Admirable draw just not enough
SHELBOURNE 0 BRAY WANDERERS 0
IT was a night of firsts for Bray Wanderers on Friday evening. Their first 0-0 draw in the league this season. First league starts for Adam Hayden and Luka Lovic. A first time to avoid defeat at the hands of Shelbourne in 2019. But, ultimately, Friday’s stalemate means it is almost certain that the Seagulls will be in the First Division once again in 2020.
Had results gone differently, Shels might have had one hand on the league trophy had they conquered Bray. But instead, Wanderers recorded their fourth shutout on the road to help set up a thrilling finale to the First Division title race.
With fourth-placed Cabinteely not in action for another 24 hours, Gary Cronin knew that could he manage victory over the league leaders, he would heap pressure on Pat Devlin on Cabo as they travelled to Cobh.
An extremely admirable scoreless draw was a fine result but, with Cabo coming from behind to beat Cobh, it means Bray must overhaul a four-point difference with two matches remaining.
A suspension for Paul Keegan allowed Luka Lovic – a fan favourite despite rarely featuring – was granted the chance to impress. With Dylan Barnett failing to prove his fitness, Derek Daly continued at left-back as Cronin once again opted to start two attackers.
The visitors started with the bit between their teeth but were given a quick reminder of how dangerous Shels could be as former Seagull Karl Moore found Ciaran Kilduff with a cross but the striker failed to hit the target.
News filtered through at Tolka Park that Drogheda had taken the lead against Athlone Town so it meant automatic promotion was unlikely but Shels almost broke the deadlock nonetheless in the 20th minute when Shane Farrell delivered a delicious cross into the cliched corridor of uncertainty but Moore narrowly avoided sliding it home.
Former Cobh ace Denzil Fernandez gave a flash of his abilities on 21 minutes when he darted forward from the right flank and guided the ball to Farrell but the midfielder couldn’t beat Hayden.
A dull first half suited neither side as both knew that realistically anything other than three points could harm their aspirations.
Aidan Friel almost became the villain for Shels when Dylan McGlade punished him for dithering on the ball and pickpocketed him before charging forward but he fired narrowly wide of Colin McCabe’s goal.
McGlade’s eyes lit up again just after the hour mark when he broke free but – unusually for him – he got his footwork wrong and the chance fizzled out.
The tension on the terraces seemed to be spilling onto the pitch as optimistic – or clueless – shots became more frequent and the desperation levels continued to increase.
Dean Williams almost lit it up as he spanked one inches wide from 18 yards and then at the other end; Hayden was at full stretch to tip away a Fernandez effort after he’d danced in off his flank and curled one goalwards.
As the clock ticked deep into injury time, Shels fans were so nearly treated to the sweet, sweet taste of a late winner as it fell to marksman Greg Moorehouse in the area but his instinctive swipe of his right foot saw the ball fired
Lorcan Fitzgerald of Shelbourne in action against Joe Doyle of Bray Wanderers.
Denzel Fernandez of Shelbourne in action against Derek Daly of Bray Wanderers during the SSE Airtricity League First Division match between Shelbourne and Bray Wanderers at Tolka Park.