All hands on deck as Bray hold Sligo
Bray Wanderers 0 Sligo Rovers 0
LEAGUE of Ireland supporters are not used to watching a game in genuine summer sunshine, and they're also unaccustomed to a lethargic display from Sligo Rovers. This match delivered both.
The defending champions ran riot in their top-two clash with Derry City last Monday, and a trip to take on the most generous defence in the division seemed like an ideal opportunity to stretch their lead at the head of the table.
However, despite the weather, Ian Baraclough's side took far too long to warm into proceedings and, when they did, they met stern resistance from a Bray outfit that deserve credit for maintaining concentration from start to finish.
Baraclough will no doubt point to their struggles as an example of what can happen if the Bit O'Red fall below their usual performance levels.
Derry's bizarre loss to UCD means they gained another point on the Candystripes, but St Patrick's Athletic and Shamrock Rovers were the real winners from the night. They meet on Tuesday on account of the Hoops' involvement in the Setanta Cup final.
Sligo stuck with the same formula that outplayed Derry by persevering without top scorer Anthony Elding, who was suspended for that encounter.
Aaron Greene led the line and, without an aerial outlet, the Bit O'Red had no option but to try and play through the hosts. They are an accomplished passing unit, but there were times in the first half when they lacked a real presence to unsettle the natives.
While they hinted at a promising start, with Greene teeing up David Cawley, who should probably have scored from close range, that proved to be their only real opening of note before the interval.
The Bray rearguard has suffered at times, but they produced a disciplined showing before the interval, allowing the visitors to dominate possession without ever abandoning their shape.
Sporadically, they threatened on the break, with imposing right winger Ismahil Akinade finding space to fire a right-footer wide of the post. But the presence of strikers John Mulroy and Jason Byrne in defensive action illustrated the nature of the test.
For the supporters, the hope was that the second half would provide more entertainment, especially with the pleasant sun replaced by a chill in the air.
The fact that Sligo's 55th-minute corner was the first in the game emphasised the dearth of entertainment to that point.
Lee Lynch threatened with a header from the aftermath of that set-piece, yet Bray responded with a spell of pressure at the other end that included a booking for Rovers defender Gavin Peers and a half-chance for Kieran Marty Waters.
Baraclough had already introduced Elding in search of inspiration and brought Raffaele Cretaro into the game just after his team had regained their grip on the game, with Lynch forcing a stop from Darren Quigley.
Both subs had a glimpse of goal in a frenetic spell that accompanied Cretaro's arrival, although the biggest scare for Bray came when replacement right full Daire Doyle – called in just before the interval after Eoin Hyland suffered a nasty injury – got his wires crossed with Quigley, with sighs of relief from the natives as his back-header trickled inches wide of an empty net.
Doyle then made a more positive contribution by denying Greene, an action that summed up the bravery of the Seagulls. They might even have nicked one on the break at the death, but this was an encounter that deserved to finish scoreless.
Bray Wanderers – Quigley, Hyland (Doyle 45), Webster, S O'Connor, Earley; Akinade, Dempsey, Zambra, Waters; Mulroy, Byrne (Hurley 90)
Sligo Rovers – Rogers, Keane, Peers, McMillan, Davoren (Cretaro 66); Ndo; Millien (Elding 56), Cawley, Lynch, Gaynor; Greene.
Ref – D Tomney (Dublin).