Friday 15 December 2017

O'Connor the hero as Bray preserve spot in top flight

Garry Doyle Promotion/relegation play-off

Longford Town 2 Bray Wds 3 (Bray win 5-4 on aggregate)

KEVIN O'CONNOR was the match-winner as Bray Wanderers preserved their Premier Division status for a 10th successive season.

On the evidence of the two legs, Bray deserved to survive – even if there was a touch of controversy about the winner.

There was no doubt about the quality, though. O'Connor fired an unstoppable 30-yard shot into the top corner of Chris Bennion's net with just four minutes left on the clock.

While Longford complained about the fact referee Derek Tomney had not blown for a foul on Keith Quinn just seconds earlier, no one could dispute the fact that on the night, it was the Bray players who delivered the big performances, none more so than the superb Gary Dempsey.

Opening the scoring in the third minute with a dipping, thunderous 25-yard volley that left Town 'keeper Bennion a frustrated onlooker, Dempsey went on to dictate events from the middle of the park.

That Longford's best player was their goalkeeper tells its own story.

BURIED

Only for Bennion, the midlanders would have been dead and buried by half-time, but two saves from Dave Webster and further ones from O'Connor and Kieran Marty Waters kept them within reach.

At the other end, a couple of openings came Longford's way – but David O'Sullivan and Gary Shaw failed to convert them.

Aware his team were in the middle of a mini-crisis, Longford boss Tony Cousins reorganised his men at half-time.

What followed was remarkable, a complete turnaround in attitude and performance by the hosts who came close to an equaliser in the 52nd minute – Haverty missing that opportunity – before they did get back on level terms five minutes later, Daniel Purdy scoring.

It was a goal Bray should have prevented, especially as Purdy's initial cross from the right was troubling no one until Daire Doyle headed the ball straight to Derek O'Brien, whose cross was met by Purdy's low, accurate shot.

Once again, the pendulum had switched and within 10 minutes it shifted again, Waters firing in a superb low strike on 73 minutes to seemingly settle the argument.

Five minutes later, though, Longford were level again, Purdy flashing in a brilliant half-volley.

While that goal impressed, O'Connor's trumped it, before a player from each side, Haverty and Shane O'Connor, saw red in injury-time.

Longford Town – Bennion; Haverty, Deans, Gorman, Quinn; O'Brien (O'Hanlon 62), Connolly, Doyle (Tyrell 64 ), Purdy; O'Sullivan, Shaw (O'Neill 84)

Bray Wanderers – Quigley; Doyle, Webster, S O'Connor, Earley; Dempsey, K O'Connor, Maher (Mulroy 72), Waters; Akinade; Byrne (Mitchell 90)

Ref – D Tomney (Dublin)

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