Bohemians 2, Derry City 3
The formbook suggested this was going to be a lively game and it duly delivered.
This was Ruaidhrí Higgins’ fourth visit to Dalymount Park as manager of Derry City, and the fixtures have now yielded a combined total of 17 goals. Happily for Higgins, Derry have scored the majority, although they came close to a bad dose of history repeating itself here.
The only time they had failed to win in Phibsborough under their young boss was when Georgie Kelly scored an injury-time stunner to share the points in a six-goal thriller last September.
In the other two Higgins visits, Derry registered decisive strikes in time added on. But when the fourth official put up the board to signal an extra four minutes, Derry were hanging on with the hope of avoiding another 3-3 outcome.
They managed to do so and celebrated accordingly as this delivers back-to-back victories heading into Europe, a pick-me-up after a miserable run that derailed their budding title challenge.
The decisive moment of this match came on the hour mark in a minute of contrasting emotions for Bohs.
They had played well for most of the first half, although their goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan had pulled off a fine double stop before his error gifted the Candystripes the lead.
He needlessly advanced from his goal in an attempt to cut out a through ball from Caoimhín Porter and midfielder Joe Thomson had enough time to get there first and find the unguarded net with a delicate chip.
Bohs had reason to regret a miss from Promise Omochere, yet as the rain fell after the restart, they levelled when Ali Coote converted a delicious right-footer from outside the area.
It was game on as far as the locals were concerned. They knew a loss here would leave them 14 points behind third-placed Derry – albeit with a game in hand – a significant distance as that’s the final European spot guaranteed through the league. Returning to that sphere is the Gypsies’ primary ambition this term but all their hopes look to rest on another cup run.
The Coote leveller suggested the tide was turning, but Bohs conceded within 60 seconds when another Porter cross was met with a precise volley from Matty Smith at the far post.
Momentum continues to elude Keith Long’s side. The agony was piled on by a poor concession which gave Derry a crucial cushion with Dawson Devoy turning Will Patching’s free-kick into his own goal under minimal pressure. Patching was particularly prominent in this second half period and he will be vital to their European prospects.
It left the locals with a mountain to climb and, to their credit, they kept probing. Devoy was playing well apart from his defensive howler and he managed to cancel it out by fashioning the opportunity to drive home an excellent 25-yarder to set up a grandstand finish.
With the rain falling again and the pitch softening, Bohs sensed the opportunity to retrieve something from the situation and sub Jamie Mullins made his presence felt by dropping into pockets around the area.
Omochere, a menace throughout without necessarily delivering end product, took up more central positions in an attempt to get on the end of crosses. But Derry just about had enough in the tank to ride out the storm ahead of their two-legged tie with Riga.
Bohemians – Ryan; Murphy (Kelly 81), Doherty, Feely, Flores; Levingston (Wilson 71), Devoy; Twardek (Mullins 64), Coote, Omochere; Junior.
Derry City – Maher; S McEleney, McJannet, Coll; Porter (Kavanagh 62), P McEleney, Patching, Lafferty (Toal 61); Thomson; Akintunde (McGonigle 72), Smith (McLoughlin 90)
Ref – P McLaughlin