His two goals reflected the difference between the champions elect, sailing serenely to another important three points, and a Cork City team floundering helplessly in their wake for the opening half.
Crowe struck twice in the first 40 minutes to emphasise the gulf between the teams and put the game beyond Cork’s reach. His success was all the more remarkable given that Cork enjoyed at least an even share of possession and the fact that Bohs were not at their best.
The harsh reality was that Cork were unable to give Bohs a contest during the opening half. Their season has been blighted by their inability to perform away from home and again this strange quirk in their makeup seemed to afflict them until the half time break.
Cork performed like a team struggling for confidence until half time and the match was won and lost in that period. Their approach was hindered by a hesitancy so they lacked the positive and aggressive attitude that characterised their best performances at home this season.
They were defensive in attitude despite spending much of the time in Bohs’ half of the pitch.
Cork were reactive rather than proactive and strangely timid in their defending. Nothing illustrated this more than the manner in which Bohs claimed their goals. Paul Keegan, who operated at centre-forward in a role that was slightly withdrawn from that of Crowe, played a critical part in both scoring moves.
Thirteen minutes into the game he took a pass from Paul McNally 22 yards from goal and, without being challenged, he was able to control it and then turn before playing the ball square for Stephen Caffrey to flick it forward. Crowe was impressively direct, knocking the ball forward with his forehead before ripping a left-foot shot past Michael Devine from 12 yards.
Keegan again withstood the lightweight challenge of Cork defenders five yards outside the penalty box in the build-up to the second goal in the 37th minute. He knocked the ball backwards for Caffrey to slide a pass between the defenders and Crowe beat Devine in a race to toe-poke the ball home.
Crowe was razor-sharp in his finishing, his direct running and economy of effort in striking the ball catching Devine twice. He was always hanging on the shoulder of the last defender so when the ball was played through to his advantage, Cork defenders were unable to get in an effective challenge before he had the ball in the net.
Cork were happy to see Crowe missing in the second half and to their credit Cork improved in the second period. The introduction of Colin P O’Brien provided a more cutting edge up front and the switch of George O’Callaghan to midfield also contributed. Most of all they were less timid in their defending and more competitive in all areas.
Twice within 10 minutes of the restart, O’Brien forced goalkeeper Ashley Bayes to good saves.
Bohs greatest asset was their appetite for work and they made it extremely hard for Cork to find a clear sight of goal so hard did they work. They never failed to pull nine players to the fringes of their penalty area whenever Cork threatened, and with two goals of an advantage they were always composed and secure in their work.
Cork’s second half recovery ensured the game overall provided some vigorous entertainment on a bitterly cold night, but Bohs’ insistence on bringing the game forward a day to ensure a big attendance appeared a little hollow given the relatively small attendance. The numbers were calculated at a modest 3,000 which was far from exceptional for the league leaders.
The other issue that must be highlighted was the inability of one of the referee’s assistants to legislate with any degree of certainty. Twenty-seven minutes had elapsed before he called Crowe back for offside.
Three times previously he failed to raise his flag when either Crowe or Harkin was in an offside position and his performance was less than satisfactory.
BOHEMIANS (4-4-2): Bayes; O’Connor, Coughlan, McNally, Webb; Ryan, Hunt, Caffrey, Harkin (Reilly 85); Crowe (Rutherford 46), Keegan (Neill 58).
CORK CITY (4-4-2): Devine; Carey, Daly, Murray, Horgan; Warren, O’Halloran, Bennett (C. P. O’Brien 46), Woods (C. T. O’Brien 80); O’Flynn, O’Callaghan (O’Grady 80).
Referee: P McKeon (Dublin).