Thursday 19 April 2018

Hard won point against UCD lifts Bray off bottom of table

Wanderers vs UCD: Tomas Boyle and Gary Dempsey
Wanderers vs UCD: Tomas Boyle and Gary Dempsey

Michael Palin went around the world in 80 days. Bray Wanderers haven't won a league match in 95.

With so much riding on Sunday's tie with UCD, the duo spat out a torrid affair that was forgotten about the moment Anthony Buttimer blew his final whistle. The saving grace for the Seagulls though is that this dire 1-1 draw is good enough to lift them off the foot of the Premier Division table.

The last time that Wanderers met with the Students, they served up a nine-goal thriller that saw Jason Byrne grab a quartet of goals. On Sunday, Byrne managed just a single effort as he cancelled out Cillian Morrison's opener for the College.

Sunday threw up several possible repercussions for the sides involved. A win for the hosts would've seen them leapfrog both Shels and Bohemians - sucking UCD back into immediate danger in the progress. Victory for the visitors meanwhile would have virtually guaranteed them top flight football next season. In the end though, stalemate lifted Wanderers into the play-off spot and edged UCD closer to safety.

A lot has changed since that energy-sapping 4-5 rollercoaster in the Belfield Bowl but there was just one change for Bray from the side that succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against Drogheda United; Adam Mitchell replaced the suspended David Webster at centre half.

And the eyebrows were raised in the direction of the home defence as UCD took a 22nd minute lead. Typically fast and neat interchanges saw UCD quickly work the ball up the pitch until Gary Dempsey brought things to an end as he barged over Barry McCabe. The felled party quickly leapt to his feet and caught the Bray defence napping as he scooped his free kick over their heads to Cillian Morrison who controlled the ball before sending it past Darren Quigley from 12 yards.

Dempsey made up for that foul in the 35th minute though as he turned on his creative charm. Firstly, he sent Kieran 'Marty' Waters racing through on the left flank but the winger caused Ger Barron no trouble as his fierce drive cleared the crossbar by a country mile.

It was a different story moments later though. From the resulting goal kick, Dempsey laid it off to Dean Zambra. He chipped it over the top for Waters who again had been left to his own devices. This time he took it into the penalty area and drew Barron before slipping it into Jason Byrne's path. From there, there could only be one result. A composed side-foot later, Bray were level.

Those three moments were unfortunately all the first half had to offer and the second period did little to make amends for its predecessor.

Bray native Hugh Douglas almost sent his hometown club further into the mire on the hour mark. Dean Clarke delivered a corner from the left flank and the defender's downward header was flicked on by David O'Connor. But former UCD shot-stopper Darren Quigley foiled his ex-employees as he scooped the ball off his line with his outstretched right hand.

Morrison could and should have gone one better than O'Connor four minutes later. McCabe's sent a free kick in towards the penalty spot where Mitchell and Morrison were enjoying a tussle. Suddenly, Mitchell slipped and Morrison couldn't believe his luck as he turned to face the goal and discovered the ball at his feet. But his thumping effort smashed off the outside of the post and Bray Wanderers survived.

The Seagulls are idle this weekend, having already been knocked out of the FAI Ford Cup. Their next shot at salvation comes in nine days when they travel north of the border to tangle with Derry City.

By that point, it will have been over 100 days since Pat Devlin's side last secured three points.

Some fans speculated after the match that the Wanderers players don't care enough but that is not true. They are just as nervous and anxious as the fans. That is obvious. Passes that they'd normally make in their sleep are suddenly being mislaid. Mistakes are now deemed worthy of a rollicking and there were several players having words and showing their frustrations at the Carlisle Grounds on Sunday afternoon.

But if they don't pool together soon and sort things out, that frustration will be replaced by depression at the season's end.

Top Form: Gary Dempsey (Bray Wanderers): Showed glimpses of his creative best.

Wicklow People