Ross fires Celtic to win against Bray
ROSS Zambra went from villain to pantomime hero as he fired Wayside Celtic into the semi finals of the Leinster Senior Cup at the expense of Bray Wanderers – and his father and brother.
Ross' younger brother Dean played no part for the Seagulls at Jackson Park on Sunday but father Gary took his customary place alongside Pat Devlin in the Wanderers dugout.
Ross had looked like he was going to suffer an afternoon to forget when his penalty in the 40th minute went wide but he saved his heroics until the 91st minute when his deflected free kick scuttled past Wanderers goalkeeper Shane Redmond to set up a last four clash for 10-man Celtic with Shamrock Rovers.
Redmond was not at the club the last time Bray togged out in the Leinster Senior Cup; a 4-1 win over Tolka Rovers at the Carlisle Grounds. From that day's starting XI, Daire Doyle, Conor Earley, Sean Hurley and Ismahil Akinade were the only survivors and in fact, four starters from that night have since left the club.
Speaking of ex-Seagulls, the Kilternan club fielded six former Bray men in their starting side and one of those six, Darren Lacey, squandered the first chance of the clash. An extremely contentious refereeing decision allowed Lacey a clear path to goal but the striker's effort lacked conviction and trickled wide.
A bit of menace was introduced to the match in the 23rd minute. A meaty but fair challenge from Conor Earley got pulses racing and seconds later Nicky Byrne dismantled Sean Noble. Despite insisting to the referee that it was his first foul, Ben Connolly produced the yellow card. More on Connolly later.
A sloppy foul on Adam Mitchell then earned Thomas O'Hanlon a yellow card and further punishment was to follow for the attacker later on.
A nastier tackle on Daire Doyle shortly afterwards split the midfielder's shin pad and resulted in him being replaced by John Mulroy. But with plenty of tasty tackles flying in, it was a needless challenge that caused the biggest reaction. A nothing cross from the right was heading out towards the left flank, with O'Neill pursuing it. But he didn't reach it as he was suddenly clattered from behind by Eoin Hyland.
Ross Zambra stepped up and sent the ball to the goalkeeper's right. Bray understudy Redmond guessed right but he missed out on the chance to be a hero as the ball skidded wide of his goal.
Zambra could have made amends on the stroke of half time as a hefty clearance from a corner kick released him but his cautious, early strike was easy pickings for Redmond.
Kevin O'Connor and Kieran 'Marty' Waters were both shooed onto the pitch by Devlin as he looked to spark his side into some sort of life in the second half.
It was a second half that drastically lacked in footballing quality but the ineptitude of Ben Connolly kept everyone entertained, apart from the two managers of course.
Connolly did at least get one decision right when he showed O'Hanlon a second yellow in the 87th minute for a late barge into Hyland.
It was a push, not a barge, in the back by Adam Mitchell on Chris Burgess that saw Connolly award the home side a 91st minute free kick.
Zambra once again was on set-piece duties and his low blast took a wicked deflection off the foot of the wall; completely wrong-footing Redmond and the shot-stopper could only watch on in horror as it found the bottom corner.
Redmond found himself in the Wayside penalty area in the 95th minute as Bray tried in vain to make the most of a Waters corner kick but Celtic hung on and now they turn their attention to the visit of Trevor Croly and his Shamrock Rovers side.
The Seagulls also have a cup competition in their hairlines but it is the slightly more important matter of an FAI Ford Cup encounter with Premier Division leaders St. Patrick's Athletic at the Carlisle Grounds this Friday evening.
Top Form: Nicky Byrne (Wayside Celtic): Few powerful interceptions and clearances caught the eye.