Bray Wanderers managed to frustrate Sligo Rovers on Friday night, holding them to a scoreless draw in the Carlisle Grounds. Whilst the Seagulls relied on their defensive ability, the Bit O’ Red were unable to find the final touch to break down the home defence. Both sides will believe they had the chances to win the tie, however, it was the away side who can rue many missed chances, and two dropped points.
Within the first five minutes, John Russell let his intentions be known, when he unleashed a cracking strike from outside the Bray box. The shot dipped, although not quite enough, as the attempt rattled the cross bar. This was a firm wake up call for the home side, who at this point were struggling to gain possession.
Wanderers did firm up over the next ten minutes, with John Mulroy looking sprightly up front. The speedy striker was looking threatening, although it was rare when he had the ball at his feet. It was an even battle at this point, as both sides were warming to the task at hand.
Dean Zambra fed Eoin Doyle with a perfectly weighted through ball, and the striker managed to secure an effort on goal, although Bray keeper Matt Gregg was more than a match to it and pushed it aside for a corner. Half way through the first half and Pat Devlin would have been encouraged by his sides’ composed opening.
Wanderers’ best chance of the opening half hour came when Jake Kelly volleyed a speculative effort from out wide, following Gary Dempsey’s pass, which nestled on the top of Brendan Clarke’s net. The Bit O’ Red replied almost instantly, when Russell pounced on some poor Seagulls defending. With Gregg rushing out to meet him, the midfielder misjudged his lobbed attempt, and sent it sailing over the bar.
The Bray defensive line was regularly open to attack, as Paul Cook’s side were quite competent at finding the gap. With half time approaching, Sligo were knocking on the door and in truth deserved a goal for their domination throughout the park. The home side were struggling for options up front, with Mulroy standing a lonely figure in the Rovers half. But where their attacking threat was found wanting, the same cannot be said for Adam Mitchell and Derek Prendergast who had, until half time at least, kept the tie scoreless.
Mulroy could have sent his side ahead within the opening minutes of the second half. Controlling a high ball with an exquisite touch, the striker made room for himself before deftly curling a shot towards goal, but the post harshly intercepted the effort. It would have been an early nomination for goal of the season, but a bright start for Bray none the less.
Rovers re-awoke, and should have gone in front themselves after 55 minutes. When Gavin Peers latched on to header from a Richie Ryan’s corner, he sent the ball towards the goal. Doyle somehow managed to get himself in the way of the effort, giving Gregg the chance to smother the effort. At this point the temperature was dropping, although the game was heating up nicely with the three points up for grabs for both sides.
Chances were proving hard to come by, with a lot of the play pin-balling around the midfield area. It was an entertaining affair however, with both managers’ tactical prowess receiving a good test. Bray’s Danny O’Connor was fulfilling his role at keeping Ryan very quiet in the centre of midfield quite pertinently indeed.
Substitute Raffaele Cretaro then had a guilt edged change of his own, when Mitchell’s attempted header back to his goalkeeper failed miserably after 71 minutes. With acres of space, the ex-Bohemians striker attempted a lob, which beat Gregg but dropped right and wide of the goal. At this point, Cook must have began to wonder what it would take so score. As the home side continued to hand on, Devlin appeared reluctant to use his bench for fresh legs.
As the game rapidly entered its final ten minutes, Sligo desperately tried everything in their power to score, frustrating the travelling away fans at the same point. There was a clear sense of dogged determination about Devlin’s side, demonstrating concentration skills that should see them in good standing for the season ahead.
Cretaro had a penalty claim waved off from referee Neil Doyle when his challenge from Mitchell ended with the energetic front man on the deck. The light at the end of the tunnel was flickering out for Rovers at this stage, with less than five minutes remaining. Mulroy worked tirelessly up front, on his own until being joined by last week’s super sub Conor Murphy after 88 minutes.
Bray Wanderers managed to hold out for a valuable point, and more importantly continue the positive start to this year’s campaign. For Sligo Rovers, it is another frustrating night, as Cook would have been expecting his side to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Shamrock Rovers with a victory. The post intervened twice to ensure the night ended with the sides sharing the spoils, with the home side surely the happier of the two.
Bray Wanderers: Matt Gregg; Dave Webster, Adam Mitchell, Derek Prendergast, Joe Kendrick; Dean Zambra (Conor Murphy, 88), Gary Dempsey, Danny O’Connor (Shane O’Neill, 88), Jake Kelly (Dane Massey,90+4); Chris Shields, John Mulroy.
Subs not used: Daire Doyle, Graham Kelly, Dan McGuinness, Brian Kane.
Bookings: Dempsey (38), Mitchell (56), Mulroy (77), Webster (88).
Sligo Rovers : Brendan Clarke; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Iarfhlaith Davoren; John Dillon (Raffaele Cretaro, 55), Danny Ventre (Alan Kirby, 76), Richie Ryan, John Russell; Matthew Blinkhorn, Eoin Doyle (Aaron Green, 55).
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly, Mark McGoldrick, Derek Foran, Daryl Horgan.
Bookings: Ryan (25), Keane (90).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 500 (Estimate).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Bray’s John Mulroy for a tireless work ethic up front.