Dull Harps unsweetly out of tune
SOMETIMES it's sad what can pass for a good day's work at this time of the season. On an afternoon that seemed ideal for a display of entertaining football at the Carlisle Grounds, there was none to be seen.
Finn Harps had more on their minds than giving a couple of hundred spectators a nice afternoon out, there was survival to think about which, unfortunately, as far as they were concerned meant the killing off of this game from just about beginning to end.
Not that they are to be blamed for pursuing their own interests. There will be more appropriate days to turn on the style next year and manager Charlie McGeever feels the club can attract the players they need to do it. Given the fact, however, that Cork's win at Oriel Park guaranteed their safety anyway, it does seem rather a pity that anyone had to sit through this sort of stuff.
Bray's relegation has, of course, been certain for a while, not least because of their dismal form at home in a season which they have repeatedly surrendered points with acts of foolishness in the dying minutes.
Finn Harps, though, were intent on not taking any chances. As McGeever put it afterwards: "We thought it would be stupid to try to take anything more from the game than we actually needed"
Hence there were five at the back (and we're not talking about any of your trendy wing back stuff either), with Dave Decry and Noel Melvin deployed as man-markers on Richie Parsons and Kieran O'Brien. Kieran O'Kane floated fractionally behind the two centre backs.
Containing the two Bray strikers, who have picked up 17 of Bray's 27 league goals between them, seemed sensible enough and, in the enforced absence of Stuart Gauld, the additional cover came in handy more than once. However, it certainly killed off any hopes that James Mulligan might continue his recent run of goalscoring.
The bulk of the game was, in fact, played out between the edge of the Harps area and the halfway line, with Bray struggling to carve their way through the away side's densely-populated defence. It was almost a half an hour before they even went close. Then, when Derek O'Rourke made a fine run from deep inside his own half before slotting the ball through for Graham O'Hanlon, they were penalised for a fractional offside.
At the other end, Jonathan Speak and Mulligan worked hard to find space, but those behind them could rarely made the most of the pair's tireless running. The former Sligo player might have done better with his one clear-cut chance shortly after the break, but on that occasion he headed Trevor Scanlon's cross straight at John Walsh. It was the closest the Bray goalkeeper came to having to make a save.
At the other end, Darren Nash had a similarly leisurely time, but when it seemed that for once the home side might actually pick up some extra points with a late winner, he did well, racing off his line in the 88th minute to gather in front of Mark Devlin.