THIS was almost a tale of injustice. As this game entered injury-time, Shamrock Rovers were on their way to a victory courtesy of a penalty that should never have been given.
But there was still more drama to come in this Dublin derby as the Hoops defence dithered in dealing with a hopeful throw into the box, and Ryan McEvoy stepped up to claim a fully deserved point with a deflected effort.
Trevor Croly's side have drawn nine of their 14 games to date, and they cannot afford many more if their league charge is to gain any momentum. "We have to start winning games," said the deflated Rovers boss. "I'm disappointed. You can tell that from my demeanour. All we had to do was defend a throw-in."
The locals had taken the lead in contentious circumstances eight minutes from the end, when referee Neil Doyle pointed to the spot, believing that Bohs winger Andy Mulligan had used his hand as he clumsily tried to clear a Thomas Stewart cross. Replays showed that the ball hit his face. Ronan Finn stylishly dispatched the penalty.
"A disgraceful decision," said Bohs manager Aaron Callaghan. "They can be hard games to referee but there were a lot of home decisions tonight. To lose like that would have been hard and it's a credit to the players for how they responded. They were excellent from start to finish."
After the team which destroyed Drogheda in the Setanta Cup produced a lethargic display in Tuesday's fortunate draw with St Patrick's Athletic, Croly chose to ring the changes here, bringing in six fresh faces. One of the newcomers, Ciaran Kilduff, was involved in the best chance of the first half, a close-range header which was pushed onto the bar by returning Bohs 'keeper Dean Delany.
The hosts were briefly on top, yet they were struggling to really penetrate Callaghan's rearguard and were nearly caught out by Bohs on the break with Mulligan threatening.
The natives were restless, calling for the introduction of fans' favourite Stephen Rice. Those chants grew louder after Bohs dominated the first 15 minutes of the second half, with the Hoops riding their luck in a frenetic period. Visiting striker Dave Scully almost broke the deadlock on three occasions, notably when he was denied by a brave Jason McGuinness block.
"I felt we could get at their back four," said Callaghan. "They had a few players out of position (a nod to full-backs Conor McCormack and David Elebert)."
Croly responded by sending for Sean O'Connor and Karl Sheppard, with an injury to Derek Foran forcing him to use his other sub on replacing the centre-half with Ken Oman. The Hoops were hitting dead ends, however, until the controversial decision from Doyle that looked to have secured all three points. McEvoy had other ideas.
Shamrock Rovers – Murphy, McCormack, McGuinness, Foran (Oman 67), Elebert; McCabe (Sheppard 78), Robinson, Finn, Dennehy (O'Connor 58); Stewart, Kilduff
Bohemians – Delany, Pender, Mulcahy, Byrne, Nangle (Scott 86); Devaney (Barker 66), McEvoy, Buckley, Mulligan; Murray (Moore 66); Scully
Ref – N Doyle (Dublin)