The understrength Bray were always going to struggle under the weight of a mounting injury list and suspensions, and it became patently clear as the home side virtually overran them, two second half goals sealing the deal after Jay O’Shea had given them the first-half lead.
It was hardly a precision performance from Galway, who were also slightly short of personnel, but it was the antidote they needed after last week and keeps them still arm’s length of the dreaded drop zone, remaining in fifth spot overall.
With winger Derek O’Brien missing tonight through suspension there was always going to be intense speculation regarding United’s formation and line-up. Injured Shane Fitzgerald would have been a ready-made replacement, but his ankle kept him sidelined, seeing Michael McGrath slotting into the left wing as Galway began in a 4-4-2 set-up, John Russell moving forward to join Vinny Faherty up front. Captain Jay O’Shea had obviously been handed a license to thrill and was roaming wherever he wanted from the opening whistle.
Injuries had decimated the travelling Seagulls squad with Stephen Brennan’s hamstring keeping him sidelined along with Dave Mulcahy who has a broken nose, and long-term injury Derek Pender (ankle). Both Gary McCabe and Derek Foran had been struck down with chest infections during the week, but recovered enough to be in the starting team. Chris Deans also missed the match through suspension. Foster had publicly asked his squad for a quick-fire start to the match, with a lacklustre work-rate his main complaint in their loss to Dundalk the week before. The endeavour was there, but Bray were matching them from the outset and there was little between the two teams in the opening stanzas.
O’Shea’s free reign began to pay dividends when he found space down the right wing on 17 minutes and Faherty could have put Galway in front, but completely mistimed the deflection. Earlier cross efforts from Dave Cooke and McGrath had also put Bray ‘keeper Chris O’Connor under a bit of pressure, although his United counterpart started to feel the heat at the opposite end when McCabe had a straight drive from a ball in from Paddy Kavanagh which grazed the cross-bar.
O’Shea was running riot though and in the 23rd minute he struck gold, a sensational goal which curled in from right to left from outside the box, leaving O’Connor virtually at a stand-still.
The goal signalled a step off the gas pedal from the home side which was sure to bring some harsh half-time words from Foster, meanwhile Bray lifted its tempo to compensate and probably had the superior run of the remainder of the half. They went unrewarded for their trouble though, despite an abundance of crosses and corners and United maintained their 1-0 advantage at the break.
Bray opened the first half brightly with a huge chance after six minutes. Kavanagh took a corner and Massey attempted to deflect it in from the near post, Cian McBrien managing to clear it off the line. Paul Byrne was on hand for a second shot for the Seagulls, but a point blank save from Ryan saved United’s skin.
But just when an equaliser appeared to be looming, Galway nullified the assault in the best possible way with a second goal. Russell and Faherty passed back and forth down the left flank before Russell sent the final pass back inside to Cian McBrien, who wound up and struck it from 25 yards out, having plenty of time to take aim with no defence in sight.
There was a visible down shift in tempo after the second goal went in, both sides beginning to empty their subs benches as Bray tried to build a late recovery and United sought fresh legs to cling onto their lead.
Any chance of a comeback was quashed by substitute striker Jason Molloy, who hammered home a third for Galway, fellow substitute putting a ball through to send Molloy on his way into the box and he shot it over O’Connor’s head.
Declan Edwards could well have made it a fourth two minutes later, but his one-on-one effort against O’Connor went askew as he put it a metre over the bar, United claiming the 3-0 result.
Galway United: Barry Ryan, Seamus Conneely, Shane Guthrie, Garry Breen, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Jay O’Shea, Dave Cooke (Jason Molloy, 77mins), Cian McBrien, Michael McGrath, John Russell (Mark O’Toole, 64mins), Vinny Faherty (Declan Edwards, 58mins) Subs not used: Niall Walsh, Ger McGrath
Bray Wanderers: Chris O’Connor, Daire Doyle, Dane Massey, Derek Foran (Colm Tresson, 76mins), Dave Webster, Chris Shields, Paddy Kavanagh, Daryl Robson, Gary McCabe, Paul Byrne (John Flood, 59mins), John Mulroy (Dave O’Neill, 64mins) Subs not used: Darren Forsyth, Shane O’Neill
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin)