Patrick O’ Connor reports from the Carlisle Grounds
Bray Wanderers were held to a scoreless draw by a much-improved Cork City side at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray on Friday night but the point gained might yet prove to be invaluable in their quest for one of the promotion play- off spots.
In a night of high drama across the First Division, Shelbourne clinched the First Division title by beating Treaty United, Galway United more or less secured a play-off spot with a win away against Cobh Ramblers and the remaining play-off spots remain held by Treaty United, UCD and Bray Wanderers.
A 93rd minute Kurtis Byrne goal for Athlone gave them a 2-1 win at home to Cabinteely which means they still have a mathematical chance of making it but with only three games left to play, the odds are against them being in the shake up at the end of October.
The game at the Carlisle Grounds was entertaining if not always of high quality and Colin Healy’s side were very much in the ascendancy in the first 45 minutes.
Cork are very pacy up front and Cian Murphy, Cian Bargary and Beineon O’ Brien–Whitmarsh caused lots of problems for the Bray defence. On numerous occasions Brain Maher in the Bray goal was called into action to deal with the threat posed by the attackers.
Bargary tested Maher as early as the first minute and Murphy also had a good chance with a header in the 12th minute but it was just too high and went over the bar.
City also forced a lot of corners throughout the opening half but a combination of some poor deliveries and a lack of height meant they were unable to capitalise on any of these opportunities.
The Leesiders best chance fell to Murphy in the 27th minute when he breached the Bray defence and although his shot was on target Maher had advanced to narrow his angle and then palmed the ball away for another corner.
In the second half the Seagulls performed better in front of their large home following and Gary Shaw caused a few problems for the visitor’s defence on occasions.
Bray substitutes Joe Doyle and Sam Verdon also provided fresh momentum for Gary Cronin’s team. Verdon had their best chance of a goal in the 86th minute when his stinging shot from outside the box looked like it was on the way to the back of the net only to swerve away and whizz past the post to the relief of David Harrington in the Cork goal.
The five minutes of additional time failed to produce a goal but both managers will feel happy with the point gained on the night.
Cork City have a really good young squad who have improved as the year progressed and they will be a much stronger proposition in the 2022 season if the squad remains intact.
Bray’s focus however is still very much on the 2021 campaign and while still in fifth position in the table, only two points separates fifth from third so they will believe they have enough momentum to make it into the top four position for the play-off games in late October.
Bray Wanderers: Brian Maher; Dylan Barnett, Mark Byrne (Conor Clifford 66), Aaron Barry, Richie O'Farrell, Andrew Quinn, Ryan Graydon, Brandon Kavanagh (Sam Verdon 83), Gary Shaw, Stephen Kinsella (Joe Doyle 66), Sean Callan.
Subs not used: Kian Clarke; Darren Craven, Luka Lovic, Darragh Lynch, Ryan Dowden, Callum Thompson.
Cork City: David Harrington; Gordon Walker, Ronan Hurley, Josh Honahan, Cian Coleman, Darragh Crowley (Dylan McGlade 83), Barry Coffey, Beineon O’ Brien-Whitmarsh (Sean Kennedy 73), Aaron Bolger, Cian Murphy, Cian Bargary.
Subs not used: Mark McNulty (gk), Paul Hunt (gk); Luke Desmond, Gearóid Morrissey, Dale Holland, Alec Byrne, Jonas Hakkinen.
Booked: Ronan Hurley (11), Barry Coffey (21), Colin Healy (21), Aaron Bolger (84)
Referee: Michael Connolly
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Brian Maher (Bray Wanderers)