Dundalk scrape past an improved Bray
Bray Wds 0 Dundalk 2
For caretaker Bray Wanderers boss Graham Kelly there was no dream start to a tenure that is likely to be short lived.
Manager-in-waiting Martin Russell was actually sitting on the bench behind him for this game and was offering instructions as he prepares to assume control on a full-time basis. A slightly strange scenario, perhaps, but then Bray have redrawn the boundaries for normal in recent times.
This was their ninth consecutive defeat following their opening night draw in Oriel Park against Stephen Kenny's table toppers, a result that the visitors were keen to erase from the memory.
They still struggled for long periods in this win, with Bray lifting the levels from the abject defeat to St Pat's last Friday which spelled the end for Dave Mackey.
Senior Bray performers had received sharp criticism during the week, with the accusation being that they had downed tools before the Inchicore reverse led to Mackey announcing his resignation.
They were veering into 'damned if they do and damned if they don't' territory for this encounter. The fact that they really posed a quality opponent some problems does raise questions about why they were suffering heavy thrashings to sides with less in the locker than the Lilywhites.
Still, their performance here will have given Russell some encouragement, even though they ultimately wound up with no points to show for their efforts. Shamrock Rovers are next up in Wicklow on Monday.
With Russell offering advice to Kelly, Bray were competitive here and two of their leading lights from last term, Gary McCabe and Aaron Greene, were prominent.
Greene actually squandered a glorious opportunity to put the Seagulls ahead from an early break that exposed the Dundalk rearguard, but he slotted wide of the post with Gabriel Sava beaten.
With the away side slow to find their stride, the Seagulls sniffed an opportunity and they were disappointed to fall behind to a soft goal. Green shirts failed to defend a corner properly and the ball dropped for Patrick Hoban, who dispatched his sixth of the season with a right footer.
That was enough for an interval lead, with Dundalk's best passages coming in a spell where Jamie McGrath drifted into the No 10 role. Starting option Krisztian Adorjan was perhaps out of sorts because of an early collision with Bray's Kevin Lynch and was withdrawn at the halfway point.
Dundalk were below par generally and remained lethargic from the restart. Keeper Sava was at least alert when McCabe launched an audacious 45 yarder that the backtracking keeper brilliantly pushed on to the bar.
Kenny's charges were sharper in possession for a spell afterwards and sought to bring the game into Bray territory. The Seagulls defended well, with experienced duo Conor Kenna and Hugh Douglas sturdy at centre-half.
On this evidence, they will not be conceding 28 goals in their next 10 matches. Dundalk's rise to the top of the table has been built on solid defending, and they did succeed in withstanding late Bray pressure. Indeed, they spent the final minutes camped in Bray's half and put a more comfortable look on the scoreline at the death with sub John Mountney converting after fine work from Michael Duffy.
They will need to do much better if they are to stay on top of the table. For Bray, the only way is up and this was a step in the right direction.
Bray Wanderers - Dillon, McKenna (Kelly 82), Douglas, Kenna, Lynch; Gorman (Pender 65), O'Conor; Coughlan, McCabe, Galvin (Heaney 76); Greene
Dundalk - Sava, Gannon, Cleary, Folan, Massey; Shields, Benson; McGrath (O'Donnell 84), Adorjan (Mountney 45), Duffy; Hoban (Tagbajumi 74)
Ref - S Grant (Wexford)