Drogheda United 1 Bray Wanderers 0
Having grabbed a last-gasp victory on their last outing, Bray Wanderers suffered late heartbreak of their own as Luke McNally made the Seagulls rue yet more missed chances with a stoppage time winner for Drogheda United.
The Drogs defender welcomed Gary Cronin's men back from the mid-season break as he outjumped Gabriel Sava to steal all three points for the Co. Louth side on a night where they were second best.
It was almost a perfect start for the Boynesiders. Sean Brennan and Luke Heeney had some nice inter-play before the latter released Bray native Chris Lyons. The striker held off Sean Heaney before firing goalwards and despite Gabriel Sava making a clear and fantastic save; referee David Keeler awarded a goal kick.
Dylan Barrett took a quick throw on 13 minutes, releasing Dean O'Halloran on the right and the midfielder forced his way into the box before squeezing the ball to Joe Doyle. While Luca Gratzer raced off his line to close the danger, Doyle managed to get the ball through the keeper's legs but the shot stopper got enough on the ball to avert the danger.
Last time against Drogheda, Dylan McGlade scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 success at the Carlisle Grounds and he looked every inch the threat again on Friday as James Brown struggled to contain the attacker.
Indeed McGlade would get behind the full back on several occasions in the opening half. On 20 minutes, McGlade outpaced Brown before squaring a pass, luckily for Drogheda Stephen Meaney tracked across to make the clearance.
The best chance of the opening 45 came mid-way through as Brennan took a quick free to Meaney. In turn the midfielder surged into the box and snapped a shot at goal which Sava palmed into the path of James Clarke but the winger's header was straight at the netminder.
McGlade was afforded too much space on 34 minutes and his dangerously whipped cross was dealt with by Conor Kane. Minutes later, Brown was robbed of possession and a neat one-two between McGlade and Doyle saw a goalwards shot blocked by captain Jake Hyland.
McGlade flashed a shot wide, beating three defenders in the box before shooting, while at the other end Lyons shot straight at Sava but right at the end of the half Drogheda spurned a gilt-edged opportunity.
Lyons, dropping deeper, won back possession and played in Brennan. The midfielders ball into the box found Luke Heeney but he fluffed his shot and the sides went in at the break level at 0-0.
Hyland shot from distance at the start of the second-half, benefitting from some good build-up play by Kane.
Luke Gallagher whipped a cross into the box which Lyons cushioned for Clarke who was stood on the six yard box but he blazed over, lacking composure in his shot.
A poor header backwards straight into the path of McGlade was well dealt with by McNally. A quick attack by the Boynesiders saw Clarke curl a shot agonisingly wide from just inside the box. Doyle's introduction just before the hour mark gave Drogheda another attacking option.
The forward looked game, but he was unable to impose himself on the game, he did almost break the cover but was muscled off the ball.
It was very much Drogheda at this stage, they could have taken the lead had Lyons squared the ball when he broke into the box before being closed down, while his pull back to Brennan saw the midfielders shot charged down.
Doyle looped a header to the far post with 15 minutes to go but Gratzer was alert to the danger. The Drogheda defence were prone to a lapse in concentration and McGlade almost capitalised on 79 minutes when he cut through McNally and Gallagher only to pull his shot wide.
The energy sapping conditions really took their toll in the final stages as passes began to go astray and legs began to wobble.
Richie Purdy was unleashed in the second-half and the former Drog certainly looked up for putting one over his former employers.
Having just been introduced, Eoin McPhilips took a corner from the right, his delivery was half cleared to Brennan and he lofted the ball back into the box where McNally leapt highest and made a connection with the ball ahead of Sava to win the game for the Boynesiders.
Drogheda United: 12. Luca Gratzer; 2. James Brown, 17. Luke McNally, 6. Luke Gallagher, 3. Conor Kane; 21. Luke Heeney, 11. Jake Hyland, 8. Sean Brennan; 15. Stephen Meaney, 9. Chris Lyons, 22. James Clarke. Subs: Mark Doyle for Heeney (59); Eoin McPhillips for Meaney (87); Cian Kavanagh for Clarke (90+1). Not used: Paul Skinner, Kevin Farragher, Jordan Adeyemo.
Bray Wanderers: 1. Gabriel Sava; 4. Killian Cantwell, 15. Darragh Gibbons, 5. Sean Heaney, 3. Dylan Barnett; 7. Dean O'Halloran, 6. Paul Keegan, 8. Philip Gannon, 11. Derek Daly; 10. Dylan McGlade; 9. Joe Doyle. Subs: Richie Purdy for Barnett (73); Luka Lovic for Gannon (89). Not used: Adam Hayden, Brandon McCann, Luke Nolan, Cian Maher, Jamie Crilly.
Referee: David Keeler.