Rovers held to 0-0 draw in Bray

By Daire Walsh (extratime.ie)

The final scoreline might not suggest it, but Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers served up an entertaining and engrossing match at the Carlisle Grounds on Friday evening. This was only Bray’s fifth point of the season, whereas this was the fourth draw in-a-row in what has been a stop-start season for The Hoops.

With three valuable points up for grabs in their bid for the title, it was no surprise that Rovers made such a strong start to the match, as they looked to attack their opponents from the word go. Indeed, it looked like they were going to take the lead with just four minutes gone when Scottish striker Gary Twigg chipped the advancing Brian Kane from 25 yards, but his effort went just wide to the left of the post.

Bray were certainly let off the hook on this occasion, and Rovers continued their good start with Paddy Kavanagh and Robert Bayly pulling the strings around the middle of the pitch, with Twigg and strike partner Dessie Baker showing well in attack.

However, Bray were defending extremely well, with Dave Webster in particular proving to be a thorn in Rovers’ side. He was on hand to block a Twigg on goal after eight minutes and was, in general, a rock at the heart of The Seagulls’ defence.

Rovers would continue this dominance, until Bray finally settled down with a decent effort on goal from winger Jake Kelly sailing just over the bar. Though Kelly’s shot never looked likely to trouble the Rovers goal, it was nonetheless an indication that Eddie Gormley’s side were capable of causing Michael O’Neill’s men problems in the final-third.

On the right side, John Mulroy was quite prominent for Bray, and he went extremely close to finding the net on 29 minutes when his left-footed drive from just inside the area went just over Mannus’ crossbar.

By this stage, Rovers were finding it difficult to create too many clear-cut goal chances, even though they continued to enjoy the majority of possession in the vital midfield sector. Then, with just nine first-half minutes remaining, Shane O’Neill was put through on the right by Mulroy, but his right-footed shot went just wide of the target.

Bray continued to grow in confidence as the half drew to a close, and Mannus needed to produce a fine finger-tip save to stop Mulroy from scoring in injury time. This proved to be the last action of the opening half, and Rovers would have been happy to go in level at the break folowing this good spell of play by Bray, even though the Tallaght men had enough of the ball early on to have breached the Bray back line themselves.

If they were intent on keeping up a strong challenge for league honours this season, then Rovers really needed to get back into the game during the second period. To be fair to Rovers though, they certainly increased the intensity after the break, and went ever so close to that elusive opening goal with two Robert Bayly attempts on the 49th and 53rd minutes respectively.

His first strike was shot over from a couple of yards out as the ball broke to him, while his second effort was a superb stretched save by Kane, when it looked like it was about to go low into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

As a result of Rovers upping the tempo of the play, the likes of O’Neill and Kelly were forced to live on scraps in attack with possession around the middle-third started to dry up ever so slightly.

As the game entered into its final quarter, The Hoops introduced Billy Dennehy for Sean O’Connor, and he very nearly got in on the left with 20 minutes to go, but Shane O’Connor got in a block at the vital moment to block the goalbound shot.

As the game neared its conclusion, The Hoops continued to crank up the pressure, and Bray would suffer a set-back on 81 minutes when Shane O’Connor was harshly sent-off on a second-yellow for checking the run of the lively Dennehy.

To be fair to Bray, they never panicked and they nearly got a penalty when Danny Murphy dived in to tackle Shane O’Neill as he bore down on goal, but match referee Tom Connolly deemed it to be a perfectly legitimate tackle.

The drama would continue after this though, as Kane saved with his feet on the stroke of 90 minutes from a Dan Murray header to ensure that Bray came away this game with a badly needed but well-deserved share of the spoils.

Bray Wanderers: Kane; S O’Connor, Prendergast, Webster, Doyle (A O’Connor); Mulroy, Shields, Brennan, Kavanagh (Zambra ’88), Kelly; O’Neill.

Subs not used: Tresson, Vickers, Byrne.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Chambers, Murray, Murphy, Sives; Kavanagh (Stewart ’79), Bayly (Rice ’88), Turner, O’Connor (Dennehy ’66); Twigg, Baker.

Subs not used: Duggan, Price.

Referee: T Connolly (Dublin).

Attendance: 1,500

Extratime Man Of The Match: Dave Webster (Bray Wanderers).

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