Madden on double to ease Bohs' pain
Bray Wanderers 0
THIS may have been a valuable three points for Bohemians, but in the context of their circumstances at the end of a tumultuous week, it was a much more important performance for the league champions.
After their disastrous exit from the Champions League on Tuesday night, the most intriguing sub-plot at the Carlisle Grounds was not the reaction of the players, but the reaction of the travelling faithful to their fallen heroes.
In the immediate aftermath of their four-goal drubbing at the hands of Welsh side The New Saints, Pat Fenlon's men trudged off the field to the sound of boos, while the former Shelbourne manager had a jersey thrown his way in disgust.
But last night, the Airtricity League champions went a long way in mending bridges between the squad and their fans as they put themselves within two points of their table-topping rivals Shamrock Rovers with a game in hand.
Nobody within the Bohs squad is sure of their professional future at the moment, with reports suggesting that they are to return to part-time football after they missed out on a huge cash injection with European elimination.
But on last night's evidence, they didn't much care. Fenlon dropped Ruaidhri Higgins, Mark Quigley and Jason Byrne to the bench four days after their crushing defeat across the water, while Conor Powell was left out of the squad altogether, and the shake-up had the desired effect.
As Eddie Gormley's Bray attempted to intimidate their more illustrious rivals on home soil, each crunching tackle they flew into was met with an even more committed challenge.
Every whisper from the stands can be heard within the white lines at the seaside venue. But, far from angry chants, the away fans rallied in support of their wounded soldiers.
A large contingent travelled from Phibsborough and perhaps one of the most pertinent moments of the game was not one of the three goals, but a tackle from Brian Shelley on the half-hour mark.
The right-back chased down a long ball 20 yards past the half-way line. It seemed a hopeless task, but his stern challenge on Derek Prendergast raised hope and raised the decibels as his fans stood in applause.
They had already notched up two goals by then against the outclassed Seagulls, as Paddy Madden made it 11 goals in his last nine games with an early brace.
On nine minutes he latched onto Owen Heary's header down from a Killian Brennan free-kick and needed two bites at the cherry before slamming the ball past helpless Brian Kane.
The in-form 20-year-old doubled their lead five minutes later when he shaped a beautiful finish past Kane after bursting free to latch on to the through ball from his strike partner Aaron Greene.
It was the endeavour which impressed Bohs fans the most, but Brennan did turn on the style for their third goal, as the Drogheda native played a one-two with Paul Keegan from a short corner before curling a delicious strike in off the far post.
BRAY WANDERERS -- Kane, O'Connor, Mitchell, Prendergast, Massey (Houston 46); D Doyle, D O'Connor (Kavanagh 79), G Kelly (R Doyle 66), J Kelly; O'Neill, Mulroy.
BOHEMIANS -- B Murphy, Heary, Shelley, Oman, Rossiter; McGlynn, Cronin, Keegan (Higgins 82), Brennan (Quigley 69); Madden, Greene (Byrne 77).
REF -- T Tomney (Dublin).