Shamrock Rovers 2 Bray Wanderers 0: Killian Brennan and Dean Clarke scored second-half goals to earn Shamrock Rovers a much-needed win against 10-man Bray Wanderers at Tallaght Stadium.
Bray’s Sean Harding hauled down Dean Clarke as he raced clear on 64 minutes. The defender was dismissed and Brennan smashed the resulting free-kick from the edge of the penalty area.
Clarke, another close-season addition by Rovers manager Pat Fenlon, added the second with seven minutes remaining by converting Simon Madden’s low cross from the right.
Just like St Patrick’s Athletic last week, Rovers found Bray dogged in defence, leaving them to work off scraps such as a couple of Killian Brennan free-kicks which sailed over.
It was only after the hour mark that the contest came alive, as the sides traded a couple of chances. Against the run of play, Bray found an opening through an Andrew Lewis shot which Barry Murphy batted away around his near post.
Moments later, Clarke raced clear down the left for Rovers, yet couldn’t angle his effort inside the post from an acute angle.
Then, on 64 minutes, Clarke was involved in the pivotal moment. Breaking at pace, the striker hared down on goal only to be hauled over by Sean Harding on the edge of the box.
Referee Tomás Connolly issued the obligatory red card before Brennan punished Bray further by powering his free-kick low into the net aided by a slight deflection.
More comfortable as a unit thereafter, Rovers posed a different threat as Gary McCabe speared a half-volley wide.
Clarke’s endeavours were then rewarded with his close-range finish. The former Limerick striker was in the right place to turn in Madden’s cross despite the presence of two Bray defenders.
For Rovers, the result is all that matters but the performance lacked conviction and raises further questions about their ability to challenge Dundalk and Cork City for the title.
After winning their opening three games, they lost four of their next six league games up to last night’s unconvincing victory. They will certainly have sterner tests than the one posed by a team under the caretaker management of Harry Kenny at Bray.
Whether they possess the quality to prevail in those battles remains very uncertain on the evidence of this latest display.
Murphy; Madden, Cornwall, Webster, G Brennan; McPhail, Cregg (North 65), K Brennan; McCabe, Miele; D Clarke (T Clarke 85).
Cherrie; Harding, Kenna, McNally, Marks; Connolly (Sammon 82), Creevey, R Brennan, Moore; Lewis (McDonagh 67), Pender (Noone 84).
T Connolly (Dublin).
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