It is a tale of two table toppers facing off against one another at the Carlisle Grounds in EA Sports Cup action on Monday (7.45pm kick off) as First Division leaders Bray Wanderers welcome Shamrock Rovers who are seven points clear at the top of Premier Division.
Joe Doyle’s goal mid-way through the first half against Cobh Ramblers on Friday night sent the Seagulls top of the table in the First Division. “It was good to get the goal,” said the match winner when speaking to the sseairtricityleague.ie site.
“There were a couple of games there where I hadn’t scored so it was a relief to get the one even though I probably could have had about three more! I’ll take the one and the three points because it means we’re back to winning ways.”
Having won their opening three First Division games, Bray suffered back-to-back league defeats losing at home to Athlone Town and away to Wexford – with a Leinster Senior Cup home loss to Cabinteely in between too.
The win over Cobh last Friday was welcome for their quest to return to the top flight of Irish football following last season’s relegation.
They will need to put their promotion ambitions to one side when they host this League Cup clash against a Rovers side who have had a blistering start to their league campaign.
Niall Cronin will be hoping to catch the Hoops on the hop as Stephen Bradley will look to use some of the more peripheral players from a squad that is already missing Joey O’Brien and Dan Carr due to injury.
Bray can take some inspiration from the Seagulls’ 3-2 pre-season friendly win over Rovers with Joe Doyle getting a brace in that match and also maybe from their under age teams as Bray’s under-15 and under-13 teams beat Shamrock Rovers in action over the weekend.
The Hoops had the unaccustomed position of being dumped out of the League Cup last year at their very first hurdle. Having made six successive EA Sports Cup semi-finals in the run up to last year’s competition, Longford Town won 1-0 in Tallaght last April.
Stephen Bradley won’t want to see his team suffer back-to-back League Cup defeats to First Division opposition but with the Hoops flying high at the top of the Premier Division table he is likely to use his squad to its fullest in Bray.
“We were disappointed to go out of the competition last year [to Longford],” said Bradley speaking to his club’s website. “We didn’t play well that day, I think we made 11 changes and it showed in our performance. It was disjointed.
“I’m not sure what to expect from Bray, I haven’t seen much of them. There was obviously our pre-season game but a lot of games have passed since then and their selection has probably changed, so we can’t read too much into that.
“They’re doing well in the First Division so it’ll still be a tough game. They’re up near the top, they’re at home and I’m sure they’ll want to win the game.”
Goalkeeper Leon Pohls could well come into the team for his debut while Dean Dillon could make his first start of the season for the Hoops up front. Rovers left it late last Friday to secure a 3-1 home win against UCD, in a match they thoroughly deserved to take all three points from.
“Overall I thought we were really good, we controlled the majority of the game. I felt the game should have been over in the first half. We missed one or two chances and when you do that there’s a chance they’ll get back into it. The longer UCD stay in the game the more dangerous they become and they took their chance.
“We were disappointed to concede because we were in control of the ball before the goal and there were one or two ricochets in the build-up and they end up scoring from it. Sometimes that happens but we’ve only conceded three goals this season, one from open play and had around eight shots on target against us in nine games. So we’ve been good defensively."
Rovers have only lifted the League Cup on two occasions (1976/77 and 2013) while Bray have yet to win this competition. The pair last met each other in the League Cup in 2008 with Bray winning 1-0 in the Carlisle Grounds.
Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff are top scorers so far for Rovers this season with three goals each.
In the league last season, Rovers beat Bray three times (6-0 and 5-0 in Tallaght with a 3-0 away win). In April, Bray beat Rovers 1-0 in the Carlisle Grounds.
Bray Wanderers 5/1; Draw 14/5; Shamrock Rovers 1/2.
1-0 away win
Injured: Joey O’Brien, Dan Carr
It's match night again tomorrow night as we take on Premier Division leaders @ShamrockRovers in the EA Sports Cup Second Round! Make sure you're there to cheer on the side! Buy your tickets now and beat the queues https://t.co/F9ELeA5mgN #BWFC pic.twitter.com/29tNOsj6tu— Bray Wanderers FC (@BrayWanderers) March 31, 2019