McMillan brace sinks Bohs as Lilywhites go six points clear

Gavin McLaughlin at

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Gavin McLaughlin at

Andy Boyle, in centre celebrates his goal with Brian Gartland, at left and Kurtis Byrne
This, folks, could well be the one.

This, folks, could well be the one.

Every title winning team has a definitive moment that sums up their campaign. Think back to that famous footage of Alex Ferguson and his assistant Brian Kidd dancing with delight when Steve Bruce guided Manchester United to a priceless late win against Sheffield Wednesday en route to the English Premier League title in 1993.

Recall Arsenal in 2002, when Sylvain Wiltord’s goal clinched the title for Arsene Wenger’s side against United at Old Trafford. More recently, of course, there was Sergio Aguero’s last gasp strike that ended Manchester City’s 44-year wait for the league crown.

For Dundalk fans, David McMillan’s 77th minute winner against Bohemians on Friday night looks like it will be added to that compilation. The striker’s 15th goal of the season - coming on the back of a hugely important equaliser against Sligo Rovers recently - could prove to be the most precious of his career as it, coupled with Cork City’s 2-2 draw against bottom of the table Athlone Town in Lissywoollen, lifted Stephen Kenny’s side six points clear at the top of the table with just seven games remaining.

For long periods of this crackling encounter, it looked like that gap may have been hacked down to just one. Bohs, one of only three teams to have taken something from Oriel this season, clearly hadn’t read the script and took a 2-1 lead into the half-time break.

Owen Heary’s side stated their intent from the off with Craig Walsh, impressive alongside the equally neat and tidy Eoin Wearen in the centre of the park, bulldozing his way through a couple of challenges to shoot harmlessly at Peter Cherrie early on.

Dundalk settled and took control after that and Patrick Hoban, one of six players reintroduced to the starting XI following the FAI Cup win over Galway United - saw a shot blocked down by Aidan Price after a well worked move involving Kurtis Byrne and Richie Towell. Hoban threatened again in the 16th minute, finding himself in space to collect a Dane Massey pass in the penalty area but his shot lacked power and Dean Delany gathered.

News was just filtering through that Cork City had taken the lead in Athlone when Dundalk pulled in front themselves after 22 minutes. The goal was simple in its execution. Darren Meenan’s corner from the right was headed across goal by Hoban and skipper Andy Boyle was on hand at the back post to power home his second goal of the season.

The Oriel Park faithful were silenced seven minutes later as Bohs equalised in stunning fashion. Karl Moore cut in from the right, on to his left foot, and let fly with a fabulous effort that left Cherrie with no chance. A definite contender for goal of the month and of the season.

The game continued to ebb and flow at a good tempo and Dundalk thought they had pulled ahead again in the 33rd minute. Meenan delivered yet another vicious corner into a crowded six-yard box but Delany somehow managed to keep Brian Gartland’s header out from close range.

The visitors steadied themselves after that and they went in front with another fantastic goal, three minutes before half-time. Dinny Corcoran picked the ball up just outside the penalty area and he punished Dundalk with a stunning strike that flew into the roof of Cherrie’s net.

Referee Derek Tomney’s whistle meant that the natives went into the dressing rooms on the wrong side of the scoreline for just the second time at Oriel this season. Meanwhile, in Lissywoollen, Athlone Town went in level with Cork.

Kenny responded by introducing David McMillan in place of the ineffective Kurtis Byrne at the interval and the substitute almost made an instant impression, flashing in a cross from the left which Hoban glanced agonisingly wide of the post.

Hoban stoked up the atmosphere again minutes later when he did brilliantly to chase and collect Sean Gannon’s hopeful pass forward, outmuscling Aidan Price in the process, but his shot was always rising.

With momentum growing, the home crowd sensed an equaliser and it duly arrived in the 54th minute. Daryl Horgan’s cross from the left found McMillan on the corner of the six-yard box and he somehow managed to guide a stunning header across Delany and inside the far post.

Bohs responded bravely again and veteran Jason Byrne saw a header go over the top before Craig Walsh skipped away from Chris Shields only to see his low effort collected by Cherrie.

The drama continued to unfold and news that Cork City had regained the lead raised the tension levels on the Carrick Road. That anxiety disappeared five minutes later though in what could well be remembered as the pivotal moment in the title race.

James O’Brien had just equalised for Athlone in the midlands when Horgan scurried back to to win possession inside his own half. A switch to the other end saw Delany- under pressure from Hoban - parry a cross from the right into the path of McMillan and the 25-year-old showed great technique to fire home a volley from 15-yards.

A nervy 13 minutes, plus three additional minutes followed, but Dundalk held on to take a massive step towards their first league title in 19-years.