Saturday 17 March 2018

Bray redemption as Rovers held at home

BRAY Wanderers' 0-7 humiliation seemed like a distant nightmare as they tormented Shamrock Rovers in an enthralling encounter.

Bray Wanderers' 0-7 humiliation seemed like a distant nightmare as they tormented Shamrock Rovers in an enthralling encounter.

The last time these sides tangled Trevor Croly's men tore the Seagulls apart and inflicted a club record defeat but at the Carlisle Grounds on Friday, Pat Devlin's side frustrated the Dubliners and could have taken all three points.

Defeat on Friday for the Wicklow club would have made it three losses on the bounce and Devo made three changes as he looked to avoid that fate.

The centre of defence was revamped, with Danny O'Connor returning in place of the suspended David Webster while Adam Mitchell replaced Ashford's Shane O'Connor. The other alteration saw Gary Dempsey replace Ismahil Akinade in midfield.

The early stages of this match suggested that Wanderers were perhaps in store for another mauling.

Former Seagull Gary McCabe burrowed his way into the penalty area and his low shot forced Darren Quigley into a neat block, with Kevin O'Connor putting the rebound behind for a corner kick.

McCabe also enjoyed the next chance. Rovers maestro Ronan Finn, playing in a free role, popped up on the right flank and his menacing cross found its way to the tiny McCabe at the back post but once again his effort was too close to the Bray shot-stopper.

Croly's charges then squandered another chance on 17 minutes. Sean O'Connor's missile throw-in reached Stephen Rice whose powerful header rippled the side netting. Mistaken Rovers fans cheered what they thought was a goal, while joyful Bray fans jeered their visiting rivals' error.

Then came the time for Bray to flex their attacking muscles. Moments after Kieran 'Marty' Waters had a penalty appeal waved away, a ball from Kevin O'Connor sent him racing clear. Rovers defender Derek Foran tugged at Waters' jersey but the attacker stayed on his feet and shimmied past Foran before smashing an effort towards the top corner that Richard Brush did brilliantly to push away.

Kevin O'Connor then showed some dazzling footwork that Waters would've been proud as he bamboozled his way past three men in an airtight space before crossing. Dean Zambra was on the end of it but his looping header didn't have sufficient power to trouble Brush.

John Mulroy was next to get a sight of Rovers' goal but his opportunity came on his weaker left foot and he too failed to cause Brush any problems.

Just like they had in the first half, Rovers flew out of the traps in the second too. Conor Powell's wicked delivery was met by James Chambers. His attempt was stopped on the line by Danny O'Connor and Sean O'Connor's follow-up curled agonisingly close to Quigley's top corner.

Powell then initiated his side's next assault on Quigley's goal as he carried the ball over the halfway line. It was eventually worked to Finn on the edge of the area but, even with time and space, Finn pinged his effort wide.

Finn missed the target on that occasion but referee Anthony Buttimer missed something minutes later. McCabe was grappling with Eoin Hyland and wanted a free kick. None was given and Bray gained possession. Mulroy got rid of the ball before McCabe could tackle him but that didn't mean McCabe stopped. Instead, he continued to hare after McCabe and clearly caught him with an elbow to the face. Fortunately for the Rovers winger, Buttimer's attention was focussed elsewhere.

Bray almost snuck a goal in the 66th minute. A punt from the back was flicked on by Jason Byrne and Waters latched onto it before sending a fierce drive whistling across the face of Brush's goal.

Croly made two changes in the 66th minute and three minutes later one of those replacements, Billy Dennehy, almost reaped immediate rewards. He was slipped in down the left by Finn and he returned the ball to the midfielder eight yards from goal who prodded it into the side netting.

Devo handed a baptism of fire debut to new signing Sean Noble but the winger almost provided a winning assist for Bray in injury time when Kevin O'Connor met his cross but Brush was equal to the midfielder's snapshot.

The men from Tallaght then thought they'd stolen victory on 93 minutes but their ecstasy was short-lived when Ken Oman had a goal chalked off for a foul. Sean O'Connor delivered a flag kick from the right, Oman's header was too strong for covering defender Mulroy to keep out but then the presence of a raised linesman's flag brought a huge sigh of relief to the home faithful.

Top Form: Adam Mitchell (Bray Wanderers): So committed and fearless.

Wicklow People