A five-goal thriller at the City Calling Stadium saw Bray Wanderers edge out Longford Town 3-2 (5-4 on agg) to maintain their place in the Airtricity League Premier Division.
Bray led twice through Gary Dempsey and Kieran "Marty" Waters with Daniel Purdy responding with a brace of well-taken goals for Longford before a crowd of 2,749 at the City Calling Stadium.
In a match that bettered the thrilling 2-2 draw of the first leg at the Carlisle Grounds last Monday, Kevin O’Connor’s strike was worthy of winning any match when it arrived on 86 minutes.
Longford were fuming at not having got a free kick for a perceived a foul on Keith Quinn when the ball broke to O’Connor.
And from some 30 yards out the midfielder let fly with a stunning right-foot shot that flew to the top corner of the net past Chris Bennion, whose saves had kept Longford in the match, particularly in the first half.
In a repeat of the first leg, Bray started much the better, stunning the bulk of the crowd to take a third minute lead.
Conor Earley’s diagonal free kick from the halfway line was a little too high for its intended target, Ismahil Akinade. The ball, however, dropped kindly for midfielder Dempsey who showed superb control on his chest to tee up a delightful right-foot volley that dipped into the back of the net.
But for some fine defending, Longford might have been level within a minute. Purdy put David O’Sullivan in over the top with David Webster getting back diligently to do enough to snuff out the danger.
Bray remained the better side in the early exchanges, though, as Bennion got a finger-tip to turn a fiercely struck drive from Webster round a post. Minutes later, Shane O’Connor ought to have doubled Bray’s lead, the defender somehow contriving to head wide having arrived onto Waters’ corner to the back post.
O’Sullivan had a drive deflected for a corner while Gavin Doyle’s shot from the edge of the area scarcely worked Darren Quigley as Longford tried to rouse their support.
The crowd were kept muted, though, as the real chances continued to come at the other end.
Bennion remained much the busier goalkeeper, saving with his feet from Webster after his defenders failed to clear a free kick in from the left and then, on 29 minutes, getting down well to parry away a Kevin O’Connor shot.
In between, Longford had perhaps their best chance of the half on 26 minutes, Gary Shaw just failing to get enough purchase on a glancing header from Purdy’s cross which flashed wide of Quigley’s right-hand post.
But, just as they’d started, Bray finished the half on the attack, Bennion once again called into action to tip over his bar from Waters’ rising shot.
Longford needed a positive start to the second half and they really should have got in two minutes in. Purdy did well on the left to cross and force Quigley into clumsily batting the ball straight to Noel Haverty who somehow sliced wide with the goal at his mercy.
Bennion deprived Kevin O’Connor from close range to add to his list of stops on the night on 52 minutes. This one proving perhaps his most telling as Longford were level five minutes later.
Bray captain Daire Doyle inexplicably headed a Purdy cross that looked like it was going wide back into play. Derek O’Brien retrieved the ball to put over a low cross which Purdy swept calmly to the net off his left foot.
That undoubtedly lifted Longford. But their first decent spell of possession on the night was soon dampened when Bray regained the lead on 73 minutes.
The impressive Kevin O’Connor’s ball was flicked on by Jason Byrne for Waters who fired an angled drive low across Bennion to the net.
Longford responded to level again five minutes later with Purdy scoring a terrific second goal of the night with a volley to the top corner.
But O’Connor’s sublime strike won it for Bray, the drama added to in stoppage time as both sides finished with ten men when Longford’s Haverty and Shane O’Connor of Bray were sent off following a scuffle after a foul on Quigley on his goal line.
Longford Town: Chris Bennion; Noel Haverty, Chris Deans, Rhys Gorman, Keith Quinn; Daniel Purdy, Ryan Connolly, Gavin Doyle (Willie Tyrell, 64), Derek O‘Brien (Josh O‘Hanlon, 64); Gary Shaw (David O‘Neill, 84), David O’Sullivan.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Daire Doyle, David Webster, Shane O’Connor, Conor Earley; Gary Dempsey, Kevin Maher (John Mulroy, 72), Kevin O’Connor, Kieran "Marty" Waters; Ismahil Akinade; Jason Byrne (Adam Mitchell, 90+5).
Referee: Derek Tomney (Dublin).