Wexford FC 1 Bray Wanderers 1
It was a case of what might have been as Bray had to settle for a share of the SSE Airtricity League First Division points.
The Wicklow side squandered a series of guilt edged chances on Friday against Wexford – especially in the opening period.
Against the run of play at Ferrycarrig Park, the Slaneysiders took an undeserved lead midway through the second half.
But to their credit, Wanderers rallied to draw level. Then failed to make the most of a litany of further chances to take all three points their play deserved.
From the team that had gone down 3-0 at home at the Carlisle Grounds last Monday to Treaty United, the visitors made four changes.
Defender Eoin Farrell came back in after a spell on the side-lines. Midfielder Luka Lovic returned in the middle of the park while Ben Feeney was reinstated in attack after a foot problem.
First team coach Lorcan Fitzgerald was handed his full league debut in the centre of the away defence.
The Purple and Gold side went into the tie after a 1-0 success over Waterford. They started well with Aaron Dobbs heading just wide after two minutes.
Wanderers took control after that. Guillermo Almirall threaded a through ball for Feeney to beat the offside. But his low attempt was stopped by Charlie Heffernan in a one-on-one.
After Ethan Boyle headed wide of the target on 16, the Seasiders spurned a glorious chance to break the dead-lock three minutes.
Harry Groome’s exquisite pass released Feeney behind the home rear-guard. He took the ball past the advancing goalkeeper. But with the goal at his mercy and defenders trying to get back, the striker curled wide from off the right channel just outside the box.
Feeney almost turned provider on 34. His lofted cross from the right flank picked out Conor Davis between two defenders. But his glancing header dropped agonisingly wide of the far upright.
Davis then pounced on a poor Ben Lynch back pass on 40, But the forward was unable to squeeze the ball past Heffernan who stood up strong.
The hosts had the last say of the opening period. Conor Levingston’s 25-yard drive was pushed out by Alex Moody with Fitzgerald then clearing.
Against the run of play, the South-East outfit took a 63rd minute lead.
Substitute Darragh Livingston whipped in a corner from the left right footed. It was headed on at the near post with Bray not clearing at the back stick. The ball dropped to sub Matthew Dunne who sweep in a low close range half volley.
After a massive shout for a penalty when Darren Craven went down inside the area on 71 was waved away, yet another opportunity went abegging in the 73rd minute. Feeney’s shot was kept out by Heffernan with Craven unable to make the most of the follow up.
But Bray showed character and went back on level terms in the 74th minute.
Substitute Joe Power’s corner came back to him. He beat two players wide right to send in a low cross which Heffernan clawed out. Both Harry Groome and Feeney had shots blocked.
The clearance only came to Dane Massey who drilled through a crowded goalmouth from 15-yards.
The next opportunity came in the 87th minute. Groome’s effort from the edge of the box was pushed out by Heffernan who reacted to then keep out sub Ger Shortt’s rebound.
The Seagulls went close – yet again – on 88. This time, Feeney set up sub Callum Thompson. He showed good footwork to dig out a low shot that Heffernan tipped out for a corner.
U19 defender Leon Ajala made his league debut for the Green and White’s with 16 minutes to go.
Four minutes deep into stoppage time, he almost became an unlikely hero as Power’s corner fell to him. But the young defender shot low and wide.
Wexford FC: Noel (Charlie) Heffernan; Reece Webb, Hugh Douglas (Matthew Dunne half time), Ethan Boyle, Ben Lynch; Conor Levingston (Darragh Levingston 60); Karl Chambers (Danny Furlong half time), Brandon McCann, Corban Piper, Kian Corbally; Aaron Dobbs (Jordan Adeyemo 67).
Subs not used: Sean Fitzpatrick, Kaylem Harnett, Jordan Tallon, Aaron Doran, Colm Cox.
Booked: Chambers 25, Corbally 58, Boyle 75.
Bray Wanderers: Alex Moody; Eoin Farrell (Leon Ajala 80), Jack Hudson, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Dane Massey; Harry Groome, Luka Lovic, Darren Craven (Callum Thompson 80), Guillermo Almirall (Joe Power 60); Conor Davis (Ger Shortt 60), Ben Feeney,
Subs not used: David Webster, Conor Knight, Ben Clarke, Daniel Chukwu, Stephen McGuinness.
Booked: Davis 26, Fitzgerald 86.
Referee: Gavin Colfer (Wicklow).
Pictures: Gerry Scully.