Waterford FC 1 Bray Wanderers 0
Just a single goal separated the sides as Bray looked to bounce back from last week’s defeat against Cork while the Seagulls continued their tricky opening against the division’s three full time clubs.
With a wind blowing in their favour – Waterford started out on top at the RSC on Friday evening, but struggled to break down the visitors’ tight banks of four. The Blues also benefited from a strong home support with a 2,372 in attendance.
The return of Conor Clifford from suspension adding some experience in the away midfield – with Michael Kelly, Jack Hudson and Conor Knight handed full debuts.
The Blues looked threatening with wingers Juinor Quitirna and Phoenix Patterson causing trouble for the Seagulls defence. On 15 minutes, Bray were lucky to have the experience and positional sense of Dan Blackbyrne in the side when his goal line clearance stopped Yassine En-Neyah having a simple tap in.
Waterford were also capable of playing route one football to capitalise on the wind. On 16, Louis Britton skied over the bar with just Kelly to beat. Then six minutes later, Brian Murphy’s long ball was collected by Britton after a slip saw Hugh Douglas lose his footing. Kelly charged off his line to deflect from the striker’s feet before Douglas recovered and hooked the ball clear.
Britton didn’t need a third invitation to beat Kelly as he opened the scoring on 27 minutes. A quick free kick from inside their own half released Richard Taylor down the left wing. His low cross was sent into the night sky by Douglas before landing at the feet of Britton who held off Hudson and provided the killer blow past a helpless Kelly.
With half an hour gone, the Seasiders finally got a foothold in the contest as Clifford dropped deeper to get more involved in the game. On 37 minutes, Keith Dalton cut in from the left flank and his ball just evaded a stretching Rob Manley. Just before the half ended, Blackbyrne launched a mazy solo run before setting himself to shoot but just could not keep his effort on target.
The wind helped to push the Wicklow men further up the pitch in the second period. On 56 minutes, Dalton once again linked up with Manley, the striker’s effort from distance was parried by Murphy – and just cleared by Eddie Nolan before Conor Knight could finish.
Both teams pushed to find the net again with Waterford creating the best chance on 72 minutes after Quitirna’s free kick was flicked on in the box to find Nolan with a free header, but the captain’s effort went wide. The contest settled into a cagey affair with neither side able to eke out chances. Bray launched a final salvo in the dying minutes with successive corners. The presence of Kelly in the box wasn’t enough to get the ball home as referee Mark Moynihan’s whistle ended the match as soon as the ball left the box.
The Wanderers can take heart from a much more solid performance against a team hotly tipped to go straight back to the Premier Division. Pat Devlin’s side now face a week off to work out a way to get past Galway who will come to the Carlisle Grounds on March 11th seeking revenge for last season’s play-off defeat.
WATERFORD FC: Brian Murphy, Darragh Power, Eddie Nolan, Kevin Joshua, Richard Taylor, Shane Griffin, Anthony Wordsworth, Yassine En-Neyah (Roland Idowu ’62), Junior Quitirna (Niall O’Keeffe ’82), Louis Britton (Cian Kavanagh ’62), Phoenix Patterson.
Booked: Yassine En-Neyah ‘25
BRAY WANDERERS: Michael Kelly, Hugh Douglas, Kevin Dalton (Dean Casey ’89), Daniel Blackbyrne (Karl Manahan ’64), Conor Knight (Callum Thompson ’67), Jack Hudson, Paul Fox, Conor Clifford, Dean Zambra, Kurtis Byrne (Darragh Lynch ’89), Rob Manley.
Booked: Daniel Blackbyrne ‘35
Referee: Mark Moynihan (Dublin).
Report by Kevin Dooney.