Shamrock Rovers finally give Bray that winning feeling
Ronan Finn error gifts a goal to Ronan Coughlan to deepen the gloom for Stephen Bradley
Bray Wanderers’ Ger Pender and Daniel Kelly celebrate after victory over Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Bray Wanderers 1 Shamrock Rovers 0
What with Bohemians having won their cup final on Friday night, this had become a little bit of a cup final of his own for Stephen Bradley with the Rovers boss having the look of someone who needed a bounce as he came to Bray. His record at the Carlisle Grounds hadn’t been good before this, though, and this third straight defeat in Bray may well have lost him a few more friends amongst the travelling fans.
There was nothing much between the two sides over the course of the 90 minutes but that would hardly be a line Bradley would want to use in his defence when it is Rovers against the team languishing some way adrift at the foot of the table. The goal, by Rónán Coughlan was the product of a somewhat freakish error but that is scarcely of much consolation.
Had it come out of the blue, it would be one thing but the defeat felt more damaging because, after a run of three losses in four game, it must have seemed like a half decent opportunity to recover a bit of momentum.
The home side were, to be fair, coming into the game on the back of an improved performance against Dundalk but that had still ended in another defeat. With only one point to show for their nine games since the opening weekend of the season, things could hardly have been bleaker for Bray of late, a fact reflected in the attendance, with just 645 coming out to see this, down from 820 at the weekend; notionally two of the club’s more attractive home games.
Despite the losing on Friday, the two managers made just one change of personnel between them with Bradley starting Joel Coustrain on the right, switching Brandon Miele from one flank to the other and dropping Sean Kavanagh to left back. It was not exactly radical surgery and Rovers seemed to carry on much where they had left off at the weekend.
The conditions can’t have helped with one side over-hitting just about everything they lifted above knee height through the first half and the other getting caught time after time as the ball hung in the air for what seemed like an age then dropped dead.
Neither, in any case, seemed entirely capable of getting on top of things to start with although the visitors eventually began to show a bit of purpose towards the very end of the first half when Coustrain set off down the wing with a bit of intent and produced a cross that forced Conor Kenna into an important interception at his near post.
From the resulting corner Ethan Boyle went pretty close with a glancing header. That, though, really was as good as it got for the Dublin club through those opening 45 minutes with Graham Burke’s earlier couple of long range efforts only serving to underline why his strike a few weeks back against Waterford seemed so special.
Bray hadn’t created an awful lot themselves, though, and the most worrying aspect of the whole thing from Bradley’s perspective was the fact that his side were becoming embroiled in a close quarters scrap that they showed no particular ability to dominate.
None of their more creative players showed signs of conjuring up anything special and they weren’t physically imposing themselves on a side that clearly sensed they could get something against opponents who had taken just three points from 15 on the road so far this season.
And yet the goal still came more or less out of the blue with Ronan Finn inadvertently playing Coughlan in on his own goal as he misplaced what should have been a harmless enough pass to Ally Gilchrist.
Coughlan, as it happens, had a spell on trial with Rovers last summer and seems to have expected to be signed in January before growing impatient over the lack of a firm offer.
Letting him go obviously looked like a mistake as he coolly slipped the ball past Kevin Horgan in the 53rd minute; less so a few moments later as Wanderers broke three on two, he had options to both sides but hopelessly underhit his attempt to send Cory Galvin clear.
As Rovers tried to capitalise on that minor stroke of good fortune and chased an equaliser, Bradley going two up front then three at the back at the minutes slipped by. He replaced one of the success stories of the season so far, Sean Kavanagh, with Brandon Kavanagh, a 17 year-old making his league debut and there was, at least, a detectable sense of urgency through the closing stages as they they pushed relentlessly towards the Bray box.
Dan Carr was sent off, though, for a daft second yellow and Bray finally looked to be in their element as they dug in deep. Burke went close with a 20 metre effort as the game moved into injury time but it flew just over and time ran out soon after.
BRAY WANDERERS: Dillon; McKenna, Douglas, Kenna, Lunch; O’Conor, Gorman; Coughlan (Pender, 73 mins) , McCabe, Galvin (J Kelly, 89 mins); Greene (D Kelly, 26 mins). SHAMROCK ROVERS: Horgan; Boyle, Grace, Gilchrist, S Kavanagh (B Kavanagh, 73 mins); Bolger, Finn; Coustrain (Shaw, 55 mins), Burke, Miele; Carr.
Referee: T Connolly (Dublin).