ATHLONE TOWN

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BRAY WANDERERS

Ryan Graydon s/o 34

First Division

Carlisle Grounds
2021

Honours even at Lissywollen will feel like a better result in the Bray dressing-room than the Athlone one, with the Seagulls standing up to save a point while playing almost an hour with only ten men.

Bray had slightly more of the first half hour, but the Athlone defence was difficult to break down, and even when they did, somehow Dylan Hand and Jamie Hollywood managed to get back to block, as the latter did twice to efforts by Joe Doyle after a Dylan Barnett corner early on.

Hand was also the unwitting instrument of Ryan Graydon's misfortune, his late touch on the Bray winger's shirt as the two tangled at the end-line enough to provoke a retaliation that earned a dismissal.

In the remainder of the first half, Athlone might have capitalised on the visitors' short-term disarray, but neither then nor in the opening passages of the second period when they had by far the better of the possession did they look like breaching the Bray defence.

Gary Cronin opted for a fighting policy, bringing Gary Shaw on to partner Doyle up front, and almost achieved an unlikely victory, with Mícheál Schlingermann and his back four stretched at times to keep the marauders out.

Within little more than a minute after kicking off, Wanderers were in the Athlone final third, where they would spend much of the half. Brandon Kavanagh, receiving from Doyle, returned the ball with a dink forward, but Hand got low to head back to his keeper.

The same duo repeated the action two minutes later, Kavanagh crossing for the striker just a little too far, and Aidan Friel the defender to clear this time. Doyle had yet another shot on eight minutes, but couldn't keep it down, and following Scott Delaney conceding a corner, the Bray target man was denied twice off Barnett's flag-kick, both times by Jamie Hollywood.

Almost immediately after that, it took a fine Delaney clearance to save the home net when Graydon had beaten Schlingermann from a Doyle through ball, and Doyle himself was narrowly over with another effort minutes later.

Just inside the half hour, the Athlone keeper rose high to punch away another Barnett corner, and a couple of minutes after that was under pressure in trying to keep the ball in play.

The Bray dugout thought a free given for a foul just on the edge of the area might have been a penalty (it wasn't), and a later throw was given when the ball hadn't fully left the field.

If Graydon's offence was an attempt to kick his opponent, rather than the ball, then any harshness lies in the rule rather than the application of it.

It was after the reduction in personnel that Brian Maher had his first real action, getting down at the near post to stop an Aidan Friel shot: the right back seemed to spend as much time attacking up the wing as he did defending.

That apart, it didn't seem that Bray's tactics had changed much, and wth five minutes to the break, Hand managed to delay Kavanagh's attack sufficiently to allow his keeper to dive between them to claim.

Conor Clifford did well with a nicely judged tackle to halt Friel's progress goalwards after good work between the back and former Bray man Adam Wixted.

Just before half time, Kurtis Byrne unleashed a fierce shot which Maher flew high to tip over, but the final action of the period saw Kavanagh slide the ball barely right of the post after good work by Bray up the left sideline.

The early stages of the second half saw Bray under more pressure, Maher throwing himself to the ground with the ball just inside the endline, although it had probably crossed the line unnoticed seconds earlier.

James Doona was becoming more influential for the home side, Aaron Barry having headed away one of his crosses just after the resumption, and the midfielder taking a corner he won himself off Mark Byrne short for another ex-Seagull, Derek Daly, whose ball in was headed away by Andrew Quinn.

Just after the hour, a Kavanagh free from the right was claimed by Schlingermann, and a like fate awaited another a minute later from the left.

David Brookes headed over from an Athlone corner on the left, while a minute after that the Athlone keeper ran out nearly as far as the centre circle to head away a longish clearance by Maher.

Following the introduction of Gary Shaw to partner Doyle and strengthen the Bray attack, a string of corners for the visitors yielded nothing, Schlingermann turing the first away almost off Barry's toe, the second headed out by Brookes and the third ending in a free out.

In the final ten minutes, Athlone tried to force the pace on the Seagulls, Clifford blocking a Doona shot, Maher racing wide to kick clear with his defence under pressure by Kurtis Byrne, and Wixted shooting high from distance.

A battle up the line between Athlone substitute Oisin Duffy and Quinn ended inexplicably in a Bray free.

In time added, Shaw might have nicked a winner, but Hand produced a sweetly timed tackle to frustrate him, and a quick Athlone corner was headed away by Mark Byrne.

The surprises in the match seemed to consist of Bray's failure to lead given their first half dominance, and their combination of stubborn resistance and counter-attacks in the second despite their numerical weakness.

Mícheál Ó hUanacháin

Bray Wanderers: 1 Brian Maher; 8 Mark Byrne, 4 Andrew Quinn, 5 Aaron Barry (c), 3 Dylan Barnett; 6 Conor Clifford; 7 Ryan Graydon , 17 Luka Lovic, 16 Darren Craven, 11 Brandon Kavanagh; 9 Joe Doyle
Subs: 10 Gary Shaw (for Kavanagh 70), 12 Dean O'Shea, 14 Richie O'Farrell (for Lovic 76), 18 Sean Callan, 22 Steven Kinsella, 23 Glen Hollywood, 24 Cian Maher, 25 Kian Clarke (gk), 30 Jack Ross (gk)
Athlone Town: 1 Mícheál Schlingermann; 2 Aidan Friel, 5 Scott Delaney, 21 Dylan Hand, 3 Derek Daly; 7 Adam Wixted, 13 David Brookes , 14 James Doona, 8 Jamie Hollywood; 19 Brandon McCann, 10 Kurtis Byrne (c)
Subs: 12 Jack Reynolds, 18 Oisin Duffy (for McCann 81), 20 Tumelo Tlou, 22 Shane Nealon, 24 Tristan Noack Hofmann (for Delaney 64 inj), 30 Kayleum Rice (gk)
Referee: Michael Connolly

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