Bray Wanderers 3 Kerry FC 2
Bray claimed their third SSE Airtricity League First Division triumph over Kerry this season with a hard-fought win.
Without a success in their previous four league games since the middle of May, goals by Darren Craven (first of the season), top-scorer Ben Feeney and the in-form Chris Lyons deservedly gave the Seasiders all three points on Friday at the Carlisle Grounds despite a late scare from the visitors.
Yet, if the Green and White’s had taken their chances – especially in the first period, the outcome would have been much clearer.
The result keeps Wanderers in fifth – in the play-offs – in what was their first home outing in 21 days.
The Seagulls made two changes from the side beaten by Waterford earlier this month with Dane Massey and Jack Hudson coming in.
On the bench, Ger Shortt was available after serving a ban.
The Wicklow side got off to the perfect start and took the lead after 122 seconds.
Kevin Williams ball out of defence for the away cub was intercepted by Harry Groome.
He fed Darren Craven who opened his account for the season with a stunning 25-yard rocket to the roof of the net.
It was the 29-year-olds first goal for the club since August 2021.
On 11 minutes, Groome charged down Williams’ clearance. Feeney reacted and got there ahead of goalkeeper Callan Scully. But his close range toe poke ran agonisingly wide.
Yet the visitors levelled in the 16th minute.
From Scully’s goal-kick, Ryan Kelliher flicked on. Sean McGrath slipped Leonardo Gaxha in to score low one on one with Stephen McGuinness from the edge of the penalty area.
Bray continued to press forward; Massey clipped a 22-yard free over the bar on 21.
Seconds later, Feeney headed Conor Crowley’s corner against the back post.
Skipper Dave Webster then sliced wide when well placed on 24 after a Crowley free dropped to him.
However, Wanderers restored their advantage in first half stoppage time.
A Kerry throw was intercepted by Craven on the halfway line. Lyons linked with Luka Lovic before Crowley found Feeney wide right. He stepped inside left to hit a brilliant curling effort from 22-yards to the far corner of the net.
The strike took the 20-year-old’s tally to seven in the league – surpassing his total of six in the 2022 campaign.
It found have even better in time added on as Scully parried Craven’s free. Lyons tried to convert the loose ball but went down with the penalty appeal waved away.
The home team added to their tally in the 56th minute.
Lovic won possession in midfield. Play continued despite appeals for a foul om Gaxha. Lovic then played a slide rule pass for Lyons beat the offside and fire in low from 15-yards for his third goal in his last four starts.
But Kerry rallied went close on 75. Webster made a cracking goal-line clearance to deny sub Kennedy Amechi after McGuinness’ clearance rebounded off Hudson.
The Munster men pulled one back in the 88th minute.
From Cian Barrett’s free, Amechi kept the ball in play by the right endline. Matthew Keane squared for unmarked sub Cian Brosnan to find the net from ten-yards.
Bray Wanderers: Stephen McGuinness; Max Murphy, Dave Webster, Jack Hudson, Dane Massey; Conor Crowley, Luca Lovic (Conor Knight 87), Harry Groome (Guillermo Almirall half time); Darren Craven (Callum Thompson 72); Chris Lyons (Jake Walker 72), Ben Feeney (Ger Shortt 64).
Subs not used: Len O’Sullivan, Cole Omorehiomwan, Joe Power, Alex Moody.
Booked: Almirall 89.
Kerry FC: Callan Scully; Cian Barrett, Kevin Williams, Samuel Aladesanusi, Robert Vasiu (Sean O’Connell half time), Matthew Keane (Alex Ainscough 88), Togor Silong (Graham O’Reilly 88); Nathan Gleeson, Sean McGrath (Cian Brosnan 70), Leonardo Gaxha; Ryan Kelliher (Kennedy Amechi 70).
Subs not used: Shane Guthrie, Andy Quaid, Richard Healy.
Booked: Keane 40, Silong 45 + 2, Barrett 50, Aladesanusi 64, Williams 66.
Referee: Declan Toland (Midlands).
Mint+ Man of the Match: Darren Craven.
Pictures: Brian Tobin.