Drogheda United condemned ten men Bray Wanderers to defeat on Friday night in a six goal feast at the Carlisle Grounds.
Dane Massey’s dismissal in the second half helped the Boynesiders to a 4-2 win with goals from Dean Marshall, Brian Gannon, Sean Brennan and Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien putting the gloss on an impressive performance.
Drogheda got off to the ideal start and took the lead with just 33 seconds on the clock. The visitors threatened down the right wing all night and it bore fruit when forward Tiernan Mulvenna took possession deep in the Bray half with time and space. His cross was met by the head of Dean Marshall who headed back across goal and out of the reach of Darren Quigley in the Bray goal.
The hosts could have collapsed but to their credit they refused to buckle and shaded large parts of the opening half. They dominated possession but, offering very little in the way of attack, were limited to hopeful efforts at goal. Further outfield possession switched between the sides frenetically with both teams struggling to get to grips with the pace of the game.
For the most part Drogheda ‘keeper Gabriel Sava remained relatively untroubled. Bray winger Kieran Marty Waters’ run and shot after 15 minutes was about the extent of the hosts’ attacking threat.
Before the break, Darren Quigley came to the rescue on a number of occasions, most remarkably after 34 minutes when Dane Massey’s poor attempt at a pass back was easily intercepted by Gavin Brennan. But the Bray keeper came charging out to clear the danger some 40 yards from goal.
A nasty gash to the head of Adam Mitchell saw the first half played out in a bit of a lull. But the unpredictable and frenetic nature of the game returned and intensified after the restart. Somewhat against the run of play, the hosts levelled when Kieran Marty Waters pirouetted his way past several would-be tacklers in the Drogheda box before drawing Sava and squaring for Jason Byrne to hammer into an empty net.
The goal lifted the home side and they could have taken the lead minutes later when a break away move spearheaded by Dean Zambra and Kieran Marty Waters brought the best out of Stephen Quigley whose slide tackle kept the hosts at bay.
Drogheda retook the lead soon after however when Brian Gannon’s attempted pass ricocheted back into his path and the midfielder expertly poked past Quigley from inside the box. The hosts were dealt another blow less than ten minutes later when a moment of madness saw Dane Massey appear to stamp on Gannon. The defender was swiftly shown red.
Both managers rang in the changes after the hour mark but the effects remained the same with Drogheda extending their advantage soon after through Sean Brennan. The Drogheda native was coolness personified as he dummied in the Bray box before stroking the ball past Quigley.
When it rains, it pours and it started to lash at the Carlisle Ground on 73 minutes as Brennan turned provider to set up substitute Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien for his first of the season and Drogheda’s fourth of the night.
The lead proved to be unassailable but Dean Zambra gave Bray some hope when his audacious 40 yard free kick from way out on the touchline sailed over everyone in the box, and into Gabriel Sava’s top corner.
It would prove too little, too late, however. The visitors should have extended their lead in the dying moments when first Gavin Brennan fired straight at Quigley from a narrow angle before Fabio O’Brien missed a sitter from eight yards. The win sees Drogheda climb to fifth while Bray go ninth.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Dane Massey, Adam Mitchell (Daire Doyle '45), Sean Houston (John Mulroy '73); Adam Hanlon, Dean Zambra, Danny O’Connor, Graham Kelly (Stephen Last '47), Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters; Jason Byrne.
Subs not used: Brian Kane, Jonathan Kelty, Kevin Knight, Colm Tresson.
Bookings: G Kelly (31), Waters (72).
Sendings Off: Massey (66).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Shane Grimes; Gavin Brennan, Brian Gannon, Ryan Brennan (Mark O’Brien, '83), Dean Marshall; Peter Hynes (Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien ‘68), Tiernan Mulvenna (Sean Brennan ‘64).
Subs not used: Shane Finnegan, Conor O’Keeffe, Philip Hand, Johnny Breen.
Referee: Padraigh Sutton (Clare).
Attendance: 600 (estimate).