Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers played out a goalless draw at United Park this evening. On the evidence of this showing the bookmakers may not be wide of the mark in predicting a season of hardship ahead for these two teams.
The first talking point arrived after five minutes when referee Tom Connolly was struck by the ball on the back of the head and eventually went to ground to seek treatment. Everyone loves to see the authority figure levelled and maybe this was his personal contribution to the comic relief effort going on over the water.
After an even start, the Drogs numerical superiority in midfield began to tell. Their neat one and two touch play allowed them to pass through their opponents without ever opening them up clinically.
After 14 minutes, James Chambers had a reasonable claim for a penalty turned down following good work by Gavin Whelan and John Paul Kelly. Efforts from Kelly and a brace of efforts from Robert Martin called Chris O’Connor in the Bray goal into action but he dealt with them comfortably.
After 33 minutes, miscontrol by Whelan let Gary McCabe away down the outside left channel. He fed Paddy Kavanagh who in turn set up Paul Byrne for a strike at goal from a central position, desperate defending saw the effort blocked to the edge of the box where Drogs bodies again filled the breach to stop Dave Mulcahy getting his shot away.
Drogheda started the second half with a change in personnel as they brought on Robert Farrell to replace Martin.
The half time oranges did their stuff for Bray as they played with far more purpose and took control of the middle of the park. Derek Foran missed a great chance to put Bray ahead on 60 minutes as Dave Massey put in an inswinging corner to the far post where a Foran header sent it into the netting. Unfortunately for the Seagulls it was the netting behind the goal protecting the adjoining gardens.
The Drogs were spurred into action, a fine through ball from Martin sent Kelly through one on one with O’Connor. As Kelly tried to delicately lift the ball over the keeper he failed to get enough elevation and the Bray custodian snapped up the ball at the second attempt.
Bray had two good chances to take 3 points first when Darren Forsyth, on in place of Paul Byrne sent in a cross from the right touchline which eluded Gareth Coughlan’s replacement John Mulroy 6 yards out. In the closing minutes Chris Shields, on as a sub for Daire Doyle, sent in another effort from the right which hit the bar.
One last attack brought a chance for Drogheda as a Whelan cross from the right got through a packed 6 yard box and the sliding figure of Paul Shiels was unable to connect at the far post.
Overall both managers can’t grumble about sharing the spoils and Alan Matthews will be pleased to get his first point on the board. Both teams now look ahead to tough fixtures with the Drogs facing a trip to local rivals Dundalk next Friday and Bray face a home game against early season pace setters Galway United.
Drogheda United: Steve Williams; Gavin Whelan, Alan McNally, Conor Kenna, Robbe Clarke; James Chambers, John Paul Kelly, Paul Sheils, Mark Duggan, Dave O’Connor (Jamie Duffy 70); Robbie Martin (Robbie Farrell 46).
Subs not used: Paul Skinner (gk), Ian Ryan, Mark Salmon.
Bray Wanderers: Chris O’Connor; Derek Pender, Derek Foran, Chris Deans, Massey; Paddy Kavanagh, Daire Doyle (Chris Shields 87), Dave Mulcahy, Gary McCabe; Paul Byrne (Darren Forsyth 69), Gareth Coughlan (John Mulroy 69).
Subs not used: Brian Kane (gk), Dave Webster.
Referee: Tom Connolly.
Attendance: 900 (estimate).