Twigg keeps his head as Rovers show their spirit
GARY TWIGG may not have known much about his goal which secured victory in this Dublin derby, but the Shamrock Rovers camp celebrated at full-time like a team which realised its significance.
A happy Hoops party left Dalymount Park last night with a healthy debate raging over the identity of the goalscorer, with a second-half Dean Kelly header appearing to take a deflection off the face of Twigg on its route to goal.
The TV cameras favoured the Scotsman, yet Kelly was sticking to his guns. It's the kind of argument that Michael O'Neill can live with; a contrast from a showdown between 'keeper Ryan Thompson and skipper Dan Murray before the interval which threatened to boil over.
All was good in their world at the end, however, with Rovers avoiding the trap of paying for their European exploits by carrying a hangover into league fare.
After Tuesday's defeat to Copenhagen, Rovers boss Michael O'Neill was happy that his team's fierce rivals were next up. "It was what we needed," he declared.
Sure enough, they responded to take a deserved three points from a typically competitive encounter, although they survived an injury-time scare with ex-Hoop Ger O'Brien squandering a chance to grab a point for a Bohs team that rarely threatened.
"To come here and win shows our character," said Twigg, "The league is our bread and butter, and we have to keep our focus."
An eventful game was preceded by an inglorious build-up, with a handful of morons interrupting a minute's silence for a deceased Bohemians supporter. Hopefully, it shouldn't be too hard for those around them to identify the culprits.
There was an edge to the early exchanges, with Rovers grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.
After spending the second half against Copenhagen chasing, they gave their old foes a taste of the same medicine
Pat Fenlon deployed a 4-5-1 with Christy Fagan increasingly isolated up front. The Shamrock Rovers central midfield trio, Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn and the excellent Conor McCormack, were on top of their opposite numbers.
As in Europe, however, left winger Billy Dennehy was O'Neill's main outlet. Early on, the Kerry native slipped away from Bohs' skipper Owen Heary only to be denied by the alert Barry Murphy and he then teed up the overlapping Enda Stevens for a cross that Kelly smashed off the crossbar.
It was Bohs' first game since their European exit last month, and they lacked fluency. The likes of Killian Brennan and Robert Bayly have been on trial across the water, but, even still, as a group, they were surprisingly lethargic.
As Bohs' followers wondered if Fenlon was preparing strong half-time words, they were amused by a remarkable argument between Murray and newly promoted number one Thompson.
The pair have spent plenty of time on the bench together this season, but squared up after the defender felt that Thompson should have emerged to clear a ball that the Englishman shepherded until the very last second before knocking it behind for a corner.
In the midst of a furious row, the Jamaican aimed his head in the direction of his captain, but came short of making contact. "It was handbags," joked the matchwinner Twigg. "They're both big girl's blouses."
O'Neill wasn't amused though, and stressed that words needed to be said.
It was an odd dispute with Rovers so much in control, but they re-emerged brightly with Murphy at full stretch to divert a Craig Sives header to safety.
However, Bohs finally arose from their slumber, and started to compete in the engine room. Aidan Downes was introduced to give support to Fagan, with Rovers given some defensive work to do.
Yet the champions responded to a few minutes of minor bother with the decisive moment.
Kelly set the wheels in motion, winning a corner after switching to the left flank. Then came Dennehy's delivery, and a vital touch -- from the Kelly/Twigg combination. A goal for the scorecard rather than a postcard. "I'm claiming it," smiled Twigg.
Now, Bohs had no option but to go in search of an equaliser and the invention of Downes nearly restored parity.
A slick run and cutback was met by O'Brien, but he only succeeded in sending the ball into orbit.
Regrettably, for the makeshift midfielder, the worst was yet to come.
In the third minute of injury-time, Bohs fans screamed for a handball in the box, but the hosts played on, Thompson flapped at a Brennan shot, and Downes put it back into the danger zone where the head of O'Brien was unable to deliver the clinical touch. Game over.
Bohemians -- Murphy; Heary, Burns, Price, Rossiter (Cahill 59); Buckley, Bayly (Downes 59), O'Brien, Cronin, Brennan; Fagan (Forrester 84).
Shamrock Rovers -- Thompson; Flynn, Murray, Sives, Stevens; McCormack, Rice, Finn (O'Neill 74), Kelly, Dennehy (Moore 87); Twigg (Kilduff 90).
Ref -- D Hancock (Dublin)