Dundalk warmed up for their promotion/relegation playoff against Waterford United with a 2-1 victory on a cold Oriel Park on Friday evening. Michael Rafter gave the Lilywhites the lead after two minutes before Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters hauled the Seagulls level. Journeyman Barry Conlon proved to be the match winner as he scored with 10 minutes remaining.
Dundalk took the lead in the opening moments of the game when Lorcan Shannon’s perfect cross was met by Rafter who struck to the net from six yards. Bray Wanderers almost equalised when Jason Byrne forced a good save from Peter Cherrie when Dundalk failed to clear their lines. Chris Reilly found himself in space inside the box but his effort was straight at Bray Wanderers ‘keeper Darren Quigley.
The Lilywhites almost doubled their lead in the 19th minute when Rafter dispossessed ‘keeper Quigley on the by line but he pulled his effort wide from a difficult angle. That man Rafter had yet another chance as he found himself in space from a Garreth Brady flick but with just the ‘keeper to beat he blazed wide.
More and more though, the visitors were getting a foothold in the game and were creating. Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters was a constant threat and he started a move which saw Kevin O’Connor have an effort saved by Cherrie. A number of goalmouth scrambles ensued before the break but they failed to find an equaliser in the opening 45.
The second half began slowly as neither team were able gain control of the game. Jason Byrne went off on a stretcher with a nasty looking injury before on the hour mark Watters shot wide from distance. Substitute William Woods replied immediately when his good shot forced a save from Quigley. Chris Reilly mishit a shot from 8 yards and it went horribly wide with 25 minutes remaining.
Reilly then turned provider as he found Woods with an inch perfect cross but the striker blasted over when it seemed easier to score. With all those missed chances, they were bound to pay. Danny O’Connor played an excellent ball to Waters on the left hand side and from a narrow angle he unleashed a wonderful shot which flew into the top corner – despite the ball going through the net!
Dundalk did respond well though, keeping the ball and creating openings before they went in front again with 10 minutes remaining. Substitute Dane Massey got caught out by Mark Leavy who brilliantly squared for Conlon who calmly slotted into the net past Quigley.
Conlon, full of confidence, tried his luck again – this time from distance but his attempted lob was too close to Quigley. The Monaghan native then had another effort go wide when he tried to volley from 30 yards.
Bray had to chase the game and despite six minutes of stoppage time, the Seagulls couldn’t equalise and Dundalk held on to claim their first home victory since March 23rd and first league victory since May 21st.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Robbie Gaul, Liam Burns, Paul Whelan, Nathan Murphy; Lorcan Shannon (Mark Leavy 76), Garreth Brady (Barry Conlon 71), Stephen McDonnell, Mark O’Brien, Chris Reilly; Michael Rafter (William Woods 59).
Unused substitutes: Peter Thomas, Conor McDonald.
Booked: M O’Brien (42)
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Daire Doyle, Shane O'Connor, Danny O’Connor, Kevin Knight (Yani Georgiev 46); Dean Zambra, Kevin O’Connor, Paul Moffat (Colm Tresson 75), Sean Houston, Kieran ‘Marty’ Watters; Jason Byrne (Dane Massey 55)
Unused substitutes: Adam Mitchell, Pat Seery, Conor Butler, Brian Kane.
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Nathan Murphy (Dundalk).