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Drogheda United’s push for a top-half finish continued in earnest as they left it late to beat Bray 2-0 on Friday night at Hunky Dorys Park.
Pat Devlin’s side travelled to Drogheda quietly confident that they could take something from the game, but a series of wasted chances were eventually punished by Drogheda.
The home side were forced into one change as Mick Cooke replaced the suspended Declan O’Brien with Peter Hynes and held the same 4-5-1 formation that has proven so fruitful over the last few weeks while his opposite number kept the same XI that lost to Pats 3-0 in the FAI Cup.
Bray started off brightly, but it was David Cassidy on two minutes who had the first shot, his half-volley was straight at Quigley, but a clear sign of intent from the midfielder.
The game flowed openly for the first 15 minutes with both teams passing the ball about, but the ball in the final third was lacking somewhat. Bray bared their teeth on 20 minutes when Kevin O’Connor raced into the box before shifting the ball to the left for an un-marked Kieran Marty Waters to shoot, but he instead pulled his effort across the face of goal and Derek Prendergast cleared.
Drogheda then had the best chance of the half as Ryan Brennan split the Bray defence with a diagonal pass to Cathal Brady who was racing through on the overlap, but his first touch was a tad heavy and Quigley came screaming off his line to block the shot.
With 30 minutes gone the Boynesiders had the ball in the net, but it was ruled out as Peter Hynes was stood in an offside position. From a great run down the left, Philip Hand played a neat one-two with Gavin Brennan before pulling the ball back to the edge of the box for Paul O’Conor but the former UCD man shanked his effort and it hit Hynes who duly converted only for the goal to be wiped out by the linesman.
Bray ended the second half with a flurry, first on 40 minutes a great move on the left by Conor Earley saw him muscle Shane Grimes off the ball before pulling back for Marty Waters who in turn threaded the ball through to Kevin O’Connor and the midfielder turn and flashed a shot into the side netting.
Then on 45 minutes Jason Byrne was prevented from hitting the target by his namesake Alan Byrne, the defender threw his body in-front of a goalbound effort from the Bray striker.
Just after the re-start and Bray continued the fast past, pressure on Schlingermann saw him shank a clearance which almost fell to Byrne, but minutes later he made up for his error by pulling off a brilliant save from a Kevin O’Connor point blank header.
Having quelled the Bray onslaught it was Drogheda’s turn to pile on the pressure, Philip Hand on the hour mark got down the left before delivering a perfect pass to the back post, but there was no-one there.
David Cassidy then sent a free in for Paul O’Conor to attack but his header was blocked behind for a corner. Cathal Brady then had another chance to beat Quigley when Hynes moved the ball to the right of the box, but his low shot was well blocked by the keeper.
However, with just over 20 minutes to go, a Zambra cross made its way to the back post for Gary Dempsey to head back across goal and Jason Byrne, dead center of the net with the goal at his mercy, scuffed his volley and it looped into the air and Alan Byrne was back on the line to clear the danger.
With the game looking destined for a stalemate, Kieran Marty Waters had a great chance on 81 minutes to break the deadlock, he was one-on-one with Schlingermann but wide to the left and rather than shoot he tried to play in Jason Byrne and the pass was poor and intercepted.
Bray were made pay for that profligacy, as sixty seconds later Shane Grimes took the ball down the left and squared for Gavin Brennan to fire home from close range.
Drogheda should have doubled their lead four minutes later as Gavin looked to set his brother up and played Ryan through but the younger Brennan fired his shot high and over.
There were six minutes of injury time to be played and Bray won successive corners as they piled on the pressure, Darren Quigley went up for both, but they failed to score. In the final minute though Drogheda secured the win when a Gavin Brennan throw was nudged on to Gary O’Neill at the near post and he flicked the ball past Quigley to seal the win.
Things were made worse for the home side when Dave Webster was shown a second yellow card and the visitors finished with ten men.
Up next for Drogheda is a game on Tuesday night when Sligo Rovers travel to Drogheda while Bray have a relegation six-pointer as they face UCD next week.
Drogheda United: Micheal Schlingermann; Michael Daly (Philip Hand 26), Alan Byrne, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady (Eric Foley 90+2), Paul O’Conor, David Cassidy, Ryan Brennan, Gavin Brennan; Peter Hynes (Gary O’Neill 68).
Subs Not Used: Gabriel Sava, Gavan Holohan, Alan McNally, Jason Marks.
Booked: Grimes (15), Daly (21), Cassidy (87).
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Shane O'Connor, Danny O’Connor, David Webster, Conor Earley; Dean Zambra, Gary Dempsey (Kevin Maher 74), Kevin O’Connor, Kieran Marty Waters; John Mulroy, Jason Byrne (Ismahil Akinade 81).
Subs Not Used: Kevin Knight, Adam Mitchell, Stephen Quigley, Niall Cooney, Shane Redmond.
Booked: Webster (63).
Sent Off: Webster (90+5).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: David Cassidy (Drogheda United).