Kevin O’Connor’s superb winner preserves Bray’s Premier League status
Midfielder’s stunning strike pips battling Longford in a thrilling play-off second leg
Bray’s John Mulroy and David Webster celebrate with winning goalscorer Kevin O?Connor (centre). Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Longford Town 2 Brady Wanderers 3
(Bray won 5-4 on aggregate)
Kevin O’Connor scored a brilliant late winner to secure Bray Wanderers’ place in the Premier Division for a tenth successive season on Friday night.
In a thrilling match, O’Connor’s goal was worthy of winning any game when it arrived on 86 minutes.
Longford were fuming at not having got a free kick for a perceived a foul on Keith Quinn when the ball broke to O’Connor. And from some 30 yards out the midfielder let fly with a stunning right-foot shot that flew to the top corner of the net past Chris Bennion, whose saves had kept Longford in the match, particularly in a first half dominated by Bray.
Bray started much the better, stunning the bulk of the 2,749 crowd to take a third minute lead.
Conor Earley’s diagonal free kick from the halfway line fell kindly for midfielder Gary Dempsey who showed superb control on his chest to tee up a delightful right-foot volley that dipped into the back of the net.
Longford might have been level within a minute, but David O’Sullivan was denied by David Webster’s tackle.
Bray remained the better side and Shane O’Connor ought to have doubled their lead, the defender heading wide from Kieran Waters’ corner to the back post.
Bennion remained much the busier goalkeeper, saving with his feet from Webster and then, on 29 minutes, getting down well to parry away a Kevin O’Connor shot.
Longford had perhaps their best chance of the half on 26 minutes, Gary Shaw just failing to get enough purchase on a glancing header from Purdy’s cross.
Longford should have equalised on 47 minutes.
Purdy’s cross saw Quigley into clumsily batting the ball straight to Noel Haverty who somehow sliced wide.
But Longford were level after 57 minutes. Bray captain Daire Doyle inexplicably headed a Purdy cross that looked like it was going wide back into play. Derek O’Brien put over a low cross which Purdy swept calmly to the net off his left foot.
But Bray regained the lead on 73 minutes. The impressive Kevin O’Connor’s ball was flicked on by Jason Byrne for Waters who fired an angled drive low across Bennion to the net.
Longford responded to level again five minutes later with Purdy volleying superbly into the top corner.
But O’Connor’s sublime strike won it for Bray as both teams finished with ten men, Longford’s Haverty and Bray’s Shane O’Connor being sent off late on following a scuffle after a foul on Quigley on his goal line.