Drogheda United claimed their second league win against Bray Wanderers this season with goals from Declan O’Brien, Paul Crowley and Peter Hynes. Sean Houston gave the visitors something to shout about in the first half but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation with the hosts running out comfortable 3-1 winners.
After the most sluggish of starts, the game burst to life in a twelve minute spell halfway through the opening 45 minutes. The hosts deservedly took the lead after 21 minutes when Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien got on the end of a cross from Sean Brennan to head home.
O’Brien opened his account for the season in the reverse fixture back in March. On this occasion he grabbed his ninth with a powerful header past Darren Quigley. Credit to brother Gavin whose cross just seconds before found its way to Brennan but question marks over Dane Massey’s defending who really should have cleared the danger.
However if ever a side were guilty of resting of their laurels it was Drogheda, who stepped off the pace completely and were justly punished on 33 minutes.
Before the equaliser, Bray threatened with centre back Danny O’Connor smashing an effort at goal that Gabriel Sava inexplicably held on to. On the half hour mark the dangerous Adam Hanlon’s dipping effort flew just a yard over the hosts’ crossbar.
Drogheda failed to take a heed and Bray were level three minutes later. Again Hanlon showed his attacking capabilities when he crossed dangerously from the right. Midfielder Sean Houston was on the other end to head at goal and although the ball appeared to take a deflection, defender Alan McNally was powerless as the ball rolled over the line.
The goal temporarily invigorated Pat Devlin’s men. Kieran Marty Waters, usually their most potent attacking threat, had a quiet half by his standards. He should have put his side ahead ten minutes before the break when goal scorer Houston played a beautifully weighted ball into his path. Sava saved with an outstretched leg.
Perhaps eager to atone for his wastefulness, Waters started the second half brightly and smashed an effort off the bar after only two minutes following good build-up play from Houston and John Mulroy.
Down the other end Peter Hynes beat ‘keeper Quigley to the ball out on the right and crossed low for O’Brien in the box. The forward let the ball run past him, sensing the presence of Ryan Brennan behind him. Brennan was there, but so too was Danny O’Connor who read it well and cleared down field.
Hibernian boss Pat Fenlon was in attendance, presumably checking out Ryan Brennan’s credentials. But it was brother Gavin who was impressing most and was instrumental in Drogs retaking the lead on 64 minutes. Similar to the opener, Bray failed to deal with a cross into the box. Brennan, at the back post, headed back across goal invitingly for Paul Crowley to nod home.
Bray had chances to score in the second half but didn’t take them. Most notable here was man of the match Sean Houston who was denied with two headed efforts. Firstly by Brian Gannon who headed off the line with the help of the bar. The ball bounded straight back to Houston. But Sava came to the rescue once again.
But the visitors’ heads were dropping - not least because Drogheda had made it 3-1 on 72 minutes as Bray failed to clear a Philip Hand corner. The ball came to Peter Hynes after a shemozzle and he rifled home on the turn.
Bray emptied the benche late on with the introduction of Sean Hurley and Graham Kelly but the moves changed little with the hosts finishing the stronger. Ryan Brennan should have made it 4-1 in injury time but a heroic block by Adam Mitchell kept it slightly more respectable for the Seasiders.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Philip Hand; Sean Brennan (Cathal Brady, 85), Ryan Brennan, Paul Crowley, Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien (Tiarnan Mulvenna 59), Peter Hynes.
Subs not used: Steven Trimble, Mark O’Brien, Stephen Quigley, Dean Marshall, Johnny Breen.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Shane O’Connor, Adam Mitchell, Danny O’Connor, Dane Massey; Adam Hanlon (Daire Doyle, 78), Dean Zambra (Sean Hurley, 78), Sean Houston, John Mulroy, Kieran Marty Waters; Jason Byrne (Graham Kelly, 87).
Subs not used: Brian Kane, David Webster, Anthony Bolger, Kevin Knight.
Booked: Houston (14), Mitchell (73), J Byrne (82).
Referee: Padraig Sutton.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Sean Houston (Bray Wanderers).