City had made a statement of intent when winning at the home of the champions back in mid-March for the first time in seven years, but they undid that good work by following up that victory with successive draws away to Sligo Rovers (0-0) and at home to Wexford Youths (1-1) last week, and they had to settle for a share of the spoils again last night.
United have been something of a surprise packet at this early stage of the season, but that impressive run which had taken them to third in the table was expected to be seriously tested last night, so they will have been delighted with their start to the game, which saw them take the lead in the 5th minute.
Ryan Connolly’s corner was cleared back out to him on the left, and the United captain took a touch before delivering the ball back into the box, where Vinny Faherty met it with a glancing header for his fifth league goal of the season.
The visitors got back on level terms against the run of play in the 18th minute through Stephen Dooley as United’s run without conceding a goal at home was finally ended. Bennett broke-up a United attack on the edge of his own penalty area, and cleared as far as half-way, where Dooley gathered.
The winger took on, and beat, Colm Horgan on the left before cutting back inside along the edge of the box and curling a shot past the despairing dive of Conor Winn and inside the far corner.
City came more into the game on the back of that goal, and Ian Turner really should have done better than hitting the wall with a 25-yard free-kick from a central position on the half hour mark, before they handed the home side the initiative again in the 34th minute with a defensive howler.
Mark McNulty tried to play the ball to John Dunleavy, but left it short, and Gary Shanahan nipped in to whip the ball over the head of the stranded ’keeper and inside the far post.
It was no more than the home side deserved, and Caulfield reacted by replacing Turner with Gearoid Morrissey at half-time.
He was forced to replace his captain seven minutes into the second-half after John Dunleavy appeared to suffer a concussion, but there was better news for the visitors when they grabbed a second equaliser in the 67th minute.
The impressive Dooley drilled a corner from the right across the face of goal, and United centre-back Killian Cantwell deflected the ball over the line under pressure from Eoghan O’Connell.
The game completely opened up as both sides went looking for the winner, and both had glorious chances to grab it.
Horgan was well placed to hack Danny Morrissey’s shot off the line in the 81st minute, and then United broke upfield and substitute Padraic Cunningham hit the crossbar from eight yards out with only McNulty to beat.
Folan also had an effort taken off the line by Bennett in the 86th minute.
Winn; Horgan, Cantwell, Folan, Walsh; Shanahan, Sullivan, Connolly, Melody; Keating (Cunningham 68), Faherty.
McNulty; O’Connell, Bennett, Browne, Dunleavy (inj, D Morrissey 52); Bolger, Buckley; Turner (G Morrissey h-t), Beattie (O’Sullivan 75), Dooley; Sheppard.
Rob Rogers (Dublin).