Ryan Brennan’s third goal of the season proved to be the winner as Drogheda United picked up an unconvincing first victory of the season with a 2-1 win over Bray at a freezing Hunky Dorys Park.
The Seagulls looked to be on course for a shock win when Jason Byrne fired them into a 15th-minute lead, but second-half goals from Eric Foley and then the younger of the Brennan brothers turned Drogheda’s fortunes around.
The home side made all the early running and inside three minutes Ryan Brennan saw his deflected shot turned round the post by Darren Quigley.
Two minutes later Ryan Brennan intercepted a pass by David Wester and his attempted chip over the stranded Quigley was brilliantly clawed away by the keeper.
Quigley then dived to his left to keep out an Eric Foley free-kick and Drogheda had a David Cassidy goal ruled out for offside before they were stunned in the 15th minute by a lead goal for Bray.
Paul O’Conor lost the ball in midfield to Dean Zambra who released Jason Byrne and the veteran striker’s 25-yard strike caught out Gabriel Sava who allowed the ball to slip past his out-stretched right hand and into the corner of the net.
The goal brought no change to the pattern of play, though, as Drogheda continued to boss the game, andn on 25 minutes they should have been level when Cassidy was tripped from behind by Gary Dempsey as he attempted to rifle home a rebound from another Quigley save.
Referee Tom Connolly pointed to the spot but Declan O’Brien’s fiercely driven penalty was saved by the feet of Quigley.
Quigley then saved further shots from Foley, O’Conor and Cassidy and the visitors managed to hold out until half-time.
Drogheda nearly found themselves two goals down straight after the restart when Byrne raced clear of a static home defence, only to dink the ball wide with only Sava to beat.
It proved a costly miss by Byrne, for the Drogs hauled themselves level on 55 minutes when Eoin Hyland was penalised for what looked like a deliberate hand-ball to prevent Cassidy’s pass reaching Gavin Brennan in an advanced position.
Foley lined up the free kick 20 yards out and curled a superb effort beyond Quigley.
Bray almost responded immediately as Kieran Marty Waters shot was deflected behind, and from the resulting corner Byrne’s header was clutched on the line by Sava.
After that Drogheda struggled to create clear-cut opportunities, but on 78 minutes they made the vital breakthrough when Shane Grimes’ cross from the left was nodded in from close range by Ryan Brennan.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley, Alan Byrne, Brian Gannon, Shane Grimes; Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy (Graham Rusk 71), Paul O’Conor, Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Eoin Hyland (Daire Doyle 61), Danny O’Connor, David Webster, Kevin Knight; Kieran Marty Waters, Kevin O’Connor, Gary Dempsey, Dean Zambra, Conor Earley (John Mulroy 70); Jason Byrne (Shane O’Neill 78).
Referee: Tom Connolly (Dublin).