Sunday 16 December 2018

Key phase for Bray

Next 29 days are season-defining for the Seagulls

Bray Wanderers and Dundalk take to the field ahead of the opening SSE Airtricity League Premier clash of 2018.
Bray Wanderers and Dundalk take to the field ahead of the opening SSE Airtricity League Premier clash of 2018.

Daniel Gorman

Maybe it's delayed cabin fever setting in, but is it too early to say that the next 29 days could be season-defining for Bray Wanderers?

The Seagulls raised eyebrows throughout the country when they held Dundalk to a 0-0 draw on their opening match of the season. A 1-2 home defeat against St. Patrick's Athletic - in which the Seagulls conceded twice in the opening 14 minutes - ruffled no feathers and was viewed as the status quo. But even for Wanderers' standards, the 6-0 white-flag waving efforts in Tallaght Stadium were a worry.

This is my 10th season covering Bray Wanderers and I've seen quite a few thumpings dished out in that time but rarely has the team rolled over so easily and it is even more damning considering that it's not the nadir of a terrible run of form with confidence wiped out - it's the third game of the season and every other club have now probably written Bray off.

Well, every club except Limerick perhaps. If there was one scrap of scant consolation for Dave Mackey's side, it was that whilst they were licking their wounds from the Rovers bulldozing, Dundalk were trouncing Limerick 8-0.

It isn't going to help the Bray confidence levels but it does set up an intriguing encounter on Friday evening as a pair of clubs that conceded a combined 14 and scored zilch in their last respective outings meet.

Limerick - who lost former manager Neil McDonald in January - were widely tipped to be the side jousting it out with the Co. Wicklow club at the foot of the table. An opening day victory, and a stoppage time denial of a second victory, preceded the 8-0 walloping. That would rule it safe to say that Tommy Barrett's side are unpredictable.

It is early days yet but it already looks like a Premier Division side that will be split into three tiers - the title hopefuls and European contenders, the midtable muddlers and the strugglers. Limerick, Bray and Sligo Rovers will most likely contend the latter tier.

Lose to Limerick on Friday and it could have serious implications on the morale of a very young squad. There would be no time to wallow in self pity though as on Monday, Sligo Rovers visit the Carlisle Grounds. It's too easy to whip out the clichees about six-pointers but losses in either or both of those fixtures could have huge consequences.

Between this Friday's visit to Limerick and the visit of Cork City 22 days later, Mackey's thin squad face seven fixtures.

They potentially face a Friday-Monday combo for the next five weeks, which would mean nine fixtures in 29 days (Bray will have one less fixture if they lose in the EA Sports Cup first round).

Only once so far in over 270 minutes of league action have Bray hit the net. They've conceded eight in that same time. In the interest of perspective, five of those goals came in the one half but the maths don't lie - a lack of firepower means the defence need to shore up.

By our next edition, Bray could have kick-started their season into life or they could have been kicked to the curb.

Wicklow People