Dundalk 2 Bohemians 2: Richie Towell netted a 94th-minute equaliser for Dundalk last night against Bohemians to keep the leaders eight points clear at the summit of the League of Ireland Premier Division.
Twice the Louth men trailed at Dalymount Park but each time they rallied to avoid losing against the side that inflicted their last league defeat way back on June 5.
Keith Buckley had given Bohemians a deserved 12th-minute lead which was cancelled out by Stephen O’Donnell.
Keith Long must have thought his side’s recent slump was over when Ismahil Akinade made it 2-1 on 78 minutes but, with the true mark of title-winners, Dundalk replied at the death through Towell’s scruffy equaliser.
Dundalk, boasting a record of 10 goals from their last three matches, were a shadow of their recent selves in the opening half as the hosts kept them at bay.
Apart from a save he made after only two minutes when David McMillan stooped low to head Sean Gannon’s cross, Gypsies goalie Dean Delany was left underworked in the first half.
Much more potent as an attacking force were Bohemians, with Akinade’s presence as a lone striker causing the Lilywhites defence plenty of anxiety.
Akinade’s charge down the left channel created the breakthrough goal on 17 minutes.
His cross from the end-line hung long enough in the air for the visitors to deal with but they allowed Buckley steal in at the back post to control the delivery and slot the ball under Gary Rogers.
Galvanised by that opener, Bohs continued to press and might have been further ahead by the break.
Lorcan Fitzgerald’s 22nd-minute free-kick whistled marginally over the crossbar with Rogers beaten while Ikinade could only angle his shot wide after Derek Prendergast sent him clear 10 minutes before the interval.
The champions, needing to vast improvement in the second half, showed their intent shortly after the restart when midfield talisman Richie Towell forced Delany to tip over his ferocious drive on the turn.
Their equaliser arrived on the hour following a sweeping counter-attack. From a long punt out of defence, Daryl Horgan nipped past Dylan Hayes on the left with the aid of a fortuitous ricochet.
There was nothing lucky about his cut-back to the onrushing Stephen O’Donnell whose first-time shot from the edge of the area sailed into the top right corner.
For the first time in the contest, Stephen Kenny’s side held the initiative and McMillan should have put them ahead four minutes later only for his effort from an acute angle to veer past Delany’s near post.
Still, buoyed by a strong home support, Bohemians remained dangerous and Dundalk’s defensive frailties were highlight when Ikinade was only denied by Brian Gartland’s last-ditch tackle after the striker was given a clear charge on goal.
There was little Gartland or his colleagues could do when the Nigerian born forward got his next chance at goal.
Ikinade had much to do when he latched onto Fitzgerald’s pass down the left flank but he left Gartland trailing in his wake before delightfully side-footing his shot beyond Rogers from 10 yards.
Enough time remained for more drama to unfold.
Chasing a late equaliser deep in stoppage time, an attempted clearance by Bohemians only fell to Towell 20 yards out and, through a thicket of players, his low drive agonisingly trickled over the goal-line despite the best efforts of Fitzgerald.
With eight games left to play and as many points separating them from the chasing pack, the Lilywhites remain within firm grasp of a second title on the spin.
D Delany; D Hayes, D Prendergast, S Best, L Fitzgerald; R Lopes, D Mulcahy; K Buckley, P Kavanagh (J O’Brien 76), A Evans; I Akinade (J Byrne 90+4).
G Rogers; S Gannon, A Boyle, B Gartland, D Massey; S O’Donnell, R Towell; J Mountney (D Meenan 46), R Finn (S Maguire 78), D Horgan; D McMillan (C Kilduff 66).
Padraigh Sutton (Cavan).
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