In front of the RTE cameras Bohemians finally collected their first point of the 2012 Airtricity League season on Sunday with a decent defensive display, but it’s their inability to create chances at the other end that will most concern their supporters, writes John O’Neill.
The first half was a rather dreary affair, contrasting sharply with the glorious sunshine in which the game was played. The only two talking points of the first period both came with Pats in the ascendancy. The first moment of note was a controversial incident whereby a ball flashed across the Bohemians box before seemingly brushing the hand of Eoin Heary, which diverted it from the path of Pats striker Stephen O’Flynn. It was certainly a hand-to-ball motion in a movement that could either be judged as accidental, or simply made to look so by Heary making use of his vast experience. The referee chose the former.
Minutes later a long ball from Ger O’Brien found O’Flynn, whose good first touch took him away from two Bohs defenders and set him up for a strike on goal. His second touch, however, did not match the quality of the first and he fired over from close range in front of the travelling fans. The referee’s whistle sounded the end of a scrappy first half and the general consensus was that things could only get better.
Thankfully the game opened up a bit in the second period as tiring players lost focus on their rigid tactical systems. The 60th minute saw the introduction of Christy Fagan, who was greeted by boos from sections of the Bohemians faithful. The striker was making his debut for the Inchicore side having served the last of a suspension picked up while at Bohemians last season.
The boos, however, could be perceived as a backhanded compliment to Fagan, who scored 11 league goals in the previous campaign for the Gypsies. In total 6 players made the move from Bohs to Pats in the off-season but the absence of a goal-scoring centre forward is the most pressing issue on the field at Dalymount, where Fagan used to deliver.
Seven minutes into his Pats career it was Fagan who had the opportunity to open the scoring. He was put through after some good work on the right hand side by Darren Meenan but somehow fluffed his lines in an effort he won’t want to see again. Perhaps the notorious boos from the Jodi Stand had taken affect.
Pats enjoyed the majority of possession and chances from here on in but they ultimately failed to make their dominance count. Chambers, Fagan and O’Connor all had opportunities to score but their efforts never really troubled Alan McNulty’s goal. Honourable mention goes to Dave Mulcahy who crucially intercepted a Pats cross with ten minutes remaining, which would’ve presented Fagan with his best chance to break the deadlock.
Remarkably, on 89 minutes Bohemians almost snatched the full three points with a wonderful volley from Karl Moore. Moore had been one of the very few positives for Bohemians, going on some good runs that may not have always had a final product but at least showed an eagerness to beat defenders. On this occasion an attempted cleared header fell right into his path and his instinctive first time effort crashed off the underside of the bar. The volley demonstrated sublime technique that would’ve been a worthy winner of any match, albeit against the run of play here.
Two minutes later came a move that could perhaps sum up Bohemians’ season so far. They were on the attack and for once had the crowd on their feet after Moore’s effort. But as the Jodi raised the volume nobody showed a willingness to get forward. In an instant the ball was back at centre midfield before possession retreated all the way to Heary at centre half. Heary, who had been solid throughout, was forced into a long punt that gave that gave the ball straight back to the opposition.
There is a notable hesitancy in Bohemians’ attacking play that must be overcome if they are to score goals (their total league tally remains at zero).
Pats will be disappointed not to have finished at least one of their chances off and join the league leaders at the top of the table. But eight points is not a bad return from the first four games as they face into a run of what should prove tougher matches.
Next up for Bohs is a trip to Tallaght on Friday night in a fixture that guarantees much higher levels of intensity. Aaron Callaghan will look to the players to feed off the passion-soaked atmosphere that usually accompanies matches with bitter rivals Shamrock Rovers and somehow upset the formbook. Their supporters, more than anyone, crave such an upset. They travel in hope rather than expectation.
Bohemians: Andrew McNulty, Derek Pender (Peter McMahon, 66), Evan McMillan, Owen Heary, Neil Harney, Dwayne Wilson, Stephen Traynor (John O’Connor, 78), Dave Mulcahy, Adam Martin, Karl Moore, Dinny Corcoran (Dave Scully, 58) Subs not used: Craig Sexton, Sean Stewart, Ryan McEvoy, Kevin Feely
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke, Ger O’Brien, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham, Greg Bolger, James Chambers, John Russell (Christy Fagan, 60), Darren Meenan, Sean O’Connor, Stephen O’Flynn (Ian Daly, 71).Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Jake Kelly, Chris Forrester, Pat Flynn, Jake Carroll.