Kelly hero as Seagulls strike again
Bray Wanderers 1
Shamrock Rovers 0
If Pat Devlin could bottle the formula he has developed for beating Shamrock Rovers, the eight other Airtricity League Premier Division managers would be hopping on the DART this morning and heading to Bray for a chat.
Before last night, the Seagulls were the only team to beat the champions in 90 minutes this season and now they've done it twice. What's more, they thoroughly deserved this win against a Hoops side who will need massive improvement on Monday against Bohemians at Tallaght. Certainly, Pat Fenlon will be watching a video of how the hosts controlled the game here.
Jake Kelly's second-half strike separated the sides on the scoresheet, but it was Bray's hunger, slicker passing in midfield and resolute defending that won them the game.
Their three-man midfield of Gary Dempsey, Danny O'Connor and Chris Shields were utterly dominant throughout and with the strong wind at their backs, the Seagulls should have gone in at half-time in front.
O'Connor flashed a shot wide from the edge of the box, before Kelly skipped down the wing and crossed low for John Mulroy who just couldn't get a touch. The Hoops were restricted to long-range efforts from Pat Sullivan and Gary O'Neill, but it was at the other end where Bray looked more dangerous.
Joe Kendrick's free-kick looked to have gifted Mulroy the opener, but the lone striker's touch took the ball just wide.
An intricate move between Shields and O'Connor set Daire Doyle up for a shot into the side-netting from close range, before Doyle picked out Kelly, who had two bites at the cherry -- the second one flying over.
Dempsey proved his worth by covering back to cut out a rare opportunity for the anonymous Gary Twigg, underlining his side's dominance as the teams went in scoreless at the interval.
Shields went agonisingly close within two minutes of the restart after a Stephen Rice error gifted him the ball, but that seemed to wake the Hoops up.
The visitors pressed, O'Neill firing wide and Billy Dennehy wasting a great chance after Derek Prendergast had beaten Twigg to an O'Neill cross.
But the hosts got the lead their play deserved after the hour mark. Doyle fed Dempsey; he threaded the ball through to Kelly, who hit a first time, left-footed effort into the bottom corner.
After seeing his side concede their first goal from open play in eight games, Michael O'Neill summoned the reinforcements, replacing three of his starters with Stephen O'Donnell, Chris Turner and Gary McCabe.
Dennehy thought he had scored from O'Neill's cross, but Prendergast got a vital touch to send it over and although they pushed, the Tallaght side couldn't break down the Seagulls' back four, for whom Joe Kendrick and Adam Mitchell were strong.
Twigg's glanced header from Conor McCormack's cross didn't trouble Matt Gregg as the expected push didn't come and Bray saw the win out relatively comfortably, despite six and a half minutes of added time.
BRAY WANDERERS -- Gregg; S O'Connor, Mitchell, Prendergast, Kendrick; Dempsey (G Kelly 94); Doyle, Shields (Houston 87), D O'Connor, J Kelly (Massey 94); Mulroy.
SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus; Sullivan (O'Donnell 66), Murray, Oman, Stevens; Sheppard (McCabe 72), McCormack, Rice (Turner 66), Dennehy; O'Neill, Twigg.
REF -- A Buttimer (Cork)