Galway United never really showed up on Friday evening in Eamonn Deacy Park, and a Bray Wanderers team that pressed until the very end thoroughly deserved the three points, winning 1-0 in the end.
The first half was a mixed bag to say the least. Great opportunities were presented but neither team were able to capitalise. Galway United’s Jake Keegan was the first to have the supporters gasping, as he took the ball on a magnificent run, driving at the Bray defence before firing his shot just wide of the post with Peter Cherrie in the Bray goal scrambling to get to it.
Bray immediately responded when their striker Chris Lyons dribbled into the box, and with Stephen Walsh trailing him, Lyons was soon on all fours with the Galway United man adjudged to have brought him down. Sean Grant, to the home supporters’ disbelief with most of the impression he was booking the Bray striker for diving, signalled for a penalty. Bray’s midfield play-maker and ex-Salthill Devon player, Graham Kelly, stepped up only to see his shot superbly saved by Connor Winn in the Galway goal.
The link up play between Bray’s Graham Kelly and Lyons was a joy to behold at times, both were always on hand to offer the other a pass and some of the passes from Kelly to set Lyons through on goal were nothing short of exquisite throughout the whole 90 minutes, as they remained a thorn in the side of the Galway defenders.
A game-changing moment occurred in the 20th minute, Ryan Connolly of Galway United was forced to leave the field from an earlier tackle and Sam Oji was brought in as his replacement. Oji slotted himself beside Stephen Walsh in defence and manager Tommy Dunne pushed Galway captain Paul Sinnott into midfield alongside Alex Byrne, both playing in a defensive midfield role.
From that moment on Galway lacked creativity. The game was instantly transformed from a nail-biting end-to-end attacking game to nothing short of boring, with Galway lofting the ball up the field in the hope that young Padraic Cunningham could do something with it.
Poor tactics and poor decision making by Dunne killed the game for the supporters and ultimately cost the Tribesmen three points.
The second half was an all-Bray Wanderers affair as they capitalised on diabolical passing from Galway United players. Lyons made a nuisance of himself with his pace, and with Graham Kelly pulling the strings in midfield, the Galway defenders had their backs to the wall for the majority of the second half bar the odd break.
One of which was a lofted ball from Connor Winn, which found Galway’s Jason Molloy, who found himself unchallenged and unmarked. But, due to what one must assume was a lack of match practice due to injury, he gambled at a long range shot, which ended up well wide and with Cunningham’s head in his hands with the Headford man through on goal and unmarked.
Bray created some fine opportunities in the second half but none as clear cut as that which Chris Lyons presented for his team mate John Sullivan in the 65th minute when his weak shot was cleared off the line by Galway defender Sam Oji.
With the clock ticking and three minutes of added time signalled, as well as Galway having sent the majority of their players up the field in search of a winner, Bray’s captain, David Cassidy, broke on a counter attack, his cross from the right wing landed in the Galway area and with Sam Oji being succumbed by pressure from Lyons he fired the ball into his own net.
There was confusion around the ground, however, when it was seen that the linesman’s flag was raised to signal offside but after a discussion between himself and his assistant, Wexford referee, Grant, overruled his assistant and signalled the goal was to stand, Bray’s pressure had finally paid off. Immediately after the goal Grant blew up and Bray Wanderers deservedly claimed the three points and snatched Galway United’s sixth spot in the Premier Division table.
Bray are now sitting relatively comfortably in sixth and seven points away from that dreaded play-off spot, with a game in hand. Having won four of their last five games, Bray will now take on the champions in the Carlisle Grounds next Friday, and with them brimming with confidence, Mick Cooke will be confident in the ability of his team to take points from Dundalk in their own back yard.
Galway however, despite some impressive performances in the league so far this year, are still in danger of getting dragged into a relegation play-off with only six points separating them from Sligo Rovers and Derry City. They will now hope to amend things when they travel to Richmond Park next Friday night. A team that knocked four past them the last time they met in the league. Dunne can only hope that Galway United playmaker Ryan Connolly will be fit to travel.
Galway United: Connor Winn (GK) Colm Horgan, Paul Sinnott©, Stephen Walsh, Marc Ludden (DEF) David O’Leary (Jason Molloy 66″), Alex Byrne (DM) Gary Shanahan, Ryan Connolly (Sam Oji 21″),(CM) Jake Keegan (ATM) Padraig Cunningham (STK)
Unused substitutes: Ger Hanley (GK), Killian Cantwell, Cormac Raftery, Connor Barry, Enda Curran
Booked: Colm Horgan 93″
Bray Wanderers: Peter Cherrie (GK) Hugh Douglas, Alan McNally, Niall Cooney, Michael Barker (DEF) John Sullivan (DM) David Cassidy©, Graham Kelly, Ryan McEvoy, Adam Hanlon (Gareth McDonagh 66″) (MID) Chris Lyons (STK)
Unused substitutes: Corey Chambers (GK), Adam Wixted, Emeka Onwubiko, Adam Mitchell, David Scully, Daniel O’Reilly
Goalscorer: Sam Oji (OG) 93
Booked: Hugh Douglas 54, Michael Barker 63
Man of the Match: Graham Kelly (Bray Wanderers)
Referee: Sean Grant
P.J Ó Cualáin, Pundit Arena