Wanderers not ready to call it a day

 

A FORLORN hope it may be, but Bray Wanderers are clinging to their Premier Division status like a terrier to a bone. By plundering two goals inside a minute early in the second half, Wanderers secured their first back to back wins of the campaign and moved to within 10 points of Dundalk, over whom they have a game in hand.

Bray, now more secure at the back, particularly at set pieces, deserved their win over a UCD side which had begun to think of qualification for Europe after their characteristic, last third improvement. To subdue the students was no mean achievement, even if the slightly off colour UCD offered up one of their limp away performances.

Earlier in the season Bray were scoring freely but leaking like a sieve at the back amid constant reshuffling latterly, they have a settled side and particularly a sound defence, in which confidence now emanates from goalkeeper John Walsh.

Walsh kept UCD and, particularly, a lively Jason Sherlock at bay with some good saves, and then stymied a threatened comeback by keeping out an Andy Myler free. To cap it all, he saved a last minute penalty from Myler.

Despite a high bouncing ball on a hardish surface, it was a decent enough game which ebbed and flowed without being compelling. Both sides Were positive from the outset, and chances came regularly enough.

Having been finely balanced, it was a bit like a boxing contest which lacked a big punch, until two swift blows suddenly ended it all. Just like that.

Ironically, UCD were victims of the defensive improvement in Bray brought about by their former team mate Jody Lynch, hard and all as he had to work to stifle Sherlock. The latter has hit some good form of late, and gave note of this when he latched onto Jason Colwell's early through ball inside a minute to test Walsh with a leftfooter.

Encouraged by that, UCD possibly overdid the early balls over the top for Sherlock thereafter, and Lynch and Bo McKeever were wise to them. On the flanks, where Pat O'Brien impressed, Bray were far more potent.

Pat O'Brien should have scored after six minutes when he intercepted Tony McDonnell's attempted square pass, but Seamus Kelly declined to rush out, stayed on his feet, and O'Brien shot at the UCD goalkeeper's legs.

O'Brien, running from deep, set up Richie Parsons for a miss hit shot which turned into a dangerous low cross to the far post Kieran O'Brien stretched to hit the outside of the post before Don Tierney directed an overhead kick wide.

With Jason Colwell becoming the most influential midfielder, and the skilful Myler sometimes holding the ball up well, UCD began to move up a gear, if not at Formula One speed. Robert Griffin and Eoin Bennis came inside to shoot wide, before Sherlock dispossessed Lynch, only for Walsh to save the low, left footer smartly to his left.

Seven minutes after the break came Bray's double whammy. A corner again proved UCD's Achilles heel. Tierney swung the ball in from the right, Alan Smith's header was deflected against an upright and Lynch headed home the rebound.

Rocked by that, UCD hesitated fatally as Smith promptly beat McDonnell to play in Parsons; his low drive rebounded from the butt of an upright and Pat O'Brien converted the rebound.

But Bray have lost more leads more than a dog owner this season. Out of step with the match, they began to get over physical as UCD again cranked up the gears after reshuffling to 4-3-3 and making three substitutions.

"We can still stay up," maintained the indomitable Pat Devlin.