Bray Wanderers 1 (Pender 44) St. Patricks Athletic 0
Premier Division, Carlisle Grounds, 23 Apr 2016
To be talking about vital points this early in the season seems a little previous, but it certainly felt like three crucial ones as the Saints left the seaside empty-handed.
The visitors started well, and probably shaded the greater part of the first half, but a minute before the break Bray took the lead when Ger Pender fired under the advancing Brendan Clarke.
Holding on to the slenderest of leads for a full 45 minutes was a tall order, but the Seagulls were doing that and more.
Backed by a defence that worked together well in front of the inspired Peter Cherrie, they probed forward and probably should have been two up when Drew Lewis shot over an almost empty net with less than a quarter of an hour to go.
In the dying minutes, Pats substitute Jamie McGrath succeeded in lobbing Cherrie, but the woodwork got in the way and gave Bray captain Conor Kenna time to get back to clear.
And in time added, as the visitors crowded the home half in search of an equaliser, Clarke reached out to stop the marauding Lewis and caught a red card for his trouble.
If the opening belonged to the Saints, however, it was Bray’s Dylan Connolly who had the first opportunity to attack the target, but his final touch wasn’t firm enough to trouble Clarke.
Sean Harding did well to block a Billy Dennehy break, the ball running loose for Conan Byrne who mishit his cross.
And Dennehy, who was Pats strongest threat, over-anticipated a David Cawley ball and was stopped in his tracke by the offside flag.
Ian Bermingham got by Kenna with a neat header, but his ball wa straight at the Bray keeper.
Neat play between Hugh Douglas and Karl Moore on the right led to a quality cross for Connolly on the left. He cut inside but Sean Hoare tackled firmly.
Twenty minutes in, Dennehy fed Cawley who shot from 22m, but Cherrie had it covered all the way.
Just before the half hour, Harding kicked a long free towards Douglas, and Dennehy in attempting to clear it sent it towards his own goal but Clarke judged it well.
A floating ball from Dennehy finds Conan Byrne on hand to nod it goalwards, but Kenna got there before Fagan and headed out for a corner, former Seagull Michael Barker heading wide.
A series of pressing attacks as the break loomed forced an error by Robbie Creevy, which allowed Byrne to intercept and flick it into Fagan, who in turn unleashed a brilliant effort on goal from the edge of the D, stopped by a fine reflex save from Cherrie.
And the visitors continued to look for an opener, but again the chance came from an error, Pender who pounced on the ball before calmly slotting it beneath the Pats keeper.
The Seagulls opened the second period with morale high, their attack-minded defenders again in the thick of things, and what appeared a justified handball shout went unrewarded.
Clarke seems alert to every sign of attack from the other end, and gets to the ball before Fagan, on the occasions when the back four don’t get it first.
Just on the hour, Moore won possession down the right and laid off for Connolly, but he can’t connect properly and his shot rolls away from the goal.
Pats continued to maintain possession more than Wanderers, but weren’t able to make it count in the final third.
Midway through the half, another exceptional intervention from Cherrie as he touched away McGrath’s strike with an outstretched arm.
Inside the final ten minutes, Pats sub Dylan McGlade forced another tip around the post from the Bray custodian. But immediately on the counter, Connolly broke with possession from the corner and sprinted towards the other end before squaring for Lewis, who somehow put it over the bar with the goal gaping.
In the third-last minute McGrath got on the end of a ball towards the area and flicked over Cherrie’s head. It seemed destined for the back of the net but somehow bounced against the crossbar before McKenna got back to head out for a corner.
Then two minutes into time added, Lewis won the ball and went clean through, forcing Clarke to rush out of his goal. He fouled the Bray striker and got the mandatory punishment, Hoare taking his place between the posts as Pats had no substitutions left.
Bray opted to take the free short and headed for the corner to run the time down, but there was barely enough of it left to matter.
Bray Wanderers: 1 Peter Cherrie; 2 Hugh Douglas, 5 Alan McNally, 4 Conor Kenna (c), 24 Sean Harding; 7 Ryan Brennan (yc), 21 Robbie Creevy, 10 Karl Moore, 16 Dylan Connolly; 18 Andrew Lewis, 17 Gerard Pender
Subs: 3 Curtis Murphy, 11 Jason Marks (for Connolly 86), 13 Daniel Blackbyrne, 15 Sean Noble, 22 Darragh Noone, 23 Gareth McDonagh (for Pender 81), 50 Aaron Shanahan (gk)
St Patricks Athletic: 1 Brendan Clarke; 22 Michael Barker, 5 Sean Hoare, 12 Lee Desmond, 3 Ian Bermingham; 14 Graham Kelly, 6 David Cawley; 7 Conan Byrne, 11 Mark Timlin, 20 Billy Dennehy; 9 Christopher Fagan
Subs: 10 Daniel Corcoran (for Fagan 52), 15 Shane McEleney, 17 Dylan McGlade (for Byrne 72), 18 Sam Verdon, 19 Jamie McGrath (for Timlin 61), 25 Patrick Jennings (gk), 30 Rory Feely
Referee: Graham Kelly
Compiled by Micheal O’hUanachain