It was déjà vu all over again for Dundalk and Bohemians at Oriel Park on Monday night as a last minute Patrick Hoban penalty snatched all three points for the hosts for the second time this season.
It looked set to be a frustrating night for the Lilywhites, who fell behind on two minutes but, as the tide turned in the second half – aided by a Bohs red card and a switch to 4-4-2 – Georgie Kelly equalised before, in a dramatic late twist, Dundalk won a penalty deep into stoppage time.
With three points on the line in the 96th and final minute, Dundalk’s record league goalscorer Hoban stepped up to dispatch a pressure penalty to keep the Lilywhites on top of the league and send Oriel Park into raptures.
“We deserved that tonight,” said Hoban after the game. “I thought we were brilliant second half. It was a wee bit stressful, as we created enough chances to win the game by two or three, but they made it difficult for us.
“Getting caught on the counter for their goal was very sloppy on our behalf, because we worked on that all week. It was then very dangerous, because we had to put more bodies going forward and they’re very good on the counter.
“First half we weren’t great but I thought second half we were brilliant. We moved the ball a lot better and we were probing before they went down to 10 men. We created a hatful of chances and it just shows the character and desire to keep going to the end.”
After Bohemians sub Ryan Graydon was sent off for two yellow cards in the space of nine second-half minutes, Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth wasted no time in bringing striker Georgie Kelly off the bench to partner Hoban up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
The effects were immediate, with Dundalk creating space and opportunities seemingly at will.
“Straight away having Georgie in there, you could see there was more space in the box,” said Hoban.
“It was a great finish from him for the equaliser. I thought he was brilliant coming on and he changed the game for us, with two strikers up top. I thought we played well together.
“Georgie’s a good lad. He works very hard and I can understand his frustrations at not getting the game time he wants, but he came on today and did a brilliant job.”
Kelly smashed home the equaliser on 66 minutes, pouncing on a loose ball in the six-yard box, and Dundalk kept probing for the equaliser, but as the clocked ticked deep into stoppage time, it looked like it wasn’t to be.
But when Dean Jarvis was brought down by Andy Lyons in the box, all eyes turned to Hoban, who had missed from the spot in last Friday’s win over Cork City.
The pressure was on but you wouldn’t have known it as he smashed the penalty home to spark a massive roar from the Oriel Park faithful.
“I was frustrated with myself about the penalty miss versus Cork, but you have to forget about it very quickly,” said Hoban.
“I had a plan to go down the middle tonight, which is a bit risky, especially in the 96th minute. It went a bit further left than I wanted but the power got it through.
“It was a great feeling and there was some noise in here, but that’s what you want – big moments in the season. That’s six points we’ve gained over Bohs in the last minute here and they all count at the end of the season. It puts us nine points clear of them too.”
Hoban’s penalty kept Dundalk above Shamrock Rovers on goal difference at the top of the SSE Airtricity League and, whilst dramatic late victories can have a huge impact in a close title race, Hoban is all too aware that there is no time to dwell on this victory, with St Patrick’s Athletic coming to Oriel Park on Friday.
“You have to move on very quickly – that’s the story in this league,” says Hoban, smiling.
“But we owe Pat’s one. We dropped points down in Inchicore. We didn’t play that well but I thought we still had enough to get something out of the game.
“It was a frustrating night so we definitely owe them one. We have to make sure we’re prepared right for the game on Friday and I’m sure we will be.”
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