UCD 1 – 0 Bray Wanderers – UCD claimed their first home win of the season with victory over struggling Bray Wanderers, watched by Ryan Mackenzie
Last Friday saw lowly Bray Wanderers visit the Belfield Bowl in search of their first win of the season in a must-win for both sides. In a match neither team would afford to lose, the Students secured a priceless 1-0 victory that boosts their chances of avoiding immediate danger, while banishing the Seagulls even further into the wilderness of relegation.
The first ten minutes saw much of the play focused in midfield, as neither team seemed capable of coordinating any significant offensive threat. The first opportunity came in the eighth minute when a Bray free kick forced a mistake from UCD keeper Billy Brennan, gifting Wanderers a decent – though squandered – half-chance to open the scoring.
As time progressed, the balance of play began to swing in favour of the hosts, who utilised the wings through Peter McMahon and right-back Andy Boyle – the latter displaying encouraging offensive mentality throughout the match. UCD were unable to make their possession count, however, and it seemed clear that set pieces posed the main threat of a goal for both sides.
However, the best chance of the match fell to Student Graham Rusk in the dying moments of the half. When Brian Kane in the Bray goal was unable to deal with yet another hazardous long distance shot, tenuously parrying it away, the ball fell into a cluster of Wanderers defenders, with the lone blue jersey of Rusk miraculously capturing the ball. At point blank range with an empty net, the UCD attacker looked certain to put his side in front but for a perfectly timed lunge from a Bray defender blocking his goal-bound effort.
The second half began with a flourish of optimism and exuberance from both sides, as the fears of dropping vital points were succeeded by a desire to earn victory. The visitors began the brighter side, but it wasn’t long until their efforts were sincerely thwarted by UCD striker Ciaran Kilduff, who found the back of the net five minutes into the half to put his team in front. After a barrage of shots from the Students were deflected by the Bray defenders and keeper alike, the ball fell to Kilduff at the edge of the six-yard box and, showing a terrific combination of compossure and opportunism, he slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
For the visitors, the sudden realisation of a fourth straight defeat and another week at the foot of the table was evident, as Bray enacted a new sense of urgency to their play. They bombarded the UCD defence with a wave of crosses and long-range shots that met with strong defence and clever counter-attacking from the Students. Indeed, Bray’s pounding left their defence increasingly vulnerable, paving the way for a breakaway run by College defender Michael Leahy who failed in a one-on-one with keeper Kane.
This was the story of Wanderers’ fruitless attempts at a comeback, as it was the Students who enjoyed the better opportunities in front of goal. A last-ditch siege on the UCD goal by the entire Bray unit in the final minutes of the match was unable to produce the coveted goal that could mean so much to the struggling Wicklowmen.
The victory keeps UCD firmly planted mid-table in the Airtricity League, and further cements Bray’s unenviable last-place standing. Now only four points adrift from league leaders St Patrick’s Athletic, College can lay claim to dreams of a potential title-chasing season, and will look to enact that ambition next week when they visit the ever-threatening Shamrock Rovers.
UCD: Billy Brennan; Brian Shortall, Evan McMillan (Michael Leahy 45), Andy Boyle, Ciaran Nangle; Robbie Creevy, Greg Bolger, Peter McMahon; Graham Rusk (Keith Ward 72), Ciaran Kilduff, David McMillan (Chris Mulhall