SSE Airtricity First Division: Bray Wanderers 2 Wexford FC 1
A stout rearguard action from Wexford FC lasted for 56 minutes in front of an attendance of 634 at the Carlisle Grounds on Friday, before a technically superior Bray Wanderers side eventually broke their resistance in this SSE Airtricity First Division encounter.
Two goals in the space of three minutes put the Wicklow side well on course to atone for their 2-0 loss in Ferrycarrig Park in March, with the visitors unable to bridge the gap despite a quality goal in response from ace opportunist Danny Furlong.
It was one of the rare occasions when Wexford posed a threat in the final third, but there was no denying the quality of the finish after Danny Doyle got to the byline on the right and pulled the ball back for the ace striker.
It was coming low to his feet at the near post, so he improvised superbly by flicking it with his right peg past ex-Dundalk netminder Gabriel Sava in the 69th minute.
Wexford did live dangerously on a couple of occasions thereafter, and the hat-trick seeking Derek Daly struck the crossbar from the free-kick that followed Corey Chambers' enforced departure with a facial injury.
In truth, they would have been very fortunate to emerge with anything from the game given the level of control exerted by Bray, but they did cause the hearts of home fans to skip a few beats at the death.
Their captain, Paul Keegan, fouled Nika Arevadze on the left, and Jack Doherty's free-kick was dropped by Sava before a scramble ended with the ball being hacked away for a corner.
It gave Doherty one last chance to direct it into the danger zone, but it was headed clear and the final whistle followed immediately to leave Wexford still rooted to the bottom of the table, with just one point to show from their travels thus far.
Lee Costello and Danny Doyle replaced Darragh O'Connor and Nika Arevadze at left-back and right-wing respectively, and from an early stage it was evident that the defence was set for a very busy night.
A first-half corner count of 7-0 in favour of Bray gives an accurate indication of the territorial stakes, and it was clear that the Wexford tactic was to absorb as much pressure as possible and hopefully catch their rivals on the break.
Wanderers posed a threat going forward from the off, with a Dean O'Halloran shot blocked after a cross by Derek Daly before their first flag-kick was headed over by Seán Heaney.
Chambers made a comfortable save from a long-range Richie Purdy shot, while the only time his opposite number, Sava, had to exert himself was in the sixth minute when a Thomas Croke effort from distance didn't pose any serious problems.
Otherwise, it was all Wanderers, with centre-forward Jake Ellis shooting right and wide from a Philip Gannon through ball, while Chambers knocked a header from the latter over the bar in the 15th minute.
Bray's best chance of the half arrived on their next attack of note, with Richie Purdy picking out Derek Daly whose venomous strike produced a fine save from the visiting netminder.
Wexford survived three more corners in quick succession before Paddy Cahill was booked for a rash tackle on Daly, but Gannon's free-kick didn't trouble Chambers.
Centre-half Seán Heaney's drive from distance wasn't too far away in the 43rd minute as it fizzed over, with Cahill scrambling clear from that seventh Bray corner before a relieved Wexford had a chance to re-group at half-time.
No doubt they would have settled for a scoreless draw, given the constant probing of a patient Wanderers along with their own inability to create any opportunities in the attacking third.
However, they were finally breached in the 57th minute, and it took a bit of quality to get the home side off the mark.
Paul Keegan, once of Doncaster Rovers but seen more recently in the blue of Waterford, delivered a superb flighted through ball from central midfield into the path of Derek Daly.
And the finish matched the quality of the assist as he spotted Corey Chambers darting off his line and dinked the ball over his head and into an empty net.
Bray had the luxury of being able to introduce their leading goalscorer, Dylan McGlade, in the immediate aftermath, and a major turning point followed in the space of just 20 seconds.
After Wanderers defender Seán Heaney struggled to get a high, bouncing delivery under control, Ferrycarrig Park old boy Killian Cantwell made a challenge on Danny Furlong and the striker went to ground in the box.
It fell into the 'not clearcut but I've seen them given before' category, but referee Adriano Reale wasn't interested and Bray quickly launched a counter-attack.
Dean O'Halloran whipped in a sweet cross from the right to the far post, and Derek Daly was on hand once again to direct the ball back across Chambers and into the top corner.
The points were nearly wrapped up less than two minutes later when Daly played in substitute McGlade, but Chambers saved well at the expense of a corner that was cleared.
The goalkeeper foiled the lively replacement once again in the 67th minute, with Wexford deciding to go for broke after the introduction of Darragh O'Connor, switching to three at the back as Paddy Cahill pushed up into midfield.
Moments later that sublime piece of opportunism from Danny Furlong produced his fourth goal of the season and filled the visitors with hope, having also recovered from a 3-0 deficit when the sides met at the same venue in the League Cup before losing 3-2.
Wanderers duo Dean O'Halloran and goalscorer Daly picked up yellow cards in separate incidents, with another Danny Doyle cross that was intended for Furlong headed away in between.
A long ball from Luke Nolan looked to release Dean O'Halloran in the 83rd minute, and he was fouled by the rapidly advancing Chambers who had to leave the field as he sustained a facial injury in the process.
It led to a baptism of fire for reserve netminder Jason McGuire, who became the 22nd player to feature in the 14-game league campaign thus far.
And the Ferns lad was only an onlooker from the free-kick that followed, as Daly knocked it over via the crossbar as he came close to completing a hat-trick.
Less than 90 seconds later, a brilliant pass by Daly saw Dylan McGlade round McGuire, but he shot into the side-netting from a tight angle.
Philip Gannon was booked early in the second of the four added minutes, and while Wexford had the ball in the opposition box twice at the death, the game ended in a frustrating second successive 2-1 defeat.
Next up will be the visit of Drogheda United to Ferrycarrig Park on Friday at 7.45 p.m., with their clash in Co. Louth in late March also having produced a home victory on the same scoreline after they pounced for a last-gasp winner.
Wexford F.C.: Corey Chambers; Paddy Cahill, Seán Callan, Chris Kenny (capt.), Lee Costello; Danny Doyle, Thomas Croke, Ryan Nolan, Emmet Nugent; Jack Doherty, Danny Furlong. Subs. - Nika Arevadze for Costello (64), Darragh O'Connor for Nolan (69), Jason McGuire for Chambers, inj. (86), also Seán Roche, Andrew Farrell.
Bray Wanderers: Gabriel Sava; Luke Nolan, Killian Cantwell, Seán Heaney, Dylan Barnett; Paul Keegan (capt.); Dean O'Halloran, Richie Purdy, Philip Gannon, Derek Daly; Jake Ellis. Subs. - Dylan McGlade for Ellis (60), Joe Doyle for Purdy, inj. (84), also Adam Hayden, Hugh Douglas, Andrew McGovern, Luka Lovic, Brandon McCann.
Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).