Bray Wanderers 3 Athlone Town 0
Under splendid sunshine, Wanderers fans were finally able to enjoy a relaxing Friday night of football as their side cruised to a comfortable SSE Airtricity League First Division 3-0 win against Athlone.
Having been idle last week, the Seagulls showed no signs of rustiness at the Carlisle Grounds as they imposed themselves on the game from the first whistle. Jack Hudson had the first chance of the match on seven minutes when he headed over from a Callum Thompson corner.
Thompson was again the provider three minutes later when he found an unmarked Ben Feeney in the box but the midfielder could not get his header down.
On 19 minutes, it was Feeney’s turn to be the provider following a corner when he slipped the ball to Darragh Lynch on the left edge of the box. The 18-year-old unleashed a left footed rocket past Mark Smith to give the Wanderers a deserved lead.
While Bray remained in the ascendency for the rest of the half, they did little to trouble the Athlone defence. Equally, the Bray back four had little by way of defending to do themselves.
With the memory of the reserve fixture in mind, when the Wicklow side dominated the first period last March only to draw 1-1, it was important that Green and White’s kept the pressure on.
Yet the visitors nearly had an equaliser on 53 minutes. Carlton Ubaezuonu played the ball across goal, past Michael Kelly, to find Thomas Oluwa who steered the ball goalwards but was denied by a very well placed Conor McManus.
Nerves could temporarily have been rattling but there was little need to worry as Lynch appeared once more to give the Seagulls that all important second goal.
After good link up play between Kieran Marty Waters and Paul Fox down the left, it was Fox who played the incisive pass to Lynch. He jinked past the defender before making an effort that appeared to travel in slow motion past a stranded Smith, but the slight bulge of the net was all the home support cared about.
It was to be Lynch’s last contribution to the match as he was replaced by Rob Manley who did not take long to pick up where his team-mate left off.
After a ball from the left wing was played across the six-yard box, sub Darragh Levingston was on hand to retrieve the ball, beat his defender and deliver a cross straight to the head of Manley who cushioned the ball into the net a close range on 73 minutes.
The third goal well and truly put an end to Midlander’s challenge as the Seagulls played out the remaining portion of the game with ease.
One last chance almost added the final flourish when Fox’s deflected free kick from inside the ‘D was saved down low by Smith with two minutes remaining.
The result ended a painful run of 11 home games without a win and gives the Wanderers some much needed momentum to carry into the mid-season break.
With half the season played, Bray are within touching distance of the play-offs as they sit three points off Treaty, and behind Wexford by virtue of goal difference of goals scored.
Bray Wanderers: Michael Kelly; Eoin Massey, Kevin Knight, Jack Hudson, Conor McManus; Callum Thompson (Conor Knight 88’) Paul Ben Feeney (Darragh Levingston half time’), Dean Zambra, Paul Fox; Kieran Marty Waters (Keith Dalton 88’), Darragh Lynch (Rob Manley 66’)
Subs not used: Kurtis Byrne, Jamie Callaghan, Enda Douglas, Zak O’Neill, Stephen McGuinness.
Athlone Town: Mark Smith; Derek Daly (Osaze Iruhe 69’), Noah Van Geenen, Donal Curtin, Daniel Dobbin; Thomas Oluwa (Youri Habing 74’), Aaron Connolly, Glen McAuley (Success Edogun 74’), Oisin Duffy; Carlton Ubaezuonu (Gary Armstrong 58’), Shane Barnes.
Subs not used: Matthew McCarrick, Blake Ryan, Quincy Nkansah, Isreal Kimazo,
Booked: Noah Van Geenen 42’, Daniel Dobbin 88’
Referee: Jamie Robinson (Northern Ireland).
Report: Kevin Dooney.
Pictures: Alex Connolly.