From Brendan Graham at the Carlisle Grounds
Dundalk battled their way to a 2-0 win over Bray Wanderers on Friday evening at the Carlisle Grounds to remain top of the table by two points with goals from Pat Hoban and John Mountney in either half.
Bray made the brighter of starts to this game and showed plenty of confidence in the first half, not looking at all like a team with only one point from a total of 27 on offer to date.
The Seagulls really held their own in the opening half with Gabriel Sava the busier of the goalkeepers throughout.
The first real chance of the game fell to Dundalk’s Stephen Folan but he was too far out to trouble Aaron Dillon with the ball clearing the bar by a long way.
Bray then began to put serious pressure on the Lilywhites following the early Dundalk chance but were wasteful in front of goal.
Their lack of a regular goalscorer was evident once again when Paul O’Conor should have done so much better when a deep Kevin Lynch cross came to the player only for the ball to bounce by him. He was slow to react by which time the Dundalk defence were on top of him to force him wide with the shot.
Aaron Greene should have put the home side ahead shortly after with a clear cut chance to break the deadlock. A perfectly weighted through ball from Ronan Coughlan spilt the Dundalk defence in two but Greene was unable to make the most of his chance and shot tamely wide in the end.
Bray were growing in confidence and the Dundalk goalie was tested again on the 20 minute mark. This time it was Gary McCabe to ask questions of the Dundalk rear guard with a powerful free kick towards goal. Sava elected to punch the ball back out the field and put the pressure back on Dundalk but it came at him too quickly to collect cleanly.
Credit to Bray, they were playing some very nice football and growing in confidence as the first half progressed. They were getting the ball into the box early and trying their best to create chances and take what they could.
Football is a cruel game at times and despite Bray’s dominance in the opening quarter of the game, Dundalk took the lead on 26 minutes through Pat Hoban.
A Kristian Adjornan cross fell to Hoban on the edge of the box who drilled a low shot towards the back post beating Aaron Dillon in the Bray goal. It felt harsh on the home side who were now rueing their missed opportunities prior to the goal.
Dundalk improved in the second half, making much better use of their possession as they looked for that all important second goal. With the game at 1-0 and Bray having chances there was a sense that the Seagulls were going to score eventually.
It would have been no less than they would have deserved but Dundalk found a good balance as the half wore on between keeping it tight and composed at the back whilst getting forward when they could in search of that second goal.
Dane Massey and Michael Duffy had chances down the left, while Bray should have levelled the game midway through the second half with a glorious McCabe shot from the right forced Sava into an acrobatic save to maintain his clean sheet.
Minutes later Daniel McKenna’s speculative effort was tipped onto the bar and out for a corner. Long range free kicks were then exchanged at either end through McCabe and Duffy but neither could get the ball up and down quick enough and ended up clearing the bar.
Ger Pender had a penalty claim waved away by the referee in the closing ten minutes with the Sean Grant spot on to decide against it as Pender muscled off the ball and went down too easily in the box.
There was four minutes additional time at the end of the game and just about enough time for Dundalk to double their lead and secure the three points as they left the seaside.
Duffy danced inside from the left wing and drove into the box towards goal. He then showed wonderful vision and awareness to spot Dundalk stalwart John Mountney in space at the back of the box. He lifting the ball to Mountney who had enough time to control the ball and blast it by Dillon in the Bray goal.
That was the last kick of the game as Stephen Kenny’s men stretch their unbeaten run as they kept a remarkable ninth clean sheet in the opening ten games of the season. It left them top of the table on 24 points with Bray remaining bottom with just one solitary point after ten games.
Bray Wanderers: Aaron Dillon, Hugh Douglas, Conor Kenna, Dan McKenna ( Jake Kelly 82), Kevin Lynch, Rhys Gorman ( Ger Pender 65), Paul O’Connor, Gary McCabe, Aaron Greene, Corey Galvin (Sean Heaney 74), Ronan Coughlan
Subs not used: Evan Moran, Daniel Kelly, Andy McGovern
Dundalk:Gabrial Sava, Sean Gannon, Chris Shields, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey, Jamie McGrath (O’Donnell 82), Stephen Folan, Robbie Benson, Michael Duffy, Kristian Adjoran ( John Mountney 81), Patrick Hoban (Tagbajumi 74)
Subs not used: Ross Treacy, Dylan Connolly, Ronan Murray, Dean Jarvis
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Michael Duffy (Dundalk)