After a catastrophic first third of the season which saw them pick up just one victory in ten games, Bray put a fine run of form together to propel themselves up the standings and away from the foot of the table.
However, they are winless in their last four and are just five points from safety, meaning Pat Devlin’s side are looking nervously over their shoulders.
The Seagulls have had a week and a half to prepare for this crunch game and will be confident of picking up three points against a club who have been at sixes and sevens throughout the season.
Such is the competitiveness of the Premier Division that victory for the hosts on Friday would move them into mid-table mediocrity and level on points with Drogheda United while just a couple adrift of Munster duo Cork City and Limerick.
But, a sixth defeat on front of their home fans would throw the relegation battle wide open and have all at the Carlisle Grounds biting their nails as we head into the final series of fixtures.
With their early season injury woes well and truly behind them, Pat Devlin can report a clean bit of health for the visit of Bohemians. However, they’ll have to do without midfielder Kevin O’Connor after he saw red during the remarkable 4-4 draw at Thomond Park last time out.
The Wanderers boss knows his players can expect a tough game and aren’t taking anything for granted against a side who have won just three times all season.
“Games against Bohemians are always tough and this will be no different, we are looking forward to it,” Devlin said.
After eighteen months in charge at Dalymount Park, manager Aaron Callaghan and Bohemians parted ways during the week after a disastrous run of results which has seen the Gypsies plummet down the table.
Bohs lie just one point off the bottom thanks to a winless streak which stretches back to April and are in desperate need of a positive result as relegation becomes an increasingly likely outcome to a season of woes.
Long-serving defender Owen Heary will take over the reins from now until the end of the season and faces a monumental task in turning around the inexperienced sides’ fortunes.
However, they have beaten Bray twice already this season in the league and EA Sports Cup, albeit on home soil and a change in management may just be the formula to rejuvenate and breath fresh life into the squad.
“I’ve told the team it doesn’t matter how we play once we get results. We may be overplaying at times at the back and then leaving ourselves open when the ball breaks,” Heary told the club’s official website.
“We need to be tighter at the back and get higher up the park, playing in the last third more than in our own back third.” Adapting from the short-passing style of play that has been the team’s trademark should not be a problem, according to the veteran right-back.
“The lads know they have to defend with their lives. They know where we are, and they know what I’m talking about. We’ll learn a lot on Friday about whether we can make it happen.” He added.
Bohemians have scored on their last ten league visits to the Carlisle Grounds and the addition of Dinny Corcoran to the squad from UCD will add firepower to an often uninspiring attack.
The caretaker manager has a relatively full strength squad to choose from after Ciaran Nangle, Stephen Traynor and Ryan McEvoy have returned to training, having all been sidelined with ankle injuries.
Andy Mulligan has returned from the World University Games in Russia, but Heary himself will not be in the dug-out on Friday; his suspension for last week’s sending-off as a player applies to him as a manager. Under 19 coach Graham O’Hanlon will run operations alongside first-team coach Terry Butler.
“It will be a tough game but we’ll have no fear going there. We need to believe in ourselves,” said Heary. “The lads have shown in training they’re raring to go.”
Referee: Tomas Connolly.
Bohemians are the only club in the Premier Division that the Seagulls have never finished ahead of in the final league standings since they joined in 1985/86.
Bray and Bohemians have met 71 times in the Premier Division with the Seasiders winning on just ten occasions, drawing fifteen times and losing 46 games.
Bohemians have failed to score in 5 of their last 6 matches in Airtricity League.
Bray Wanderers 11/10; Draw 9/4; Bohemians 12/5.
Bray Wanderers 3-1 Bohemians.
Suspended: Kevin O’Connor
Suspended: Owen Heary.