A solitary Daryl Kavanagh goal was all that separated Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers on Saturday evening as the relegation candidates got their season underway at the Carlisle Grounds. On a cold blustery evening at the seaside venue, Bray can take some warmth from the fact that they matched Drogheda for the 90 minutes and certainly had chances of their own.
The first chance of note fell to the home side as some hesitation in the defence allowed the ball to bounce and Chris Lyons was presented with a gilt edged chance inside the box but he dragged his shot left and wide.
A very open game saw Cathal Brady allowed space to roam forward and his shot was blocked behind for a corner, but the real chances were happening at the other end as Bray’s pace caused Drogheda problems at the back.
Drogheda opened the scoring on 26 minutes. David Cassidy was played through on goal, but his first touch was poor allowing Schlingermann to race off his line and clear. The keeper's long ball found Brady in space and the winger whipped in a cross which Kavanagh headed past a helpless Stephen McGuinness.
Three yellow cards were brandished in quick succession as the intensity increased. Several earlier challenges going unpunished seemed to have fuelled the spate of late tackles which resulted in Jack Memery and Sean Brennan both seeing yellow, David Cassidy was booked for failing to wait for the referee’s whistle when standing over a free kick.
The visitors were presented with another wonderful chance when Lyons fed Peter McGlynn and from the right he seemed caught in two minds as to shot or pass and ultimately he squared a ball which was nowhere near goal but too far in front of the onrushing Cassidy.
The sides remained unchanged at half-time, Bray playing with a strong breeze at their backs and it was the Seasiders who showed their intentions first. From distance Luke Gallagher let fly and his shot took a deflection off Brady to almost take it away from Schlingermann, but the keeper got down to his right to tip the ball around the post.
Drogheda’s first corner of the game came on 55 minutes when Jason Marks played a sublime through ball for Kavanagh to race onto and his shot was palmed over the crossbar by McGuinness. The former Rovers striker again was played in behind the defence minutes later, but rather than shoot he tried to bear down on goal only for Hugh Douglas to deftly dispose the striker.
Bray were getting some purchase down the wings, Daniel O’Reilly from wide on the left sent a daisy cutter towards goal and Chris Lyons connected but his flick went wide. Emeka Onwubiko was introduced on 66 minutes and he almost had an immediate impact with his first touch, a deft spin move took him past the Drogs defence and he teed up McEvoy whose shot was bravely blocked by Daly.
Drogheda had a legitimate shout for a penalty turned down as O’Reilly appeared to block a shot with his hand in the box but Sean Grant was having none of it. O’Reilly then almost scored an audacious leveller from a free kick. Schlingermann had set his wall and left a lot of space to his left which O’Reilly brilliantly curled the ball towards but unfortunately for the full back the wind seemed to pull it across goal and wide.
With time running out Chris Lyons took it upon himself to try and pull his team back into it and he almost succeeded with a vicious strike which just rose over the bar but certainly had Schlingermann scrambling.
Bray Wanderers: Stephen McGuinness; Michael Barker, Hugh Douglas, Alan McNally, Daniel O’Reilly; Peter McGlynn (Emeka Onwubiko 66), Luke Gallagher, David Cassidy (Peter Durrad 83), Ryan McEvoy, Jack Memery; Chris Lyons.
Subs Not Used: Brian Kane (gk), Niall Cooney, Adam Mitchell, Gareth McDonagh.
Booked: Cassidy (38), Memery (40), Onwubiko (89)
Drogheda United: Michael Schlingermann; Mick Daly, Lloyd Buckley, Neil Yadolahi, Joe Gorman; Cathal Brady (Lee Duffy 86), Stephen Maher, Sean Thornton, Sean Brennan (Michael Scott 80), Daryl Kavanagh; Jason Marks (Carl Walshe 90+3)
Subs Not Used: Dylan Connolly (gk), Tiernan Mulvenna, Matthew Rooney, Roy Kierans
Booked: Brennan (39), Gorman (44).
Referee: Sean Grant
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Daryl Kavanagh (Drogheda United)