Wednesday 23 May 2018

Hot under the collar

Limerick and Bray Wanderers played out a four-all draw in what can only be described as a bizarre encounter at Thomond Park on Tuesday night last.

Limerick and Bray Wanderers played out a four-all draw in what can only be described as a bizarre encounter at Thomond Park on Tuesday night last.

Even the blistering heat on Shannonside couldn't compete with this hotly-contested encounter as Bray surprisingly took the lead in the early stages. Just five minutes had elapsed when Ismahil Akinade struck to put the Seagulls ahead. John Mulroy picked the ball up forty yards from goal before calmly playing the decisive through ball into Akinade. The eighteen-year old forward finished with conviction.

The most controversial moment of the match arrived just shy of the ten minute mark.

That man Akinade broke free once more towards the out-rushing Barry Ryan. The youngster tipped the ball around the 'keeper, and fell to the ground; seemingly under contact. However, referee Sean Grant booked Akinade for simulation – a lucky escape for Limerick.

The Seagulls should have doubled their lead ten minutes later as Kieran 'Marty' Waters picked up the ball on the left wing before cutting inside Shaun Kelly.

The quick-footed winger picked out John Mulroy with his perfectly weighted pass. Having almost too much time to think about his finish, in a one-on-one situation with Barry Ryan, the midfielder fluffed his lines and slotted wide of the post.

Much to the annoyance of Wanderers manager Pat Devlin, the visitors could, and should have scored after a terrifically worked set piece involving Dempsey and Waters.

John Mulroy first rolled the ball into the feet of Dempsey who lofted the ball perfectly towards Waters, who appeared to foul Robbie Williams in the process, but upon referee Sean Grant's approval, the left-sided midfielder took the ball under control, skipped past Ryan but could only find the post with the goal at his mercy, albeit at a less than desirable angle.

Two quick goals before the break firstly changed the complexion of the game, before restoring it once more. Shane Tracy's stinging free kick on forty minutes stung the palms of Bray stopper Darren Quigley – so much so that he could only palm it out as far as the in-rushing Joe Gamble.

The Limerick skipper notched a rare goal before that man Akinade put the away side back in front.

Having what seemed like an age to clear their lines, the Limerick defence failed on that front and Akinade capitalised by forcing his way through three challenges and almost busting the net with a rocket of a shot, to see Bray lead going into the second half.

It wasn't long before the Blues leveled matters – three minutes into the second period and a David O'Leary corner was nodded home by Axel Bossekota.

The Belgian forward rose highest to head into an empty net after Darren Quigley clashed with Craig Curran in the six yard box – Bossekota had the easiest of finishes.

A game that lacked any real drive entering the final 15 minutes was soon to be brought to life.

The unfortunately-named Robbie Williams looked to compose himself just 20 yards from his own goal-line. This poor judgement call was punished by the opportunistic substitute Ryan Coombes. When Williams tried to turn, debutant Coombes bundled him over and provided the finish that Mulroy couldn't in the first half; slotting calmly past Barry Ryan to put the Seagulls back in front.

That lead didn't last long though – the determined figure of Craig Curran seemed riled up in the closing stages and took control of the ball on the edge of the box. Dropping his shoulder to gain a yard, Curran attempted to curl an ambitious effort towards goal.

The shot looked to be heading well wide, for a deflection to alter its flight path and nestle in the back of Quigley's net. Dismay for Bray, but the worst was yet to come.

Barry Ryan has been in impeccable form all season and this trend continued as on 80 minutes, an inch-perfect cross form the danger man Ryan Coombes was latched onto by the veteran Gary Dempsey. The midfielder connected well and just as he was about to wheel away in celebration, Ryan spread himself in mid-air and tipped the venomous effort wide of the post.

Wanderers would be made to pay for their missed chances as just five minutes from time, Curran found himself in a similar position to the one he was in just five minutes previously. This time, the Liverpudlian chose power over placement and a nick off a Bray shirt aided the ball in rolling past the scurrying Quigley.

As with every story, there is always one final twist.

The clock struck eighty-eight and Shane Costelloe gave away a needless free kick on the right side of the pitch. Waters was the man who stood over it – his left footed in-swinger was met perfectly by the glance of Kevin O'Connor's head and Bray had equalised in an instant.

Unfortunately for the midfielder, he was dismissed just moments later for a second bookable offence.

He would go on to be joined by his manager Pat Devlin for an early bath.

Both sides played the remainder with minimal fuss. Bray will be the happier side, but both clubs will be disappointed they didn't capitalise once ahead.

Top Form: Ismahil Akinade (Bray Wanderers): Carrying his team at the age of eighteen, the striker played the lone forward role perfectly and bagged himself a deserved brace.

Wicklow People