Monday 11 December 2017

Bray broken by Brandon magic

Shamrock Rovers 1 Bray Wanderers 0

Brandon Miele scores the only goal of the night from a freekick at Tallaght
Brandon Miele scores the only goal of the night from a freekick at Tallaght
Shamrock Rovers' Brandon Miele, second from left, celebrates with teammates after scoring a late winner
Rovers' Michael Drennan tries to take the ball under control as he's closed down by Bray's Michael Barker
Simon Madden is stopped in his tracks by Bray's Adam Hanlon
Shamrock's Simon Madden looks for a way past Adam Hanlon

They had the class and experience of Damien Duff and Stephen McPhail in the side but Shamrock Rovers needed a late, late show from youngster Brandon Miele to come up with a goal and a badly-needed three points at home to Bray Wanderers to aid their push for a European place next season.

Confidence had been ebbing away at Rovers on the back of a recent run of four games without a win, and they looked like making that five in a row last night as a brave Bray side looked to have done enough to get a point at Tallaght Stadium, Rovers very poor for long periods against the FAI Cup semi-finalists.

But former Newcastle United man Miele stepped up and delivered a superb free kick two minutes from time, following a foul by Niall Cooney on Miele, to earn the win and reduce the gap between Rovers and second-placed Cork City to four points.

This game was not quite do or die for Rovers. Only a very strong run until the end of the season could see them catch Cork and win a second-place finish, while on the other hand, only a dramatic collapse would push them out of the top four and deny them a place in Europe for next season.

A lack of urgency was evident on the pitch and off it as well, as this was a very poor crowd for a Tuesday night fixture, the patience of Rovers fans perhaps tested by the prospect of three straight home games.

And on the evidence of the first half, Bray looked more like a side who were desperate to get a winning run which would sweep them into the Europa League for next year.

In the first few minutes, Bray tried to test the home side, as Chris Lyons shot on seven minutes blocked by Conor Kenna, while on 12 minutes Kenna again was needed, this time to clear a dangerous-looking cross from former Hoop David Cassidy.

Lyons tried his luck again on 19 minutes while the only response from a sluggish-looking Rovers side was a blasted effort from Brandon Miele on 24 minutes.

Lyons, an ex-Hoop who had a frustrating time at Rovers in the B set-up, was the most dangerous player on the field last night and he forced a good save from Barry Murphy on 26 minutes, following good work from Graham Kelly.

Eleven minutes before the break, Bray threatened again, first when Kelly's shot was deflected out for a corner and then from the corner kick, Hugh Douglas got in a free header, but his effort was wide of the target.

Rovers had a bit more about them after the break, Drennan testing Cherrie with a well-struck effort on 52 minutes and 10 minutes later the Scot was needed again, pushing a Brennan shot over the bar.

But Bray still posed a threat and a better finish from Ryan McEvoy on 70 minutes, a chance created by Cassidy's great run as he beat Dave O'Connor, could have nicked a lead goal for Mick Cooke's side.

A 0-0 draw was on the cards but Meile's magic finally broke Bray's resistance, though Rovers will need a lot better in the remaining five league games to move into the top two.

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