Kurtis Byrne was the hero for the Gypsies as they edged a hard fought battle with strugglers Wexford Youths 1-0 at Dalymount this evening, forcing home the winner on the stroke of half time.
Youths, currently second from bottom with just 12 points and looking to exact some revenge for the defeat in the Leinster Senior Cup, started much the brighter and more determined side with the right hand side pairing of Aidan Friel and Eric Molloy causing Bohs problems from the off. The visitors good start was almost in vein when Molloy could or maybe should have seen red for a dangerous high footed challenge that caught Bohs winger Dean O’Halloran on the side of the head. Referee David McKeon produced a yellow card much to his sides relief and the home fans dismay.
Bohemians, bolstered by the return of Derek Prendergast and Lorcan Fitzgerald from suspension, struggled to get a foothold in the game and dominate possession as they had done in the cup. As the half hour approached there were no real chances of note. Shane Supple was forced into a save from a long distance Friel effort, while at the other end a glancing Roberto Lopes header was well held by Graham Doyle.
Eric Molloy then had the home fans worried on the 38th minute when he hit a brilliant first time volley that rifled past Supple and just beyond the far post after Bohs failed to deal with a free kick just inside their half.
As much as Wexford were showing a physical approach, their aggression again spilled over into dangerous territory when just before half time Peter Higgins could have easily received his marching orders for a late lunge at Bohs skipper Derek Pender. The referee again decided it was just worthy of a caution.
Bohs then snatched the lead right on half time after some nice work down the right hand side by Paddy Kavanagh. The right winger delivered a dangerous cross right in the channel between defence and keeper, and Kurtis Byrne did well to get ahead of his marker and, on the stretch, his close range effort was parried in the air by Doyle, but the Bohs front man was quickest to react to poke the ball home.
Bohs started the second half with a slight change of formation, Keith Buckley moved out to the left side with O’Halloran partnering Byrne up top in a 4-4-2 formation as they began to gain more possession.
The tactical switch seemed to suit the home side with O’Hallorans pace causing all sorts of problems for the Wexford defence and could have doubled their lead on the hour mark. A neat passing move in the midfield resulted in Buckley slipping Byrne down the left hand side of the box but he was dragged his left footed shot just wide.
The physical encounter did not relent as Bohs centre half Ian Morris found himself in the book when he mistimed a last ditch tackle on Danny Furlong. This followed a good chance for the home side when Lorcan Fitzgerald delivered an in-swinging cross that Derek Prendergast was unable to guide goalwards.
The Gypsies should have killed the game off on the 77th minute from another excellently delivered Fitzgerald corner. The ball dropped just inside the far post and just as it seemed easier to score, Ian Morris somehow got his bearings all wrong and couldn’t force it over the line.
There was another moment of controversy to come right before the final whistle, Graham Doyle was adjudged to have come outside his box with the ball in his hands and didn’t release it in time. Paddy Kavanaghs resulting free kick floated over the bar, but it was certainly something you don’t see given every day.
Bohs will look to kick on from tonight’s battling performance and continue for a top half finish when they host bottom of the table Longford Town this Friday.
And with games running out quickly, Shane Keegan’s side face a must win game against Bray Wanderers at Ferrycarrig Park but if they show the same passion and determination as they did tonight points wont be that far off.
Bohemian FC: Shane Supple, Derek Pender, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Roberto Lopes, Derek Prendergast, Eoin Wearen, Keith Buckley, Kurtis Byrne (Dan Byrne), Paddy Kavanagh (Jake Kelly), Dean O’ Halloran (Mark Quigley), Ian Morris
Subs: Dean Delaney, Marco Chindea, Warren O’Hora, Dylan Hayes
Wexford Youths: Graham Doyle, Lee Grace, Peter Higgins, Danny Furlong, Eric Molloy, Chris Kenny, Aiden Friel (Paul Murphy), Shane Dunne (Andy Mulligan), Stephen Last, Andrew O’Connor, Eoin Porter (Aiden Keenan)
Subs: Corey Chambers, Craig McCabe, John Bonner, Shane Dempsey
Referee: David McKeon