Bray pay the penalty as Parkhouse nets winner
Bray Wanderers 0, Finn Harps 1: The drive home to Donegal will have been a very short one in the minds of all associated with Finn Harps as they took a massive step towards safety with this deserved win thanks to a Stephen Parkhouse penalty.
In a match of two halves the first was boring to say the least but there was plenty of drama in the second 45 minutes, with Derek Pender being dismissed for a second yellow just after the break and chances at either end before the penalty.
There were no changes made to the Bray Wanderers starting 11 that had performed so valiantly against St. Pat’s the previous week, with Gormley deciding they had performed well enough to retain their place in the side.
He did make changes on the substitute’s bench however, with the experienced trio of Alan Cawley, Colm Tresson and Aidan O’Keefe being preferred to the youth of Derek Foran, Gareth Coughlan and Paul Dunphy.
The first 30 minutes didn’t see either goalkeeper having to make a save, indeed the only good thing about those 30 minutes is that they may have cured somebody’s insomnia, but we did eventually see a ‘keeper forced to work soon enough.
Daryl Robson claimed he took the ball after a tackle but Limerick referee Mark Gough disagreed and gave a free-kick to Harps inside the Bray half. Shaun Holmes lifted the ball into the Bray area and Marc Mukendi met the ball with a downward header that Alan Gough gathered with ease.
Seven minutes later though and Gough had to have his wits about him as the Donegal outfit created the first genuine chance of the game.
Mark Duggan’s touchline freekick from the right was cleared away by the away defence and this created a quick counterattack. Gary Beckett then released strike partner Stephen Parkhouse who had the strength and pace to fend off the attention of Ray Kenny before he drilled straight at Gough from the edge of the box which Gough blocked away with his legs.
This seemed to wake Bray up however as they then created two chances in quick succession with Robson the architect on both occasions.
First he played a neat one-two with captain Derek Pender with Robson’s return pass sending Pender racing beyond the defence. Pender could not get his first goal in a Bray Wanderers shirt however as his low shot was saved by James Gallagher and when the bal squirmed under his body, Mukendi scrambled the ball away before Pender could get there.
Robson then turned provider for the energetic Jake Kelly, whose quick turn and shot was kept out by a dive to his right from Gallagher.
A minute before the break and Harps again went close when a free-kick right on the edge of the box that was given for a foul on Michael Funston by Pender, one he would go on to regret, was curled into the side netting by Holmes.
It was just nine minutes into the second-half that that yellow card came back to haunt Pender, after another rash challenge on Funston left Mark Gough with no choice to produce the second yellow, much to Gormley’s obvious annoyance.
On 60 minutes then a Kevin Doherty mistake almost spelt disaster for Bray.
The big man at the back hesitated on the ball and centre-half Declan Boyle nipped in and found himself with nobody blocking his route to goal. He looked as surprised as everyone else and perhaps took the better option when he fed Parkhouse but he hadn’t accounted for Gavin Whelan getting back and saving a goal with a fantastic tackle.
Five minutes later though and the ten men were within the width of the crossbar of taking the lead through Kelly.
Funston lost control of the ball and Doherty made up for his earlier mistake by finding Robson, whose ferocious 20-yard effort cannoned off the underside of the crossbar but Harps lived to tell the tale.
There was a dramatic sting in the tail for the home side eight minutes from the end, when Mark Duggan needlessly hauled down Neill McCafferty in the penalty area after Marc Mukendi did his best Rory Delap impression with a long throw and a penalty-kick was duly awarded much to Bray’s disbelief, with Ger Rowe picking up a yellow card for his protests.
The pressure may have gotten to some people but not Stephen Parkhouse, who stepped up and after a pause in his run up, sent Gough the wrong way to give Finn Harps a huge win, and a massive three points.
A minute into injury-time Bray came agonizingly close to snatching a late point when a Parkhouse clearance took a wicked deflection off Doherty, meaning Gallagher had to dive full length to scoop the ball out of the top corner of his net in what was an outstanding save.
Man of the Match: Stephen Parkhouse (Finn Harps). Kept his head when it was needed.
Bray Wanderers: Alan Gough 7, Gavin Whelan 7, Kevin Doherty 6, Ray Kenny 6, Derek Pender 5, Paddy Kavanagh 6, Daryl Robson 7, Mark Duggan 5, Gary Cronin 6, Jake Kelly 6 (Aidan O’Keefe 85’), Ger Rowe 5 (Andy Myler 85’). Subs not used: Chris O’Connor, Colm Tresson, Alan Cawley.
Finn Harps: James Gallagher 7, Marc Mukendi 7, Aaron Labonte 6, Declan Boyle 7, Shaun Holmes 7, Michael Funston 7, Shaun McGowan 6, Neill McCafferty 6, Chris Breen 6 (David Tyrell 87’), Stephen Parkhouse 7, Gary Beckett 6 (Conor Gethins 75’). Subs not used: Auston Friel, Stuart Malcolm, Gavin Cullen.
Referee: Mark Gough (Limerick).
Stephen Parkhouse scores the winner from the penalty spot.
Jake Kelly of Bray Wanderers and Declan Boyle of Finn Harps battle for possession.