Dundalk 1 (Boyle 21), Bray Wanderers 0
Premier Division, Oriel Park, 10 May 2016
A single goal midway through the first half remained the only score between the teams right to the death – but it was in favour of the home side.
Former Seagull Chris Shields played to Ronan Finn from a Daryl Horgan free and the midfielder found the head of Dundalk captain Andy Boyle who headed firmly to the bottom right corner past Peter Cherrie.
It’s scant comfort to the Wanderers that the match went with the form book. Their concern must be to change that book, and soon.
That they kept the Champions to the narrowest of winning margins is probably the biggest consolation of the night: that, and Dylan Connolly’s close encounter in the final minute of normal time, which could easily have sneaked a point for the visitors if Gary Rogers hadn’t been at the top of his game.
Taken with Wexford Youths’ victory over Longford Town, it drops Bray back into the Play-off place.
Former Lilywhite Cherrie at the Bray end had virtually nothing to do prior to the goal, though a John Mountney cross and a speculative ball from Daryl Horgan needed to be collected.
But minutes after the home side went ahead, a Shields surge brought a strong stop from the Scot, the former Bray midfielder evading the defence before getting his shot away.
Finn then steered a right-footed shot wide of target after being set up by David McMillan before Boyle caused trouble in the Bray penalty area again on the half hour mark, his header from a Horgan corner just clearing the bar.
One of the corner flags unsurprisingly needed attention after a collision with Hugh Douglas, and minutes later his leftwing counterpart also turned attacker, picking up possession amid some loose passing and ending with a fierce half-volley that just passed over Gary Rogers’s crossbar, much to the former Seagulls keeper’s relief.
Despite Horgan stealing the ball from Douglas on the sideline and feeding Finn who cut back for David McMillan, the striker skewed wide from barely five metres, the visitors’ luck held, and they went to the break with only the one goal against them.
Early in the second period, McMillan missed a couple of good opportunities, first heading off target from an offside position and then seeing his downward header well taken by Cherrie.
Wanderers managed to build an attack, and it took the attention of Brian Gartland, yet another ex-Seagull, to clear Ger Pender’s long-range effort.
On the hour, following broken play that neither side could benefit from, Horgan contrived a half-chance, but his shot just missed the bar, and clearcut chances were few and far between.
With a quarter of an hour to go, Bray substitute Dean Kelly got Rogers to work, the keeper barely keeping the ball in play and his defence struggling to clear. It was one of only a handful of occasions when the home side seemed vulnerable.
Cherrie managed a fine fingertip diversion a moment later to deny McMillan, the second time in a matter of seconds.
Minutes later, after good work by a battling Douglas, who won through against Horgan on this occasion, Kelly sent another effort goalwards, but just too high.
With hardly a minute of normal time to go, Rogers turned on the style when Connolly turned on the gas, racing up-field and haring past Gannon, but the keeper got his boot to the goalbound shot and claimed the resulting corner well.
In the final minute Shields was penalised for fouling Brennan, and Bray had a free from 20m, but Kelly’s deadball hit the Dundalk wall, and the moment was gone.
The home side were content then to keep the ball in the Bray half until the final whistle.
Bray Wanderers: 1 Peter Cherrie; 2 Hugh Douglas, 5 Alan McNally, 4 Conor Kenna (c), 24 Sean Harding (yc); 8 Mark Salmon, 21 Robert Creevy, 16 Dylan Connolly, 11 Jason Marks; 10 Karl Moore; 17 Gerard Pender
Subs: 6 Alan Byrne, 7 Ryan Brennan (for Marks 69), 9 Dean Kelly (for Pender 69), 18 Andrew Lewis, 22 Darragh Noone, 23 Gareth McDonagh (for Harding 74), 50 Aaron Shanahan (gk)
Dundalk: 1 Gary Rogers; 2 Sean Gannon, 3 Brian Gartland, 4 Andrew Boyle (c), 14 Dane Massey; 5 Chris Shields, 18 Robert Benson; 8 John Mountney, 10 Ronan Finn, 7 Daryl Horgan; 9 David McMillan
Subs: 12 Shane Grimes, 15 Patrick Barrett (for Mountney 80), 17 George Poynton, 21 Darren Meenan (for Benson 67), 22 Gabriel Sava (gk), 23 Anton Reilly, 24 Keith Dalton
Referee: Derek Tomney
Compiled by Micheal O’hUanachain