Cork City finally secured their first league victory of the season against Bray Wanderers in bitter conditions on Friday night. New signing Guntars Silagailis netted a goal in each half before Dave Mulcahy pulled one back for the visitors. The outcome was never in doubt following Daryl Robson’s first half sending off for two bookable offences, and Eddie Gormley’s side finished the game with nine men due to a late injury to full-back Derek Pender.
Neither side had managed to impose themselves on the game in the opening twenty minutes, and the best of the early chance fell Bray’s way. David Massey whipped a ball in from the left, and McCabe connected but saw his effort bobble onto the post before dropping wide.
Massey had troubled Dan Connor earlier with an in-swinging corner kick with the former Drogheda keeper needing to be alert to palm the ball over the bar. Colin Healy came closest for the hosts with a 30 yard pile-driver that cleared Chris O’Connor’s crossbar.
Robson picked up his first yellow on nine minutes, after foolishly kicking the ball away to delay a free-kick. Mark Gough then had little option but to send him off after a crunching tackle on Neal Horgan.
The opener came just seven minutes later. Joe Gamble crossed from the right Denis Behan rose highest at the far post to knock the ball back into the centre for Silagailis, who duly nodded home. Paul Byrne made way for Chris Shields as the Seagulls sought to stifle their hosts. The move proved to be successful, with the hosts failing to create any clear-cut chances despite their territorial dominance during the remainder of the half. The closest City came to extending their lead was Behan’s run onto a Gamble through ball shortly before the interval, but O’Connor was out smartly to quell the danger.
Cork upped the ante in the second half, and ought to have taken the lead on on 58 minutes when Behan raced onto a speculative ball from Gamble. The big striker looked to have been hauled back by Webster as he clipped the ball past both keeper and post.
The respite was short lived however, as just seconds later the Rebels killed the game. Gamble again was at hand to provide the killer pass with Silagailis applying the finishing touch. The Latvian striker lifted the ball over O’Connor and a desperate lunge from Mulcahy failed to stop it from hitting the target.
Cork were well on top by now, with the fluency of Gamble and Colin Healy and the direct running of Billy Dennehy and Davin O’Neill on the wings causing their opponents all sorts of problems. Thus, it came as something of a surprise to see Bray give themselves a glimmer of hope in the 63rd minute. Dave Massey hit a free-kick in from the left, and some woefully inept defending allowed Shields to cut the ball back for former Rebel Dave Mulcahy to nod home.
Pender was forced to depart on 72 minutes, and eight minutes from time Behan came agonisingly close to restoring his side’s two goal advantage. Dennehy made a good run down the left, cutting the ball back for Behan outside the area, but his powerful first-time shot flew narrowly wide of the upright. With nine men, Bray mounted an admirable late onslaught on the City goal, pegging the hosts back during the dying moments. Their endeavour foundered upon a lack of precision though as Cork held-on to clinch their first three points of the season.
Cork City: Dan Connor; Neal Horgan, Dan Murray, Greg O’Halloran, Danny Murphy; Billy Dennehy, Joe Gamble, Colin Healy, Davin O’Neill (Cillian Lordan 77); Denis Behan, Guntars Silagailis.
Subs not used: Mark McNulty (gk), Timmy Kiely, Alan O’Connor, Fahrudin Kuduzovic.
Booked: Lordan (84)
Bray Wanderers:Chris O’Connor, Derek Pender, Dave Massey, Dave Webster, Dave Mulcahy; Jake Kelly (Gareth Coughlan 65), Daryl Robson, Stephen Brennan, Gary McCabe; Paul Byrne (Chris Shields 30), John Flood (John Mulroy 65).
Subs not used: Brian Kane (gk), Daire Doyle.
Booked: Robson (9, 20), McCabe (90+1).
Sent off: Robson (20)
Referee: Mark Gough.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Joe Gamble (Cork City).
Gamble put in a peerless showing of craft married to industry in the middle of the park for Cork. With Colin Healy sitting deep and dictating the tempo, Gamble was given license to push further up the park and ripped Bray’s defence to shreds with several outstandingly-timed passes. Two such balls culminated in goals for the hosts, and while Silagailis might have been the man with two goals to his name, there was little doubt that the little midfielder ran the show for Cork.