Shamrock Rovers 0 Bray Wanderers 0
Premier Division, Tallaght Stadium, 21 October 2016
It’s no small matter to have held Shamrock Rovers scoreless for ninety minutes, let alone for what can sometimes be the most pressurised period of a game, the minutes added. It escaped the Wanderers earlier in the season, also in Tallaght, and only after Seán Harding saw red. They held out tonight, and took a valuable point back to Bray.
And if it hadn’t been for a fine decision late on, they might have had three, but Referee Sean Grant ruled that the Conor Kenna’s header had not crossed the line before being cleared by Sean Heaney. Other efforts – on both sides – earlier on and indeed after that might have broken the duck, but didn’t.
The Seagulls thus return to sixth position, though Pats, a point behind, have a game in hand. If the Hoops had the upper hand at the start, on a pitch that showed wear from Dundalk’s exertions the previous night, it was the visitors who had the first chance of note when Ger Pender fired a snap shot from just outside the area, but failed to trouble Barry Murphy.
But what might have been a costly error followed, when a Simon Madden cross was spilled by Peter Cherrie to the leg of Hugh Douglas, but the Rovers attack weren’t in position to take advantage and the Bray keeper gathered.
The highly regarded Trevor Clarke got behind Douglas five minutes later and floated the ball high across the face, but again there was no-one there to finish. Minutes after that it was Madden who got down the right before crossing for Boyd, but his tame header was collected easily. And when Brandon Miele made a surging run from half-way, it fell to Douglas to halt his progress and clear.
Mid-way through the first period, a Ryan Brennan free was blocked by the Rovers wall and eventually repelled. In the 29th minute, Miele’s through ball found Clarke just inside the area with only Cherrie to beat, but the Hoops midfielder dragged his effort just wide.
Two minutes later, from a corner, the ball fell to Mark Salmon but the Rovers keeper was out quickly to smother his shot.
John Sullivan had Bray’s best chance of the half just past the half hour when Karl Moore’s cross made it to the back post, but his close-range shot was repelled by the joint efforts of Murphy and Rob Cornwall.
Then Clarke burst through several challenges in the Bray midfield before finding Gary McCabe who tested Cherrie from 18m as Rovers had the better of the chances even while the visitors had most of the ball. Pender had another opportunity seven minutes from the break, but he headed Kevin Lynch’s free from the left behind for a goal kick.
A Miele corner from the right was headed wide by Heaney, before McCabe picked up the ball after a heavy challenge on Clarke. He rounded Clarke on the ground before feeding Miele, but Cherrie did well to bat his powerful shot away. The Hoops continued to control the game – if not with any real intent – in the second half. Clarke’s through-ball in the 53rd minute, via Rovers skipper Pat Cregg, found Sean Boyd running free in the Bray area and turning the unusually under-paced Kenna, but the striker’s first time diagonal shot was just wide.
Madden and Cregg played some neat one-twos on the right in the next forward move, before the former was forced to run the ball out of play.
On the hour, Dylan Connolly broke down the left after a mistake by Madden, but his cross was cleared for a corner, and Moore’s resulting flag-kick was claimed strongly by Murphy.
A well-weighted pass in behind from Heaney was touched down by Madden for Miele, but the midfielder’s cross-shot was well blocked away by defence, and the follow-up zipped just past the post.
The home side continued to press, and after Miele seemed to handle a cross-field pass into the area in the 63rd minute, his resultant turn and shot flew narrowly over the bar.
Luke Kiely was introduced by Rovers for the final half-hour, and he almost scored with his first touch as Miele’s corner was cleared into his path. A minute later, Miele fed him on the right, but this time his effort was tame.
Bray sub Dean Kelly was also on goal with his first touch, but an excellent interception by Dave O’Connor kept the scoresheet empty.
With little more than a quarter hour to go, Clarke launched a run from midfield, nutmegging Kenna in the process. However he was halted by Cherrie, who collected the ball without stress.
Soone after that Kiely tried to take advantage of a slip up in the Bray rear-guard, but his cross was claimed by Cherrie.
Bray started to find gaps in the home defence and from a deep cross from the right, a flick on from Moore found Connolly who forced Heaney to clear off his own line in the 79th minute.
Bray came close to breaking the deadlock on 78 minutes, Kenna connecting with Lynch’s free, the header meeting a Rovers body and falling to Kelly. Kelly’s attempt was somehow kept out by Heaney with the referee adjudging the ball to have not crossed the goal line.
As the clock counted down, Miele’s corner from the right evaded everyone and, and McCabe’s through ball for Aaron Dobbs saw the latter’s effort excellently blocked by Kenna.
The home side dominated possession, and in injury time, had a penalty appeal waved away when McCabe’s shot was blocked by the chest of Douglas.
Kelly should have settled it with the final touch of the game but, having escaped the attention of Cornwall, he couldn’t get enough behind his half-volley and it fell tamely to Murphy.
Bray Wanderers: 1 Peter Cherrie; 2 Hugh Douglas, 21 Tim Clancy, 4 Conor Kenna (c), 19 Kevin Lynch; 3 John Sullivan; 10 Karl Moore, 7 Ryan Brennan, 8 Mark Salmon (yc), 16 Dylan Connolly (yc); 17 Gerard Pender
Subs: 9 Dean Kelly (for Pender 69), 11 Jason Marks (for Brennan 77), 20 Paul Finnegan, 22 Darragh Noone (for Salmon 69), 24 Sean Harding, 27 Chris Lyons, 40 Lee Steacy (gk)
Shamrock Rovers: 1 Barry Murphy; 2 Robert Cornwall (yc), 5 David O’Connor, 17 Simon Madden, 23 Sean Heaney; 7 Gary McCabe, 16 Patrick Cregg (c), 10 Brandon Miele, 18 Dean Clarke; 20 Trevor Clarke (yc), 19 Sean Boyd
Subs: 8 Aaron Bolger, 3 Luke Kiely (for Clarke 67), 15 Conor Gleeson, 21 Shane Hanney, 22 James Doona (for Miele 90), 26 Aaron Dobbs (for Boyd 82), 28 Darragh Gibbons
Referee: Seán Grant
Compiled by Mícheál Ó hUanacháin