By Ed Leahy at Tallaght Stadium
An injury-time Ryan McEvoy goal handed Bohemians a valuable away point as they drew 1-1 with Shamrock Rovers in Friday's Airtricity League Premier Division clash at Tallaght Stadium.
The Hoops looked to have snatched all three points after Ronan Finn converted from the penalty spot with eight minutes remaining.
But the Gypsies fought until the final whistle and were rewarded in injury time as the lively McEvoy crashed home a left-footed effort to ensure a well-deserved point at the home of their fiercest rivals.
Tonight’s encounter was Shamrock Rovers third game in seven days and it was no surprise to see a much-changed Rovers side take the field after two tough games, winning the Setanta Sports Cup, before playing out a hard-fought scoreless draw at Richmond Park on Tuesday.
The change in personnel was expected, but the Rovers manager’s decision to send his side out playing in a 4-4-2 formation with Tommy Stewart playing just off Ciaran Kilduff up front was a little less so.
And the Hoops were slow to adjust to the new approach as it was the visitors who got the better of the opening exchanges setting up two early chances, the better coming from Derek Pender who flashed a great effort across the goal, but just wide of Barry Murphy’s left-hand post in the 15th minute.
Rovers first attempt arrived a minute later after some good work up the left flank from David Elebert and Shane Robinson to put Billy Dennehy in space behind the full-back.
The ball arrived at the feet of Kilduff but the centre-forward’s effort was mis-timed and easy for keeper Dean Delany to gather.
The best chance of a very average first half arrived, unsurprisingly, from a set-piece in the 38th minute. Billy Dennehy’s excellent corner was met by the towering Kilduff but Delany got a strong hand on the goal-bound header to touch the ball over.
The second half began with a bit more purpose as first Rovers attacked, leading to a Finn shot just over the bar, before Keith Buckley started and finished a fine move by Bohs, only for Jason McGuinness to get his body in the way to block.
But those five minutes were an exception rather than the rule as the game quickly returned to its former self as a scrappy affair with little quality or composure on show.
Sean O’Connor’s arrival in the 59th minute certainly injected a bit of life into the Rovers attack, but with little effect in the final third of the pitch.
The deadlock was eventually broken in the 82nd minute as the home side grabbed the lead thanks to Finn’s penalty.
And the visitors felt aggrieved by the decision as there was little to suggest that the handball was deliberate. In fact, the ball appeared to deflect off Andy Mulligan’s face, not his arm, as he mis-timed his clearance.
Rovers looked to be seeing out the game in complete control but there was to be one final twist and it was one that handed the visitors a share of the spoils.
Bohs pushed down the left and worked the ball to the edge of the Rovers box. The ball broke to McEvoy and the midfielder’s effort took a deflection to send the ball past Barry Murphy and into the back of the net.
The Gypsies will feel justice was served after Rovers’ fortuitous penalty decision, while for Rovers, it was draw number nine of the season and more points lost to the teams atop the table.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Conor McCormack, Derek Foran (Ken Oman 68), Jason McGuinness, David Elebert; Gary McCabe (Karl Sheppard 79), Shane Robinson, Ronan Finn, Billy Dennehy (Sean O’Connor 59); Thomas Stewart, Ciaran Kilduff.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, James Chambers, Stephen Rice, Alan Kehoe.
Bohemians: Dean Delany; Derek Pender (capt), Dave Mulcahy, Luke Byrne, Ciaran Nangle (Michael Scott 87); Kevin Devaney (Michael Barker 67), Keith Buckley, Ryan McEvoy, Shane Murray (Karl Moore 67), Andy Mulligan; Dave Scully.
Subs not used: Dwayne Wilson, Shane Fitzgerald, Kevin O’Leary, Greg Murray.
Referee: Neil Doyle.