Hugh Douglas 88' -
Hugh Douglas rose highest to head home a late winner for Bray Wanderers as they deservedly overcame Drogheda United at the Carlisle Grounds on Saturday evening.
Neither side had been scoring regularly of late but the opening to this match was anything but conservative with both keepers being forced into testing saves. Bray’s first opportunity came when Peter McGlynn weaved infield to create space for a low shot but it was easily dealt with by Drogs’ net minder Michael Schlingermann. Chris Lyons then had their next chance which came from equally impressive build up play, but the striker pushed his low drive wide of Schlingerman’s net.
Drogheda spurned early openings as well after Sean Brennan found himself with time and space approaching Bray’s penalty area, but he sent a poor delivery over the heads of several unmarked teammates.
Mick Cooke’s Bray proved unrecognisable to the team that languished at the bottom of the table earlier this season having lost their opening 5 matches. This Wanderers team moved the ball fluidly throughout the match and justified their recent resurgence up the table. Drogheda meanwhile preferred a more direct approach which nearly paid dividends when Lee Duffy was played through on goal by an ambitious long ball but he slid his attempted lob wide of the post
At the other end of the pitch, Chris Lyons and Graham Kelly combined intelligently before the latter unleashed a thumping drive from 25 yards that required a stern hand from Schlingermann to direct it over the crossbar.
Moments later the two combined again; Lyons went passed two hapless Drogs defenders before setting up Kelly who blasted a shot from the edge of the area at Schlingermann who tipped the strike onto the crossbar and out for a corner.
Shortly before half-time, Ryan McEvoy unleashed a stunning strike from 30 yards that had Schlingermann beaten but, fortunately for Drogheda, the woodwork came to their rescue in what was becoming a familiar theme.
Drogheda emerged as the livelier side for the second half with Lee Duffy dragging a shot past Cherrie but also past the post following some tidy play by Sean Brennan.
McEvoy again went close for Bray following a deft lay-off from Lyons to fashion space to shoot, however, he failed to find the target from close range.
The Seasiders were nearly punished for it soon after as United fired the ball around the Bray box eventually resulting in Sean Thornton kneeing a shot goal-bound from close range only for Cherrie to scramble it away to safety. The Drogheda fans were enraged by what they believed was a handball by a Bray player in the lead up to Thornton’s attempt but their protests were waved away by the man in the middle, Ben Connolly.
In the game’s dying stages Bobby O’Reilly received a booking for cynically bringing down a Bray attacker who’d broken through on goal. McEvoy sent the resulting free kick into the area for Hugh Douglas to head home and give his team a vital lead.
Despite late Drogheda pressure Bray hung on to claim an important win in the battle to avoid relegation. Overall it’s difficult to say that Bray didn’t deserve their win and if they were more clinical they could have scored more than one. Meanwhile Drogheda’s results are rapidly deteriorating as they stretch their winless run to 5 games and are dragged back towards the relegation dogfight.
Bray Wanderers: Peter Cherrie; Hugh Douglas, Alan McNally, Niall Cooney, Michael Barker; John Sulivan, David Cassidy, Ryan McEvoy, Peter McGlynn (Emeka Onwubiko 67), Graham Kelly; Chris Lyons (David Scully 78).
Subs not used: Daniel O’ Reilly, Adam Mitchell, Corey Chambers, Adam Wixted, Luke Fitzpatrick.
Bookings: Cassidy (27) O’ Reilly (87).
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingerman; Mick Daly, Lloyd Buckley, Robert O’Reily, Jason Marks; Adam Whelen (Ger Pender 59), Sean Thornton (Robert Mckenna 90+2), Stephen Maher, Sean Brennan (Robert Bayly 74); Tiernan Mulvenna, Lee Duffy.
Subs not used: Evin Farrell, Manuel Kaguoko, Mark Hughes, Fionn Reilly.
Bookings: Maher (20).
Referee: Ben Connolly.
Attendance: 600 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Chris Lyons.