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Friday 14 December 2018

Survival is now surely a bridge too far

Soccer, SSE Airtricity League Premier Division: Bray Wanderers 1 Cork City 3

Graham Cummins of Cork City in action against Sean Heaney of Bray Wanderers
Graham Cummins of Cork City in action against Sean Heaney of Bray Wanderers

Daniel Gorman at the Carlisle Grounds

Cork City barely broke sweat as they made it eight goals in five days and left Bray Wanderers facing an almost impossible task to rescue their Premier Division status.

With this defeat to City - combined with Limerick's late win over Waterford FC - the Seagulls and their 16 senior squad members have a gap of nine points to make up in the remaining nine games. Of those 16 squad members, two are certain to miss the remainder of the season (Andy McGovern and Hugh Douglas) with another (John Sullivan) unlikely to kick a ball again in 2018.

Even for the Co. Wicklow side and their baffling habit to emulate Harry Houdini, this is surely a bridge too far.

The latest of Bray's 20 league defeats came about as a Karl Sheppard brace either side of a Garry Buckley header in the first half ensured that the Leesiders earned three points at the Carlisle Grounds. Gary McCabe restored some pride with Bray with an excellent free kick on 65 minutes.

There was an early warning sign for Bray Wanderers as City midfielder Barry McNamee let rip from 25 yards after three minutes but it was straight at Evan Moran who was able to tip it over his crossbar.

Bray tried out a 3-4-1-2 formation and they should have drawn first blood when Jake Ellis released strike partner Ger Pender but the 24-year old pulled his shot wide with City defenders breathing down his neck.

They were made to rue that missed chance four minutes later as they fell behind. Karl Sheppard collected the ball on the left flank and turned Rhys Gorman inside out several times before lashing a shot across the face of goal and into the far corner.

Garry Buckley was agonisingly close to doubling the lead but was denied by the crossbar in the 20th minute with Moran beaten.

He wasn't to be denied on the half hour mark though as he rose unchallenged to power home McNamee's corner.

It was almost instantly 0-3 as Moran hacked his clearance straight to Sheppard and McNamee looked set for a tap-in but for Sean Heaney's brilliant timing to intercept the pass and prevent a certain goal.

On 36 minutes, Moran would see his goal-kick returned with interest by the head of Damien Delaney and it would set Sheppard through. He kept his cool to finish.

Sheppard should have wrapped up the hat-trick before the break when Buckley chipped a cross in from the right but the attacker smashed his volley over.

Sean McLoughlin missed a sitter to extend the lead as he spurned a free header from another McNamee delivery.

Buckley was next to spare Bray's blushes. Sheppard breezed past Conor Kenna and stood a cross up to the back stick where Buckley was waiting but the attacking midfielder couldn't generate the power on his header to beat Moran.

Bray had a shot cleared off the line next when Gorman nudged Heaney's knock-down goalwards but McNamee denied him with a goal-line clearance.

A piece of brilliance from Garry Buckley almost lead to a goal for Cummins on 62 minutes. Shane Griffin pushed the ball forward towards Buckley but he dummied it it cleared a path to goal for Cummins but his snapshot was turned behind by Moran.

Wanderers did reduce the deficit midway through the second period. Jake Ellis earned a free as he was tripped 25 yards from goal and McCabe gave Peter Cherrie absolutely no chance with a stunning effort that curled into the top left-hand corner.

City almost grabbed a fourth in injury time but the woodwork again came to Bray's rescue as debutant Shane Daly-Butz rattled the crossbar but it was not to be a dream debut for the youngster.

Niall O'Driscoll's debut as majority shareholder may not have made a difference on the pitch but there was an undeniable feel-good factor around the Carlisle Grounds on Friday night and that is already welcomed following recent turbulent weeks.

Bray will attempt to kick-start their survival mission with a trip to severely out-of-form St. Patrick's Athletic on Friday.

Bray Wanderers: 29. Evan Moran; 14. Rhys Gorman, 4. Conor Kenna, 5. Sean Heaney; 31. Sean Harding, 6. Paul O'Conor, 22. Darragh Noone, 3. Kevin Lynch; 21. Gary McCabe; 24. Jake Ellis, 9. Ger Pender.

Cork City: 13. Peter Cherrie; 10. Steven Beattie, 17. Damien Delaney, 29. Sean McLoughlin, 20. Shane Griffin; 8. Conor McCormack, 7. Jimmy Keohane; 25. Barry McNamee, 26. Garry Buckley, 19. Karl Sheppard; 9. Graham Cummins.

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.

Venue: Carlisle Grounds, Bray.

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