Hatswell's strike leaves Bohs in rut
DUNDALK 1 BOHEMIANS 0
IT'S been a while since Oriel Park has rocked like this. A while, too, since a Bohemians side have looked so rattled.
Back-to-back title wins have been constructed on an ability to come out of tight encounters such as this one with the maximum spoils. Instead, they made the trip back down the M1 last night with nothing.
Pat Fenlon's charges did enjoy periods of domination against a Dundalk side that lacks depth but showed oodles of strength here. They withstood the difficult spells to finish stronger, seizing a decisive lead with a quarter of an hour remaining when player/assistant manager Wayne Hatswell squeezed the ball into the bottom corner amid a crowded penalty area.
Dundalk are level with St Patrick's Athletic at the summit, with the Inchicore side ahead on goal difference. Bohs are seven behind with a game in hand and much to ponder.
Fenlon may be unsure of his best team, although he will be more alarmed by the below-par nature of the displays from some of his best players. His counterpart, Ian Foster, on the other hand, is drawing the maximum from his resources.
It wasn't looking so promising at the break for the Louthmen. Fenlon matched Foster in favouring a 4-5-1 formation which, naturally, resulted in a congested midfield area. The champions passed the ball better in the early stages, managing to spread the play more effectively than the hosts.
Mark Quigley, who has endured a stop-start opening to his Bohs career, was lively and displayed the usual array of tricks and flicks in an ongoing battle with home right-full Shaun Kelly.
Ultimately though, while the Dubliners were better in possession, they were struggling to advance with sufficient numbers into enemy territory. Dundalk were finding it harder, although they had a bit more joy following an enforced switch, with JJ Melligan limping off.
Starved of options beyond his starting XI, Foster sent for inexperienced local striker Johnny Breen, thus offering support to lone front-man Neale Fenn, whose early isolation meant that every Dundalk forward pass had a boomerang effect, with visiting centre-half Jason McGuinness dominating.
Fenn dropped deeper, with the pace of Breen giving the under-pressure Lilywhites another outlet, immediately forcing McGuinness into a last-ditch interception after some clever interplay from Faz Kuduzovic. However, the most menacing move of the half came in added time when a Glenn Cronin burst and a Quigley lay-off teed up Ruaidhri Higgins, who fizzed wide.
The momentum initially remained with the Gypsies following the resumption, with another Cronin foray testing the reactions of home 'keeper Peter Cherrie.
However, Dundalk responded with a good spell, with the lively Ross Gaynor setting the wheels in motion for a passage which culminated in a Fenn strike stinging the fingers of Barry Murphy.
Fenlon brought on Paddy Madden as a second striker with the game opening up as time elapsed, and it wasn't long before Killian Brennan arrived.
Yet the threadbare Dundalk squad dug deep and, with referee Dave McKeon adjudging that Brennan had taken a dive at one end, play rapidly swung to the other, with the white shirts earning a corner.
Ross Gaynor's delivery was pacey and flicked into the danger area where bodies got tangled; but Hatswell kept his focus to get the touch and instigate wild celebrations that were bettered only by the frenzied ovation that accompanied the final whistle.
dundalk -- Cherrie, Kelly, G Breen, Burns, Hatswell; Miller, Maher, Melligan (J Breen 26); Kuduzovic (Synnott 90), Gaynor; Fenn (McGuigan 82).
Bohemians -- Murphy, Shelley, McGuinness, Gray, Rossiter; McGlynn (Brennan 71), Higgins (Madden 63), Keegan, Cronin, Quigley (Greene 81); Byrne.
Ref -- Dave McKeon (Dublin).
- Wexford Youths have been found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in their recent First Division match against Salthill Devon, who have been awarded a 3-0 victory.