Bray pile on agony as Euro hangover threatens Dundalk
Bray 2-1 Dundalk
Published 11/08/2016 | 02:30
The execution of these low-key tasks is what made European dreams possible for Dundalk so this defeat will set alarm bells ringing in Louth.
After all, if they are to truly capitalise on their breakthrough run, and the boost in their UEFA ranking that comes with it, then they need to get back to the Champions League next year.
They've put that in jeopardy by losing both games since their famous win over BATE Borisov with a rough night in Bray added to their reverse in Galway last Friday, culminating in back-to-back league losses for the first time since September 2013.
Seven days out from their Champions League play-off date at the Aviva Stadium, Stephen Kenny's charges were looking to extend their gap at the top to nine points.
Instead, they are just six clear of Cork City who have two games in hand and no European distraction over the coming months.
Kenny will have to remind his players that the September 2 date with the Leesiders at Oriel Park is as important as anything that follows with group stage football adding to fixture congestion.
A hangover from the BATE joy perhaps gave Dundalk a pass for their struggles in Galway just three days later.
But slipping up again in a fixture that was brought forward by 48 hours to help European preparation will worry Kenny - especially as they surrendered the lead from a position of control.
It was birthday boy Daryl Horgan who sent the visitors on their way. Horgan turned 24 yesterday and, significantly, it means that he can move as a free agent at the end of the campaign.
He is sure to have offers and his quality shone through in an opening dominated by Dundalk although he didn't have much to do for the goal.
Instead, it was the work of Robbie Benson that picked the lock with his clever run and collection of a Dave McMillan pass culminating in a shot that Peter Cherrie could only parry into the path of the inrushing Horgan. He did the rest from a yard.
Dundalk looked comfortable for a spell with a McMillan snapshot almost doubling their advantage. However, as the interval approached, Bray started to cause them problems with Dylan Connolly the main instigator.
The left winger has returned to Ireland from a spell at Ipswich and has performed in a manner that has grabbed the attention of Dundalk and other suitors.
He was their main attacking outlet and raced away from Sean Gannon for a right-footer that sailed over the bar. That was the warning shot and it was a foul on Connolly by Paddy Barrett that led to the equaliser.
Terrible defending followed with Dundalk ponderous when Hugh Douglas rose to head Kevin Lynch's free across the area and Mark Sammon - who had stood over the delivery with Lynch - capitalising by darting into the box to stab goalwards with a deflection helping his speculative attempt across the line.
The break gave Bray something to protect from the restart and they were put under pressure by white shirts.
That said, the application from Harry Kenny's charges was excellent and they did create chances on the break that posed ominous issues for the league leaders.
Recent signing John Sullivan is an important presence in the centre of the park and the former Lilywhite did threaten from distance.
Anxiety grew in the Dundalk ranks as the game entered the final quarter with Kenny sending in Ciaran Kilduff as support for McMillan in a two-man attack and Darren Meenan introduced for John Mountney.
Bray capitalised on the growing frustration with a purposeful break from Connolly drawing another foul 25 yards from goal. Karl Moore stepped up to curl a delicious left-footer over the wall and beyond the flailing hand of Gary Rogers.
Stephen Kenny sent teenager Michael O'Connor on in search of an equaliser, yet he had no luck with Meenan wasting the best opportunity to rescue a result.
And the Dundalk misery was compounded at the death when the rampaging Connolly was hacked down by Horgan who was given a straight red and a ban that will further impact on forthcoming league tests. He could now miss the Cork game as a consequence.
After one of the most memorable months in the club's history, that completed a night to forget.
Bray - Cherrie, Douglas, Kenna, Clancy, Lynch; Sullivan; McDonagh (Marks 61), Sammon, Moore, Connolly; Pender (Lyons 80)
Dundalk - Rogers, Gannon, Barrett, Boyle, Massey; O'Donnell, Shields; Mountney (Meenan 70), Benson (Kilduff 66), Horgan; McMillan (M O'Connor 82)
Ref - N Doyle (Dublin)