by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United made it five wins on the bounce in all competitions as they defeated a spirited Bray Wanderers side by two goals to nil at Hunky Dorys Park.
Gavin Brennan opened the scoring against the run of play with eight minutes remaining and substitute Gary O’Neill sealed the three points with virtually the last kick of the game to resign the Seasiders to the bottom of the table.
Drogheda manager Mick Cooke made one change from last week’s FAI Cup victory over Longford Town as Peter Hynes replaced the suspended Declan O’Brien with Alan Byrne keeping his place in the team ahead of Alan McNally.
As for the Seagulls, they named an unchanged eleven from the side that was knocked out of the FAI Cup by St. Patrick’s Athletic as manager Keith Long kept faith in the front two of Jason Byrne and John Mulroy.
In a first half of few chances, David Cassidy stung the palms of Darren Quigley on five minutes as his volley from a wayward David Webster header was well saved by the Bray net minder.
Plenty of Bray pressure ensued but they will be disappointed that they didn’t test Micheál Schlingermann in the Drogheda goal.
Indeed, United really should have broken the deadlock as with a half an hour played, Ryan Brennan’s clever pass released Cathal Brady down the right but a heavy first touch presented Quigley with an opportunity to close the winger down before he could shoot.
A stunning save from Schlingermann denied Wanderers from taking the lead shortly after the interval as a cross from the right by Dean Zambra was met by the head of Kevin O’Connor only for the Drogheda keeper to parry the ball away from goal.
The home side responded well to almost going behind and an excellent backheel from Peter Hynes sent Brady through but he was once again frustrated by the impressive Quigley.
In an end to end encounter, Bray squandered another terrific chance as a deep cross to the backpost was won by Gary Dempsey and his header fell kindly to Jason Byrne but the striker fluffed his shot from six yards into the ground and Alan Byrne cleared off the line.
The Seagulls were denied yet again on 70 minutes as Shane Grimes diverted Kevin O’Connor’s shot narrowly wide as the drogs hung on.
It was against the run of play that the deadlock was finally broken. A deep in swinging cross from the right by Grimes was acrobatically fired into the bottom corner of the net by Gavin Brennan, the winger’s third goal in his last five games.
Drogheda should have wrapped up the points with five minutes left to play as a quickly taken thrown in from Gavin Brennan released his brother Ryan but he skied his effort with only Quigley to beat.
David Webster was sent off in additional time for Wanderers as he took down Gary O’Neill as the striker closed in on goal.
The resulting free kick was sent into the corner as United looked to close out the game only for Eric Foley to pick out O’Neill who finished past Quigley at the near post.
A fourth home win of the season sees United close the gap on sixth place Cork City to three points ahead of Tuesday’s game in hand against Sligo Rovers.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be looking to make it five consecutive wins in all competitions as they take on Bray Wanderers in the Airtricity League at Hunky Dorys Park, kick off 7.45pm.
United will be without record goal scorer Declan O’Brien as he serves a one match suspension having accumulated four yellow cards this season while Graham Rusk remains sidelined with an injury.
A victory over Bray could see the Louth side leapfrog Cork City into sixth ahead of a game in hand to be played against Sligo Rovers on Tuesday.
Former Drogheda defender Stephen Quigley is set to make his first return to Hunky Dorys Park having departed the club in the summer while Daire Doyle and Eoin Hyland are both injury doubts.
The Seagulls are rock bottom of the league on goal difference having not won in nine games as Keith Long’s side crashed out of the FAI Cup last week at the hands of St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Both sides have recorded a victory against the other this season with Drogheda winning 2-1 back in March courtesy of a late Ryan Brennan header while Bray defeated a nine man United side 3-2 in May.
Friday’s game will mark the 51st meeting between the two sides with the Boynesiders edging the head to head record with 21 wins.
Speaking ahead of the game, United manager Mick Cooke was eager to take advantage of his sides good run of form and heap further misery on the seasiders.
“The lads are looking forward to getting back to playing at home, I think we have only played there twice in the last couple of weeks. We will be hoping to keep up our good form on the road.
“The game against Longford was tough, but the lads showed great character to get back into it and we ground out a result which is all that matters.
“Bray are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table and it won’t be easy, I watched them on Friday night against St Pats and I thought they were very unlucky, they created as many chances as Pats did, they just didn’t take them.
“We have had some good games with Bray this season, we both like to play football and Pat Devlin always has his side primed for whomever they are playing. “
Michael Daly (Phillip Hand 26’)
Cathal Brady (Eric Foley 91’)
Peter Hynes (Gary O’Neill 71’)
Gary Dempsey (Kevin Maher 74’)
Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters
Jason Byrne (Ishmahil Akinade 81’)
Gavin Brennan 82’
Gary O’Neill 90’