Drogheda United 4-2 Bray Wanderers
Three goals in the space of 12 second-half minutes proved decisive as Drogheda piled more misery on managerless Bray in this SSE Airtricity League clash at United Park.
The Seagulls actually struck first with a close-range shot by Chris Lyons after only nine minutes in an evenly contested first half, but it all changed after the break as Sean Brennan fired in the equaliser on 46 minutes and Michael Daly and Daryl Kavanagh netted with headers on 55 and 58 from corner kicks.
Peter McGlynn pulled a goal back on 69 minutes with yet another header, but three minutes from time Tiarnan Mulvenna settled it.
Trevor Croly is rumoured to be taking the helm at the Carlisle Grounds next week, but for this game David Cassidy acted as caretaker player manager and James Quinn – who was assistant to interim manager Maciej Tarnogrodski, who quit on Thursday – was in charge in the dugout.
United Park passed two pitch inspections and rain was still falling steadily at kick-off time, but both sides made every effort to keep the ball on the ground.
Drogheda made the early running and Stephen McGuinness in the Bray goal diverted a Kavanagh hook shot round the post after barely a minute before holding onto a close-range header from the same player.
However, it was the Seagulls who grabbed a shock lead goal in the ninth minute when the home side failed to defend a corner kick and the ball flicked off the head of Douglas towards Lyons who drove a low, diagonal shot just inside the post.
After that Bray seemed happy to invite Drogheda on and rely on the occasional counter-attack, and that approach almost paid handsome dividends on 32 minutes when Lyons teed up Peter McGlynn who side-footed over the crossbar from 15 yards.
The Boynesiders immediately replied with a Mark Hughes snap shot which was held at the second attempt by McGuinness, but it took a last-ditch block by Drogs centre-back Joe Gorman to deny Lyons a second goal from Bray’s next attack.
Jason Marks went close with a dipping 25-yard free kick for Drogheda and just before half-time Bray right-back Niall Cooney rescued the visitors with a crucial clearance as Hughes threatened to latch onto a rebound following McGuinness’ save from Sean Brennan.
But after what must have been a half-time rollicking from their manager, the Boynesiders levelled 50 seconds after the restart, Brennan steering the ball home from close range following a pinpoint Lee Duffy cross.
Bray were fortunate not to fall behind on 53 minutes when Hughes and Carl Walshe combined to tee up Duffy who angled the ball wide from just outside the six-yard box.
But the Boynesiders did grab the lead on 55 minutes when Marks swung in a corner from the right and skipper Michael Daly arrived with a thundering header high into the net.
Worse was to follow for Bray just two minutes later when Alan Byrne nodded another Marks corner goalwards and Kavanagh arrived at the back post to nod the ball over the line for 3-1.
You wouldn’t have fancied Bray coming back from that triple blow, but after Douglas had sent a looping header onto the Drogheda crossbar, former Drog McGlynn headed home a Ryan McEvoy corner on 69 minutes to halve the deficit.
The home side became a little nervy after that and Bray should have levelled at 3-3 with six minutes left when Cassidy launched a free kick into the six-yard area and the ball reached substitute David Scully who could only deflect it wide with his shoulder.
It was a costly miss, for with three minutes left Carl Walshe made a darting run into the box and crossed the ball back in to leave substitute Tiarnan Mulvenna with a simple tap-in.
Drogheda United: Micheal Schlingermann; Michael Daly, Alan Byrne, Joe Gorman, Jason Marks; Lee Duffy, Mark Hughes (Robert O’Reilly 90 +1), Stephen Maher (Shane Dunne 37), Carl Walshe; Sean Brennan (Tiarnan Mulvenna 80); Daryl Kavanagh. Subs not used: Cathal Brady, Lloyd Buckley, Sam McGowan, Evin Farrell.
Bray Wanderers: Stephen McGuinness; Michael Barker, Alan McNally, Hugh Douglas, Niall Cooney; David Cassidy, Ryan McEvoy (David Scully 78), Graham Kelly, Peter McGlynn; Adam Hanlon, Chris Lyons (Emeka Omwubiko 72). Subs not used:Daniel O’Reilly, Adam Mitchell, Luke Gallagher, Gareth McDonagh, Brian Kane.
Referee: Ray Matthews (Westmeath).