Ad­mirable draw just not enough

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - DANIEL GOR­MAN Sports Reporter

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.

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