Drogheda United secured their first competitive win of the season as they dumped Bray Wanderers out of the EA Sports Cup at the Carlisle Grounds on Monday night. Shaun Skelly was the man who got the crucial goal, a rare moment of opportunism in a game that provided few thrills.
A quick look at the league table might have prepared you well for this meeting of a confident and capable Bray side and a Drogheda United team that are battling gamely against the odds without gaining too much in the way of reward. Bray played with the higher tempo from the first whistle and created the bulk of what chances there were in an underwhelming first half.
Drogheda, on the other hand, struggled to get into the game. Playing with a five man midfield that was anchored by Stephen Quigley, they passed the ball about reasonably well but seldom looked dangerous moving forward, relying as they were, on the ability of Darragh Hanaphy, a winger of immense promise, to lead the line on his own.
The first chance that came Bray’s way stemmed from a Jake Kelly cross that Shane O’Neill was marginally too far behind and the second came from a Gary Dempsey free kick that Dane Massey stooped to head straight at Stephen Trimble.
With quarter of an hour gone Joe Kendrick delivered another cross from the left that Victor Ekanem did well to defend, staying with a charging Shane O’Neill and doing enough to see his attempted shot safely out of play.
Not until the 21st minute did Drogheda come close to threatening the Bray goal when Jack Flynn's dipping shot from twenty yards was just too high and marginally wide. Three minutes later Drogheda created the best move of the game when Stephen Quigley played a superb one-two from deep midfield with Stephen McCrossan. As he surged forward he delivered a crisp pass into Philip McDonagh’s feet but the wide man’s shot spun off Dane Massey’s head for a corner.
That was about it in terms of chances though Drogheda would have been pleased just to call a halt to Bray’s earlier dominance. However the second half began in the same inconclusive atmosphere that had seen out the end of the first. Bray offered an early run for Shane O’Neill that Kovascevics defended well while Philip McDonagh controlled a Shaun Skelly pass but fired his shot against Bray defender Dave Webster.
Finally, with just over an hour played, the deadlock was broken. Philip McDonagh delivered a cross from the left that Sean Houston, a half time substitute for the ‘Seagulls’ made a hash of clearing. As the ball spun towards the net Shaun Skelly stepped in and nudged home his first goal for the County Louth club.
Two minutes later Gary Shaw headed a Gary Dempsey corner well over the Drogheda bar and five minutes after that Danny McGuinness lobbed a gentle shot narrowly wide of Stephen Trimble’s right hand post. Then, with 73 minutes played it was Dane Massey’s turn to clear the Drogheda bar with a free header, again from a Dempsey delivery.
For the remainder of the game it was the home side who continued to manufacture chances but they were measured in fractions rather than being anything wholesome. Drogheda did occasionally find themselves in possession at the other end, such as when Dave Webster send Stephen McCrossan tumbling on the left hand edge of the box. But this opportunity was wasted, the sense being that the visitors were quite happy with their narrow lead and saw little profit in stretching themselves to atempt a second.
And so it ended, Drogheda achieved their first win of the season and Bray exited their second Cup competition of the year at the first hurdle. It wasn’t vintage stuff but neither manager will care. Bray are out and Drogheda march on, such is the black and white nature of Cup football.
Bray Wanderers: Brian Kane; Daire Doyle (Gary Shaw, 46 (Nicky Byrne, 79)), Dave Webster, Dane Massey, Joe Kendrick (Sean Houston, 56); Dean Zambra, Gary Dempsey, Graham Kelly, Jake Kelly; Shane O’Neill, Danny McGuinness.
Subs not used: Darren Quigley, Sean Plunkett, Stephen Last, Adam Mitchell.
Bookings: Kendrick (14), O’Neill (71), G Kelly (79), Webster (84).
Drogheda United: Stephen Trimble; Stephen Quigley, Anthony Costigan, Robert Kovacsevics, Victor Ekanem; Mark Nolan, Stephen McCrossan, Jack Flynn, Philip McDonagh; Darragh Hanaphy (Dinny Corcoran, 85), Sean Skelly (David Freeman, 73).
Subs not used: David Quirke, Brian Gannon, Mark O’Brien, Mark Griffin, Ger Sweetman.
Bookings: Flynn (19), Nolan (84).
Referee: Damien Hancock.
Attendance: 150 (estimate).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Robert Kovascevics.
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org