By Glenn Mason at the Carlisle Grounds
Jason Byrne scored an injury-time winner to complete his hat-trick as Bray Wanderers beat nine-man Drogheda United 3-2 at the Carlisle Grounds.
Declan O’Brien’s two goals looked to have earned the visitors a deserved point, only for Byrne to grab the victory with virtually the last kick of the game.
It was tough luck on Drogheda who had goalkeeper Gabriel Sava sent off on the half-hour mark when he handled outside the box and then David Cassidy was dismissed in the build-up to Byrne’s winner.
Byrne had fired Bray into the lead on ten minutes after John Mulroy picked out the veteran striker in space. The first-time shot flew past Sava at the near post.
Drogheda, who had started brightly, were not behind for long, as poor Bray defending gifted Mick Cooke’s side an equaliser.
The home defence misjudged Sava’s long clearance and O’Brien pounced to place the bouncing ball over Darren Quigley into the top corner.
Drogheda were reduced to ten men on the half-hour mark when Sava was sent off for handling Kieran Marty Waters’s attempted lob outside the area.
Cooke was forced to reorganise and striker Peter Hynes was withdrawn for substitute goalkeeper Michael Schlingermann.
A mix-up in the Drogheda defence saw Alan Byrne almost head into his own net as Schlingermann came rushing from goal.
Schlingermann looked more assured on the stroke of half-time when he dived to keep out Byrne’s header.
Drogheda were caught out after the restart as Bray retook the lead just 16 seconds in the second half. Waters cut the ball back for the unmarked Byrne to tap home his second of the night.
O’Brien brought Drogheda level for second time as he tapped in Gavin Brennan’s low cross after the winger had weaved his way into space on the left.
Bray had the better of the scrappy late exchanges with Byrne wasting a late chance for his hat-trick when he failed to capitalise on Michael Daly’s poor backpass by skewing his shot wide.
In a dramatic finale, Cassidy was adjudged to have hauled down Waters on the break, which resulted in his second yellow card of the evening.
Bray substitute Kevin Knight wiped the resulting free-kick in the box where it was headed goalwards by Shane O’Connor.
Schlingermann brilliantly tipped the header on to a post, but was helpless as Byrne smashed the rebound into the net.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Daire Doyle, David Webster, Shane O’Connor, Conor Earley; Ismahil Akinade, Gary Dempsey, Dean Zambra, John Mulroy (Kevin Knight 80), Kieran Marty Waters; Jason Byrne.
Subs not used: Danny O’Connor, Peter Thomas, Ger Pender, Sean Hurley, Adam Cox, Sean Holmes.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Michael Daly, Alan McNally, Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes; Ryan Brennan, Paul O’Conor, David Cassidy, Gavin Brennan (Jason Marks 80); Peter Hynes (Michael Schlingermann 30), Declan O’Brien.
Subs not used: Stephen Quigley, Philip Hand, Cathal Brady, Graham Rusk, Dean Gaynor.
Booked: Daly, McNally, Cassidy.
Sent-off: Sava, Cassidy.