The Seagulls welcome Shamrock Rovers to the seaside on Friday night for their 7.45pm clash at the Carlisle Grounds.
While goals may not be quite guaranteed, Bray’s games have conjured up 35 goals in total, with 20 going to Wanderers (only Cork City have scored more in the league). Bray also have the top scorer in the league on their team.
While much has been made of the threat of Dylan Connolly, it is Gary McCabe that is the current capocannoniere in the Premier Division. His two penalties in Bray’s impressive 3-1 win last week in Dundalk saw the former Shamrock Rovers player move to nine goals to top the league scorer charts.
Having made the switch from Tallaght to Bray over the winter, McCabe is just one behind his total for the Hoops from last season (half of which were from the peno spot). In three of the last league campaigns out of four, McCabe was Rovers’ top scorer (with eight league goals in both 2013 and 2014).
He was part of the large turnover of players in Tallaght from last season. Speaking to the42.ie recently, McCabe said that he was happy to leave Rovers, where he played for five seasons, and return to Bray where he began his career in 2007.
“It was time for a change,” said McCabe. “It was just sort of getting dead up there. There were so many players coming in and out. It was just the right time to step back and let the younger lads come through.
“I’ve gone to a big team now with Bray, talking with the chairman, talking with the manager, we’re only going to be pushing on.”
His side have had an excellent start to the campaign and sit in third place in the table on 18 points, level with the three-in-a-row champions Dundalk.
Speaking ahead of the match, Bray boss Harry Kenny noted that his team “put up an excellent display against the champions Dundalk.
“To come away with three points and to score three goals was very pleasing considering we were missing three key players from our defence.”
They will continue to be without Conor Earley, Hugh Douglas and Kevin Lynch from their team due to injury but central defender and captain Conor Kenna returns from suspension.
During the week, Bray were eliminated from the League Cup by the reigning EA Sports Cup holders St. Patrick’s Athletic.
“We were disappointed to go out to St. Pat’s in the EA (Sports) Cup after a penalty shoot-out,” said Kenny.
“I thought we did enough on the night and in particular during extra time to go through to the next round.
“There were a number of players who came into the team and performed very well so there were a lot of positives to be taken from the game.”
It remains to be seen if Rovers have turned a corner in their season, having in the last week won back-to-back games for the first time this season – as well as claiming their first clean sheet of the league campaign in last Friday’s 1-0 home win over Sligo Rovers.
The Hoops have been hot and cold in terms of results, losing four and winning five from their nine league games to date, with a solitary goal between Rovers and their opponents in the scoreline in each game.
In Tallaght on Good Friday, the Hoops put in a dominant display against Sligo, winning thanks to Brandon Miele’s goal.
They put out a reasonably strong side on Easter Monday when they knocked Bohemians out of the EA Sports Cup in a 3-1 win. They have been drawn in the quarter-finals of that competition at home to Longford Town.
“Two good wins,” was how Hoops head coach Stephen Bradley described those victories ahead of the Bray game. “We're delighted to be in the next round and again we played some really good football, scored three good goals and maybe could have had one or two more.”
Those wins came on Brandon Miele’s return to the side and return to form. He bagged a brace against Bohs in a game that Darren Meenan scored his first goal for the Hoops.
“Brandon Miele looks on it now in front of goal. Anything that falls to him he's hitting, left or right foot. He looks really focused in front of goal and hopefully he can keep that going on Friday.”
The league cup game saw Luke Byrne make his first appearance for the Hoops since picking up a serious injury in Turner’s Cross 12 months ago but Bradley still has some injury concerns elsewhere in his squad.
“It's brilliant to have Luke Byrne back. He's worked so hard to get himself in a position to be available for selection. It looked at times (against Bohs) that he'd never been away, he was excellent.
"We have to assess Danny Devine in the morning and see how he is. Paul Corry is back in full training this week.
“He's obviously been out for the last five or six weeks so he's back in. Ryan Connolly is still struggling with his foot but other than that we're OK.”
The Hoops are six points behind Bray in the table. A win for either team would set a marker. "They're obviously doing really well this year, they have a good squad and they're picking up results.
“Gary McCabe is doing well. He's having a good year, scoring goals and is dangerous if you give him time around the box so we have to be aware of that.
“It's going to be a tough game; we know that but we're going into the game on the back of two good results, so we'll be strong as well and it has all the makings of a good game."
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
This is the 30th league meeting between the sides at the Carlisle Grounds. In total the teams have met 85 times in all competitions with Rovers earning 42 wins to Bray’s 18.
Amongst their squad, Bray have nine players who have been on the books with the Hoops: Tim Clancy, Alan Kehoe, Jamie Ahearne, Karl Moore, Aaron Greene, Ryan Brennan, Derek Foran, Conor Kenna and Gary McCabe.
Manager Harry Kenny and assistant manager Liam O’Brien also played with Rovers.
In the three league games last season between the sides, there were two draws (1-1 in Bray and 0-0 in Tallaght) as well as a 2-0 win for Rovers at home last April.
Bray 6/4; Draw 12/5; Rovers 7/4.
Bray Wanderers 1-1 Shamrock Rovers
Injured: Conor Earley, Hugh Douglas, Kevin Lynch.
Doubtful: Danny Devine, Ryan Connolly.