Bray Wanderers fought back from two goals down at Richmond Park on Friday night to inflict a 3-2 defeat on St Patrick’s Athletic and earn themselves their first points of the season. Two goals from substitute Conor Murphy and a late winner from Joe Kendrick did the damage as Pete Mahon was left to count the cost of a performance that simply wasn’t strong enough to deny a spirited Bray side.
In truth Bray were relatively comfortable until the 24th minute when they conceded in a style that, for the Seasiders, had a tragic circularity. It was Derek Prendergast who gave away the crucial free kick some 25 yards from goal, having barged over David McMillan as the Pat's striker sought to shield the ball. Daryl Kavanagh’s free curled invitingly into the space behind the defensive line and, although it was Prendergast who reached it first, his attempted clearance sliced off the top of his boot and flew past a startled Matt Gregg.
Up until then it was Bray who had developed the more adventurous game plan. While St Pat's consistently failed to connect with their passes and both David McMillan and Ian Daly fought to gather scraps off long ball play, Bray had conquered their left wing where Jake Kelly, Chris Shields and John Mulroy were merrily creating passing triangles before whipping a series of dangerous crosses into the St Pat's box.
Dean Zambra was the first to benefit from the visitor’s left side dominance when Shields touched a ball across for the midfielder who drove tamely at Gary Rogers. Evan McMillan then scooped away a Joe Kendrick cross while at full stretch in the 14th minute and moments later the same route offered Mulroy a shooting chance that was held by Rogers at the second attempt.
But once Pat's hit the front they might have added a second just moments later. A corner from the right by Kavanagh was allowed to reach Ian Daly who controlled the ball 15 yards from goal and, with the Bray defenders turning their backs, was allowed a free shot that Matt Gregg batted away.
Bray looked suddenly fragile and Adam Mitchell hardly helped matters when he clattered into David McMillan just outside the box on 39 minutes. The Bray defender was rightly booked, as was Dempsey when he blocked Daly’s initial free. Finally Anto Murphy scooped the ball towards the top right corner but Gregg gathered comfortably.
Before the second half had a chance to settle Pats had extended their lead in the simplest but most emphatic fashion. A corner from the right was delivered into the box by Kavanagh and Evan McMillan met it with a thumping header that arrowed past Gregg at his near post.
What followed was a scrappy affair. Jake Kelly continued to play impressively down the left channel for Bray and Pat's battled through midfield without ever being able to apply the composure required to truly control the game. David McMillan might perhaps have joined his brother on the scoresheet after 63 minutes as he slid in at the back post towards a Kavanagh cross but the home sides inability to grasp this game was about to come back to haunt them.
In the 71st minute Kelly created an opening, clipping a neat ball into space for Chris Shields to whip in a low cross from the left. The ball skidded across goal, was missed by Shane O’Neill, but planted in at the back post by young sub Conor Murphy. Four minutes later O’Neill wrestled for possession at the corner flag before sending a superb cross into the Pats box that Murphy, unattended by home defenders, glanced home from six yards.
The home support felt hard done by. While neither side had tripped the light fantastic Pat's had a beefier attitude about them and, for the most part, had looked marginally the better team. As if to prove the point, Pat's engineered a move that set Kavanagh racing towards goal. However, with his line of attack drifting wide his effort from eight yards was blocked, with the rebound finally cleared to safety.
Then came the killer blow. With just eight minutes remaining Pat's conceded a free just outside their box and slightly right of centre. Joe Kendrick sized it up, swung his left boot and, with the mildest of deflections off a St. Pat's head, delivered the free past Rogers and into the home net.
Pat's pressed for a leveller but neither commendable desire nor a last gasp effort by Evan McMillan could quite make up for the looseness in their play and Bray Wanderers capped a memorable fightback with three precious points.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Gary Rogers; Derek Pender, Evan McMillan, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Anto Murphy (Derek Doyle, 61), Dave Mulcahy, Shane McFaul, Danny Kavanagh (Jordan Keegan, 87); David McMillan, Ian Ryan (Danny North, 78).
Subs not used: Chris Bennion, Brian Shortall, Stephen Bradley, Sean Stewart.
Bookings: Kavanagh (42), Doyle (64).
Bray Wanderers: Matt Gregg; Dave Webster, Derek Prendergast, Adam Mitchell, Joe Kendrick; Dean Zambra (Shane O’Neill, 66), Gary Dempsey, Danny O’Connor (Conor Murphy, 66), Jake Kelly (Daire Doyle, 86); Chris Shields, John Mulroy.
Subs not used: Brian Kane, Sean Houston, Shane O’Connor, Danny McGuinness.
Bookings: D O’Connor (21), Prendergast (23), Mitchell (39), Dempsey (41), Shields (61).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Jake Kelly.