Andrew Dempsey reports from the Carlisle Grounds
Galway United were held to a frustrating scoreless draw at the Carlisle Grounds by Bray Wanderers, with their title hopes left in tatters.
The Tribesmen enjoyed much of the play at the Co. Wicklow venue, but they were thwarted by a combination of good Bray defending and some poor finishing from their chances.
Bray on the other hand had opportunities themselves, but they could not make them pay.
Like the end of their 2020 campaign, the 2021 season has been one of frustration for the Seagulls thus far.
So much so that Gary Cronin’s side’s title ambitions were dashed as early as May, but they have had a mini-revival of sorts since then.
While their last outing against Cork City failed to yield three points, it epitomised the steel in their squad after a disappointing start to the season.
And Galway’s campaign has almost mirrored that of Bray, but they, unlike their First Division promotion rivals, had an outside chance in the title race prior to kick-off.
Following their comfortable 2-0 win over Cobh Ramblers last time out, their manager John Caulfield made changes, with new recruit Joe Gorman making his first start for the club.
It was his side who started the game the better of the two, and they should have taken an early lead inside 90 seconds through Wilson Waweru.
The powerful forward was found after a great through ball from Mikey Place, but he was denied by the feet of Bray keeper Brian Maher.
Ruairi Keating then went close for the Tribesmen minutes later, but he saw his effort blocked down by a Wanderers defender.
Despite a slow start, Bray had the best chance of an enjoyable start to the game through Dylan Barnett.
He pounced on a misplaced pass-back from Chris Horgan, but he was unable to beat Conor Kearns at his near-post and give the hosts a potentially undeserved lead.
Bray used that chance as a means of getting back into the game, with Darren Craven then shooting from long range, but he sent his effort wide.
The Tribesmen would, however, re-establish their dominance, and went even closer minutes later, but Keating saw his shot crash off the butt of the post.
The forward was found by David Hurley’s square ball, but to the hosts relief, Keating could not fire home.
As the half came to a close, the Tribesmen continued their barrage of the Bray goal, with Keating and Place going close, although, they couldn’t take a lead into the break.
The half-time pause did little to stem the flow of Galway attacks, although, many of their attacks were stifled by their inability to break down the hosts.
David Hurley, who impressed throughout, went close with a free-kick, but it curled wide of goal.
That was after Aaron Barry was perhaps fortunate to be left on the pitch, but referee Oliver Moran opted to give him only a booking for a dangerous lunge.
While Moran may have got that wrong, he correctly booked Galway sub Padraig Cunningham for an obvious act of simulation with just over 15 minutes to play, rightly denying Bray a spot-kick.
Galway continued to enjoy much of the play as the game came to its close, but they could not clinch a late winner.
The closest they came to one was through Keating, but his deflected effort was batted away by Ireland under-21 keeper Maher as Bray notched up another point in their playoff push.
Meanwhile, Galway have it all to do if they are to somehow claw back league leaders Shelbourne.
Bray Wanderers: Brian Maher; Aaron Barry (c), Mark Byrne (Sam Verdon 46), Daniel Jones, Andrew Quinn; Dylan Barnett, Conor Clifford, Darren Craven, Brandon Kavanagh (Gary Shaw 89), Luka Lovic (Richie O'Farrell 52); Joe Doyle.
Subs not used: Sean Callan, Kian Clarke, Glen Hollywood, Steven Kinsella, Cian Maher, Dean O'Shea.
Booked: Aaron Barry (47), Conor Clifford (79).
Galway United: Conor Kearns; Joe Gorman, Gary Boylan, Conor McCormack, Stephen Walsh; David Hurley (Mikie Rowe 89), Christopher Horgan, Maurice Nugent, Mikey Place, Wilson Waweru (Padraic Cunningham 63); Ruairi Keating.
Subs not used: Shane Duggan, Shane Doherty, Luke Denison, Colin Kelly, Alex Murphy, Thomas Oluwa, Caoilfhionn O’Dea.
Booked: Padraic Cunningham (74) .
Referee: Oliver Moran
Attendance: 150 (Estimate).
extratime.com Player of the Match: Brian Maher (Bray Wanderers).