Athlone Town 0 Bray Wanderers 1
Bray’s outside SSE Airtricity First Division play-off hopes remain somehow alive after they recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since May.
Conor Knight’s first half strike sealed the points for the visitors at the Athlone Town Stadium on Friday evening.
Both Bray and Athlone still have to play Longford and Finn Harps in their last two fixtures.
With four points now separating the clubs, the Midlanders must win at least once. But if they don’t, the Green and White’s can pip them with two victories.
But Treaty United are still in the mix – sandwiched two points either side between their rivals, and still to play champions Galway and second placed Waterford.
From the team who’d beaten Cobh 2-1 last week, there was one change to the visiting starting line-up with Dane Massey coming back in and taking over the captain’s armband.
Throughout the night, the hosts bombarded the Seasiders defence with a series of long throws, corner kicks and free kicks.
But goalkeeper Matt Connor registered his first clean sheet for the club – Bray’s first since last July – as the away defence stood strong under the pressure.
The Wicklow outfit had an early left-off. Dylan Gavin headed Jack Kavanagh’s free against the bar with Aaron Connolly’s low driven rebound cleared before the line by covering Jack Hudson.
Wanderers then hit the front in the 24th minute. Having registered his first senior goal last week against Cobh, Knight made it two in two games.
Massey’s long through into the penalty area was cleared. But Harry Groome won possession and found Callum Thompson wide left.
Groome took the return pass and sent in a low cross from the left endline. Knight arrived to poke in low at the near post.
The visitors went close to a second score on the half hour as Darren Craven’s bending 30-yard free-kick shaved the outside of the right hand upright.
In the early stages of the second period, Wanderers led a charmed life.
German Fuentes Rodriguez switched play from his own half in the 47th minute. But Gavin headed over the bar after getting in behind the away defence.
Then in the 50th minute, with the Seagulls down to ten-men as Massey was off the field receiving treatment, Kavanagh’s corner was flicked on by Patrick Hickey. But Frantz Pierrot slide a volley high and over close in.
Somehow, the tie wasn’t levelled in the 58th minute.
Jamar Campion-Hinds’ low centre was back-heeled just yards from goal by Noah van Geenen. But Connor blocked and somehow diverted the ball over the bar from two-yards from the line.
The on-loan custodian then thwarted Pierrot on 60. Played in by Hickey, the striker saw his effort blocked out for a corner by the keeper.
Bray responded in fine style after weathering the storm.
On 65, Thompson’s cross from the left came all the way over to Craven at the back stick. But from 12-yards out, he skied high and over.
‘Town stopper Enda Minogue thwarted Chris Lyons on 75 by pushing the ball around his post after Thompson’s cut-back off the right flank.
From Guillermo Almirall’s corner that followed, sub Conor Crowley’s header clipped the bar.
Wanderers went close again on 87. From Massey’s throw off the left channel, Almirall hooked around the corner. Lyons reacted but his half volley was pushed over the bar by Minogue.
Athlone thought they’d nicked a 91st minute equaliser.
Hickey’s slide rule pass saw Pierrot get in. He got a touch and but so do Connor to push the ball out for a corner.
Athlone Town: Enda Minogue; Oisin Duffy (Matthew Baker 82), German Fuentes Rodriguez, Noah van Geenen, Jack Kavanagh; Daniel McKenna, Aaron Connolly (Josh McGlone 70); Jamar Campion-Hinds, Patrick Hickey, Dylan Gavin (Valerii Dolia 70); Frantz Pierrot.
Subs not used: Daniel Orrego, Shane Forbes, Nazar Zubkov, Matthew Leal, Donal Curtin, Charlie Raper.
Booked: Kavanagh 30, Van Geenen 62.
Bray Wanderers: Matt Connor; Max Murphy, Jack Hudson, Cole Omorehiomwan, Dane Massey; Darren Craven (Conor Crowley 73), Harry Groome, Guillermo Almirall, Conor Knight (Len O’Sullivan 73), Chris Lyons (Dave Webster 89), Callum Thompson (Chukwu 89).
Subs not used: Conor Davis, Yoyo Mahdy, Thomas Morgan, Philip Cooney, Alex Moody.
Booked: Massey 16, Murphy 61.
Referee: Paul Norton (Dublin).
Pictures: Michael P Ryan (Sportsfile).