Patrick O’Connor reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne extended their outright lead at the top of the First Division to eight points after a hard earned 1-1 draw with an in-form Bray Wanderers at Tolka Park on Friday night.
Shels were smarting from their first league defeat of the season the previous weekend, a 3-1 loss at Galway United, and with four changes to the starting line up they were in no mood to suffer another setback against the Seagulls.
Bray themselves are in excellent form of late and they would still have designs on the top spot even though they started the game ten points behind Shelbourne.
Shelbourne began the game in a very positive fashion and created the first real chance after only two minutes when Michael O’Connor headed wide from a Ryan Brennan cross.
The home side dominated the opening 15 minutes but Bray gradually came into the game and were dangerous on the counter attack, their midfielders supporting the lighting quick Joe Doyle at every opportunity.
The home side forced numerous corners in the opening half but were unable to trouble keeper Brian Maher from any of them.
Bray themselves created a few half chances in the first half, the best of which was a shot by Brandon Kavanagh after he had weaved his way through the Shels defence only to lift the final effort high and over the bar.
The breakthrough for the opening goal came in the 44th minute, Dayle Rooney whipping in a low cross from the left wing which Ryan Brennan smashed to the net from inside the box.
Ian Morris’s side just about deserved their half time lead although Bray had done enough to suggest they had the capability to make life difficult for the home side in the second period.
The second half followed the same general pattern as the first half with Shelbourne having more of the possession but with the visitors growing in confidence and pressing hard for an equaliser.
That equaliser came in the 68th minute and by that stage it was no more than Gary Cronin’s side deserved.
Richie O’ Farrell and the livewire Kavanagh played a one two inside the box and the ed- UCD player fired the ball into the net giving Brendan Clarke no chance in the Shels goal.
Bray took great confidence from that goal and the introduction of Ryan Graydon as a substitute on the right wing gave them another strong attacking option.
This substitution forced Morris to bring on the experienced Kevin O’Connor at left back on 75 minutes to counter the impetus that Graydon had brought to the Bray side.
Both sides tried to fashion a winning goal in the closing stages of the match, mostly from set pieces, but both defences stood firm and even the addition of four minutes added time was not enough to allow either side claim all three points.
Shelbourne might have expected to get all three points at home but given Galway’s surprise defeat to Athlone Town they will be well satisfied with the point which leaves them eight points clear at the top of the table.
With only seven games remaining in the league, four of which are at home, it looks very much like the league title is theirs to lose at this stage.
Shelbourne: Brendan Clarke; Kameron Ledwidge (Kevin O’Connor, 75), Ally Gilchrist, Luke Byrne (c), John Ross Wilson; Brian McManus, George Poynton, Dayle Rooney, Shane Farrell. Michael O'Connor, Ryan Brennan (Yassine En-Neyah, 75).
Subs not used: Jack Brady, Maxim Kouogun, Michael Barker. Yoyo Mahdy, Eric Molloy, Gavin Molloy, Alex Nolan
Bray Wanderers: Brian Maher; Aaron Barry ©, Dylan Barnett, Dan Jones, Richie O'Farrell, Andrew Quinn, Brandon Kavanagh (Steven Kinsella,87), Callum Thompson (Ryan Graydon,69), Conor Clifford, Darren Craven, Joe Doyle (Gary Shaw ,82).
Subs not used: Kian Clarke, Luka Lovic, Mark Byrne, Sam Verdon.
Booked: Richie O’ Farrell (20, Conor Clifford (56), Dylan Barnett (78).
Referee: Mark Moynihan
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Conor Clifford (Bray Wanderers).