Goals from veterans Jason Byrne and Danny O’Connor gave Bray Wanderers all three points at the Carlisle Grounds on Friday night. The win sees them leapfrog defeated opponents Bohemians as well as Dundalk and UCD to go eighth in the Airtricity Premier Division.
Bray began with an unchanged side from the one that saw them beat Monaghan United 1-0 last time out, and started as they left off in that game. Less than a quarter of an hour into the game had passed when they hit the front.
And it was last week’s scorer Jason Byrne who made the breakthrough – his sixth goal of the season so far. A long clearance to the space between the 34-year-old striker and the goal may have seemed safe for Bohemians defender Evan McMillan, but he did not count on Byrne’s time machine.
The striker powered past Bohs’ last man with the legs he used to show regularly at the Carlisle Grounds a decade ago and while playing for Shelbourne after that. Leaving McMillan in his tracks, Byrne hit a precise effort across goalkeeper Craig Sexton, the ball coming off the inside of the far post before finding the net.
Bohs pressed after going behind but it took them a while to come up with a clear chance. Peter McMahon cut in from the end line on the 18 minute mark and squared the ball. Bray stopper Darren Quigley slipped but Dave Webster managed to clear without difficulty.
The visitors did pull level on the half hour mark though. Dinny Corcoran went unchallenged in the box and comfortably headed home a Keith Ward corner to make it 1-1.
The remainder of the first half played out evenly, with both teams engaging in crisp foreplay but without penetration, and the second half resumed in a similar fashion.
Two teams playing five across the middle limited space and clear chances were rare. However, Danny O’Connor was able to put the Seagulls in front again on the stroke of the hour.
A Kevin Knight cross found Jason Byrne, who headed the ball back across goal. Striker turned midfielder John Mulroy headed it back again but it was midfielder turned defender O’Connor who managed to knock it home to give his side a 2-1 lead, much to the frustration of the travelling support.
Time ticked away as Bohs tried to put their hosts under pressure, but the Bray defence held firm without trouble until the final few minutes.
Substitute Karl Moore went closest to bringing parity back to proceedings with three minutes of regular time left. Kevin Knight headed a cross clear but it fell to the creative midfielder, who unleashed a wicked half-volley from 25 yards that beat Darren Quigley but past the post rather than creeping in.
As Bohs pressed in injury time, it was Bray who looked most like scoring on the break, and John Mulroy almost doubled his side’s lead but drew a smart save from Craig Sexton.
Aaron Callaghan’s team could only muster long balls into the Bray box that the defence dealt with easily before referee Neil Doyle brought play to a close, leaving Bray as 2-1 winners.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Danny O’Connor, Pierce Sweeney, Kevin Knight; Adam Hanlon (Sean Houston 76), Dean Zambra, John Mulroy, Dane Massey, Kieran Marty Waters (Jonathan Kelty 83); Jason Byrne.
Subs not used: Brian Kane, Adam Mitchell, Anthony Bolger, Graham Kelly, Daire Doyle.
Booked: Webster (56), Sweeney (63)
Bohemians: Craig Sexton; Owen Heary (Derek Pender, 35), Evan McMillan, Kevin Feely, Luke Byrne; Keith Ward, Peter McMahon (Dwayne Wilson, 78), Adam Martin (Karl Moore, 68), Keith Buckley, Stephen Traynor; Dinny Corcoran.
Subs not used: Greg Murray, Andy Mulligan, Roberto Lopes, Dan Mahon.
Booked: Pender (59).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 1,100 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Danny O’Connor who scored and put in another very assured performance at the back alongside Pierce Sweeney.