Finn Harps 0 Bray Wanderers 0
For the second time this season, Bray returned from the over 500 kilometre round trip from Donegal with a point.
Despite extending their unbeaten run to three games since returning from the mid-season break last month, it was a case of what might have been for the Wicklow outfit.
Yet again, Wanderers had chances. But did not capitalise on them on Friday evening at Finn Park.
Remarkably, it was the first scoreless draw between the clubs since March 2001.
Away goalkeeper Stephen McGuinness came up trumps when needed as the Seagulls recorded a fifth league clean sheet of the 2023 season – the teams first since the middle of May.
The visitors made three changes to the starting XI who’d drawn last week away to Treaty United. Midfielder Harry Groome returned. Defender Jack Hudson made his 50th appearance for the club. New signing Nadre Butcher was handed his full debut. Dane Massey captained the side.
On the bench, Zach Donohue, and coach Lorcan Fitzgerald came in amongst the substitutes.
As for the hosts, they made no less than seven changes to the line-up who’d succumbed to Waterford last week. That included handing out no less than six debuts.
Bray started well with top-scorer Ben Feeney seeing his header cleared off the line by Ryan Flood off Conor Crowley’s third minute corner.
Then in the seventh minute, Max Murphy’s marauding run and cross-shot from the right flank was tipped over the bar by Tim-Oliver Hiemer.
McGuinness had to react smartly in the 19th minute to race in his box to make a block at Sean O’Donnell’s feet.
Six minutes before the interval, Crowley’s corner caused confusion in the hosts penalty area. The loose ball ran to Feeney’s whose close range effort was parried out by Hiemer. Surprisingly, a goal-kick was awarded instead of a corner.
The second period exploded in action in the 51st minute. Flood’s run from his own half ended with the Harps skipper letting fly from 25-yards. McGuinness produced a wonderful tip onto the bar save for a corner.
Four minutes later, it was the Green and White’s opportunity to go close.
From yet another Crowley corner, Feeney knocked down. Still looking for his first senior goal, Hudson’s spectacular volley was turned onto bar by Hiemer.
Just after the hour mark, home sub Billy Banda almost capitalised on a Bray defensive error. But McGuinness stood up strong to push the shot out for a corner.
Wanderers hit back in the 63rd minute. Craven’s 22-yard attempt took a wicked deflection off Semi Scott Wara and dropped just wide.
The flag-kick was taken quickly. Butcher wriggled free off the left wing but flashed his drive just wide of the far post.
What was to be the last credible chance of the game arrived in the 65th minute.
Banda sent in a low centre from near the left wing. But Patrick Ferry couldn’t get a touch as the ball rolled across the six-yard area.
Finn Harps: Tim-Oliver Hiemer; Jamie Watson, Semi Scott Wara, Daithi McCallion, Matthew Makinson, Stephen Doherty; Ryan Flood, Daniel Stokoe (Noe Baba 74), Max Hutchison (Caoimhin Porter 86); Sean O’Donnell (Billy Banda 57), Patrick Ferry (Aaron McLaughlin 86).
Subs not used: Keith Cowan, Kevin Jordan, Shane McMonagle, Damian Duffy, Oisin Cooney.
Booked: Stokoe 18, Banda 89, McLaughlin 90 + 2.
Bray Wanderers: Stephen McGuinness; Max Murphy, Jack Hudson, Dane Massey, Len O’Sullivan; Conor Crowley, Harry Groome (Ger Shortt 84), Darren Craven; Nadre Butcher; Chris Lyons (Callum Thompson 70), Ben Feeney.
Subs not used: Luka Lovic, Conor Knight, Guillermo Almirall, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Joseph Power, Zach Donohue, Alex Moody
Booked: Craven 40, Murphy 81.
Referee: Robert Dowling.
Pictures: Joe Boland.