“I wouldn’t like to be Keith picking the team… I just hope he picks me!”

Bohemians Squad Portraits 2019

 BOHEMIANS v UCD
SSE Airtricity League
Friday April 19 2019, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

Match sponsor: Bang Bang. Matchball sponsor: Used Car Centre 01-4594511

Keith Ward believes no matter what starting XI manager Keith Long picks against UCD, there is going to be someone watching on from the sidelines feeling aggrieved.

Monday’s trip to face reigning champions Dundalk was Bohs’ fourth of eight fixtures in the month of April.

With games coming thick and fast, Long made the bold the decision to make seven changes to the starting – and largely settled – XI that had won 1-0 away to Finn Harps three days previously.

None of the changes were enforced, but Long is wary of overloading part-time players with a busy schedule meaning his squad’s strength in depth is at present being tested to the max.

One of those rested was Ward, who, like the rest of those watching from the bench or stands, faces an anxious wait to see whether he will win back his place in the team.

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Not only did Bohs put it up to the champions on their own patch, they did that and much, much more.

They were the far better team for the vast majority of the game, dictating the pace in a way that belied for many a lack of inexperience and others a lack of game-time.

Driven on by an encouraging away support, the Gypsies’ attempts to find the back of the net proved elusive, however.

And, in the third minute of injury-time, their efforts and enthusiasm came to a shuttering halt when Paddy Kirk was contentiously adjudged to have taken down his former Bohs team-mate Daniel Kelly inside the box.

Referee Tomás Connolly awarded a penalty and Patrick Hoban blasted past James Talbot to send the Gypsies home empty-handed. They dropped to third in the table behind Derry City in the process.

While the manner of the defeat was cruel, now that the dust has settled, Bohs, while not satisfied with moral victories, can still afford to take a lot of positives from their performance.

Ward said: “I was in the stands and I think anyone watching the game will think we deserved to win. We were gutted with the way we lost but everyone who played can hold their heads up high about the way they performed.

“We showed how good a squad we have. Man to man, we were excellent. The young lads that came in – the like of Paddy Kirk and Andy Lyons – and Ryan Swan starting his first game in 18 months, for them to play like that against the champions was extremely pleasing.

“There is good strength in depth there. Every year we lose players but Keith obviously has a good eye for them because there is real quality coming through.”

Bohs have been slow starters in recent seasons, but things seemed to have clicked a lot more quickly this term.

Ward said: “It’s a combination of good talent spotting and really hard work training.

“You look at those lads on Monday, some of them have barely played this season but they weren’t tired as the game went on and that’s down to hard work and everyone pushing each other in training all the time.

“But they controlled the game for a lot of it too which is important as you don’t tire yourself out when you’re on the ball whereas they might have if they had to chase it.

“When we train, it’s very competitive. Trevor Croly doesn’t give you an inch! That means we’re all pushing and pushing each other.

“I wouldn’t like to be Keith picking the team tomorrow! I just hope he picks me! No matter who he picks there will be lads in the stand who will feel they should be starting.”

While supporters are still kicking themselves about the way such a positive performance turned sour on Monday, Ward and Co don’t have the luxury of dwelling on it.

They  face a UCD who have improved since Bohs beat them 2-0 in Belfield in the second week of the season and have beaten both Waterford and Cork City in recent weeks.

Ward said: “UCD are 10 games in now and they will know a lot about themselves now and about the division compared to when we last played them.

“They have come on a lot already and will keep improving. They like to play the right way and will be tough opposition. It’s a very competitive division and there are no easy games – everyone knows that.”

The Jodi Stand is on course to sell out for the fifth home league game in a row – supporters are advised to buy online to avoid disappointment – with Ward admitting the players are thriving off the encouragement from the stands.

He added: “It’s great seeing big crowds in Dalymount. I’ve had people on to me looking for tickets for games we as players can’t even get hold of!

“It’s great as a player to come out to see a packed stand hopping like that. In previous seasons you might have had three or four games like that.

“But last year the crowds were up a good bit and the Jodi has been full for four games we’ve played so far this year.

“That pushes players on even more. They’re there to see you, to support you and we take pride in that. You don’t want to let them down.”

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