Bohemians over Drogheda United, but it was Dean Delany who deserved the plaudits after keeping the game scoreless for so long at United Park.
In the end, Bohs' first league win at United Park since May 2011 will also go down as a Keith Long masterstroke as it was two Bohs substitutes who combined to create the decisive goal – Kealan Dillon slipped through Griffin on the right side of the box in the 87th minute and the former Dundalk striker made no mistake, slamming the ball beyond the helpless Michael Schlingermann to send the travelling Gypsies supports into hysterics.
A dramatic first half saw no goals, but did see Bohs controversially reduced to ten men and Drogs miss a penalty – with the two incidents in no way related to each other. Former Drogheda United centre-back Derek Prendergast was booked twice in the space of three minutes, but was a victim of a case of mistaken identity for his second yellow, while Daryl Kavanagh missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time for the hosts after Stephen Maher had been fouled in the box.
Johnny McDonnell will be disappointed as Drogheda did take a foothold of the game in the second half, but didn't create many clear cut chances – Daryl Kavanagh blazing wildly over from 20 yards as the ball bounced in front of him in stoppage time wasn't his first poor effort on goal (missed penalty aside) and summed up the striker's night.
Bohs came into the game looking to rectify a recent blip in their otherwise excellent start to the season – the 3-0 reverse at the hands of Drogs' Louth rivals and current Premier Division champions Dundalk in Dalymount was exacerbated by the sending off of Anto Murphy, while the 0-0 draw with Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght was hard fought and well earned.
Keith Long has drilled this Bohs rearguard well, with Dean Delany now having kept five cleansheets in six Premier Division games. In contrast, Michael Schlingermann has only one cleansheet to his name so far this season – against Bray Wanderers, who only scored their first league goals of 2015 in a shock 3-1 win over Sligo Rovers before this game kicked off.
The best chance of the first half from open play came in the 15th minute. Cathal Brady caused all sorts of problems down Bohs' left side in the first half. His cross missed its intended target Lee Duffy, who slipped, but the ball reached the breaking Stephen Maher whose first touch was good and his strike was better – luckily for Bohs, Delany stood tall to beat the shot away.
Moments later, the game's major controversy ensued. Prendergast's first booking was straightforward – in the 15th minute, Kavanagh was attempting to control a pass which looked to have set him through clear on goal until he was fouled by the Bohs centre-back.
Two minutes later, Brady was faced with Lorcan Fitzgerald, who he beat – Prendergast was covering, but Fitzgerald seemed to shove Brady in the back and the winger went down. It was Fitzgerald who committed the foul, but referee Paul McLaughlin issued a second yellow to Prendergast in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
There was pandemonium on the sideline as a furious Keith Long vented his frustration on the fourth official, while Fitzgerald seemingly tried to indicate to McLaughlin that he was the offender, all to no avail. A baffled Prendergast was told to leave the pitch.
More drama occurred on the stroke of half-time when an excellent ball from midfield reached Maher and Anto Murphy, attempting to recover, fouled the former St. Patrick's Athletic midfielder in the box. McLaughlin pointed to the spot and booked Murphy. It looked soft, but it didn't matter – Kavanagh stepped up to take it and Delany easily saved his weak attempt to keep the game scoreless at the interval.
Mick Daly almost put the home side ahead shortly after the hour mark. The Drogs skipper hit a low effort from 30 yards which took a deflection, but the Bohs' stopper did well to re-adjust and turn it around the post for a corner. Daly rose highest from the resultant set-piece but could only head straight at Delany.
Then in the 83rd minute, Maher had another chance to score when the ball broke to him at the edge of the box, but it was straight at Delany who gathered comfortably. Moments later, Sean Brennan could only divert a cross to the near post well wide of the target.
While Bohs had much to thank their 'keeper for in the game, they were almost cursing Delany when he flapped a ball straight to Lee Duffy outside the box. With Delany in no-man's land, Duffy lobbed him – it took both Murphy and Fitzgerald covering to head the ball onto the crossbar. Kavanagh then blazed the follow up over from six yards.
Bohs then flew up the other end and Dillon played in Griffin to break Drogheda hearts and take all three points back to Dalymount.
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingermann; Mick Daly, Lloyd Buckley, Alan Byrne, Joe Gorman; Cathal Brady, Mark Hughes (Shane Dunne, 68), Stephen Maher, Michael Scott (Sean Brennan, 56); Lee Duffy, Daryl Kavanagh.
Subs not used: Dylan Connolly (gk), Robert O'Reilly, Carl Walshe, Tiernan Mulvenna, Matthew Rooney.
Bookings: Maher (21), M. Hughes (29), A. Byrne (63), S. Brennan (69).
Bohemians: Dean Delany; Derek Pender, Derek Prendergast, Anto Murphy, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Paddy Kavanagh, Roberto Lopes, Keith Buckley, Robbie Creevey, Adam Evans (Kealon Dillon, 84); Dean Kelly (Marc Griffin, 78).
Subs not used: Lee Steacy (gk), Stephen Best, Karl Moore, Adam Wixted, Jason Byrne.
Bookings: Prendergast (17), A. Murphy (45), M. Griffin (89).
Sent Off: Prendergast (19).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Extratime Man of the Match: Dean Delany (Bohemians).