by Robert O'Reilly
Nine man Bray Wanderers moved a point closer to guaranteeing their Premier Division status as they drew 1-1 with Drogheda United in a heated contest at United Park.
Adam Hanlon gave the visitors the lead shortly after the hour mark with a fine strike only for substitute Paul Andrews to level for the home side before Ismihal Akinade and Shane O’Connor were dismissed late on for the Seagulls.
Neither side were able to get a hold of the game early on but Bray came closest to opening the scoring with a quarter of an hour played as Graham Kelly’s powerful free kick from 25 yards deflected off Adam Wixted in the Drogheda wall but bounced narrowly beyond the far post.
Drogheda registered their first effort on target soon after as Mick Daly connected with Gavan Holohan’s corner but the midfielder was denied by a point blank save from Bray stopper Stephen McGuiness.
The visitors then wasted a clear cut chance on the half hour mark as Niall Cooney’s deep cross from the right found the unmarked Graham Kelly but the striker was unable to hit the target from 6 yards as the sides went in at the break scoreless.
The Seagulls started the second period in the ascendancy again as Akinade was profligate on more than once occasion. Firstly, the striker failed to keep his volley on target when picked out at the back post by Jake Kelly and the striker failed to work Michéal Schlingermann later on when played through by David Cassidy.
Bray were eventually rewarded for their dominance on 62 minutes when Hanlon picked up the ball on the halfway line and exchanged passes with Akinade before dribbling past Ciaran McGuigan to fire high into the roof of the net.
Their lead was to only last ten minutes as Drogheda manager Damien Richardson introduced defender Paul Andrews as a striker and the substitute scored after a couple of minutes as he prodded Daire Doyle’s cross beyond McGuinness.
Alan Mathews’ side were reduced to ten men on 79 minutes as Akinade was adjudged to have deliberately caught Gavin Brennan with a flailing arm and it went from bad to worse as Shane O’Connor was dismissed three minutes later for a high challenge on goal scorer Andrews.
The Boynesiders almost scraped a winner late on but McGuinness was once again equal to Declan O’Brien’s header much to the frustration of the home crowd as Bray move four points clear of the relegation/promotion playoff position.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be looking to continue their upsurge in form when they play relegation threatened Bray Wanderers at United Park, kick-off 7.45pm.
Following Cup heartbreak at the hands of Derry City in the FAI Cup quarter-final replay, the Drogs returned to league action in impressive fashion on Saturday as they recorded a 2-0 win against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds.
Declan O’Brien opened the scoring with his 12th goal of the season while a second half strike from Stephen Maher sealed what Drogheda manager Damien Richardson hails as the biggest win of his tenure to date.
“The victory in Sligo was the pinnacle of my time here so far,” Richardson declared on Thursday. “Except for Gary O’Neill and Cathal Brady, it was the first time that I had a virtually fully fit squad to choose from and it showed in our performance. It was a very impressive display and we should have won by more but tomorrow night will pose a different test. We need to be as assured at home as we are in our away games against what will be a strong Bray Wanderers side.”
Drogheda have risen up the table since the change in management during the midseason break as the combination of Richardson and his assistant Darius Kierans have amassed a total of 20 points from 30 available. Currently sitting in seventh place in the table, the former Cork City manager is now eyeing up a top five finish to complete a remarkable turnaround for the Boynesiders.
“I was confident when I took the job that the team would make progress but to make so much in such a short space of time has surprised me. That was encapsulated in the performance last Saturday which was deeply satisfying to watch. I then challenged the players afterwards to overtake Sligo in the league table. The gap is only four points and that is an achievable target for the group. The team is playing very well at the moment and long may that continue. “
United have suspension worries again this Friday as both Shane Grimes and Peter McGlynn have received additional bans following their dismissals in the FAI Cup home tie against Derry. Grimes has an extra match to serve while McGlynn has been handed a further two game ban. Garreth Brady will also be missing through suspension while Gary O’Neill is rated as doubtful and Cathal Brady looks set to miss out again with a hamstring injury.
Bray were the first side to defeat Drogheda this season as they ran out 2-0 winners at United Park back in April but goals from Gavin Brennan, Gavan Holohan and Cathal Brady guaranteed a 3-1 victory at the Carlisle Grounds in the reverse fixture and the Drogheda manager has emphasised the importance of his side matching the endeavour of the hardworking Seagulls.
“I must say that I think Bray will stay up but it is never easy playing a side with such a huge incentive. It is vital that we match their intensity and desire from the start. We were in their position a few weeks ago and I know that Bray will do their utmost to achieve what we have so we must respect that. The key to a positive result tomorrow night will be determination and honesty.”
Ciarán McGuigan ©
Stephen Maher (Carl Walshe 65’)
Declan O’Brien (Paul Andrews 70’)
Graham Kelly (David Scully 80’)
Paul Andrews 74’
Adam Hanlon 62’
Gavan Holohan (yellow) 77’
Paul Andrews (yellow) 88’
Gavin Brennan (yellow) 90 + 1’
Ismahil Akinade (red) 78’
Shane O’Connor (red) 82’
David Webster (yellow) 88’