By Graham Cummins for EchoLive.ie
Cork City’s slim chances of reaching the First Division playoffs ended after they were held by Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds.
City knew before the match that only a victory would be good enough to keep them in the promotion-hunt but they were denied by an inspired performance by Bray goalkeeper Brian Maher.
Colin Healy made four changes to the side from their last outing. Goalkeeper David Harrington came into the team to make his first league start for the club. Josh Honohan celebrated his recent call-up to the Republic of Ireland U21 squad for their upcoming European Championship qualifiers, by making a return from injury, while Darragh Crowley and Beineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh also came into the side.
City set out their intentions early in the game with Cian Bargary testing Maher within two minutes. The City player created space for himself on the edge of the Bray penalty area before getting his strike off, but Maher dealt with his effort comfortably.
City had to defend several set-pieces early on in the match but Harrington was confidently helping his defence out.
Cian Murphy almost added to his 10-goal tally this season when he got on the end of a cross into the penalty area, but unfortunately for City’s top-scorer, he was unable to direct his header on target.
Referee Michael Connolly was kept busy in the opening stages of the game with both sides guilty of giving away needless free-kicks. Healy himself was given a yellow card after showing his frustration to some of the decisions been made by the referee.
Murphy will be disappointed not to have opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark. The striker found himself through on goal after exposing the lack of pace in the Bray defence, but he was superbly denied by Republic of Ireland U21 goalkeeper Maher, who was quick off his line to narrow the angle for Murphy and deflect the ball over the crossbar.
Maher continued to be the reason that the game remained scoreless when he again, prevented Bargary from getting on the scoresheet. This time the goalkeeper was down quickly to make a neat save at his near post from Bargary’s effort.
As the half drew to a close, City would have been disappointed to have gone into the dressing room level at the break. They had the best opportunities in the half but were frustrated by Maher’s brilliance. Bray created very little and rarely troubled City’s defence.
Barry Coffey had the first chance of the second half. The Celtic loanee cleanly struck the ball on a half volley after an excellent lay-off by Bargary but Coffey’s effort never troubled Maher.
City came within inches of taking the lead on the hour mark. The Bray defence failed to clear a long throw-in and the ball fell kindly to Honohan, whose first-time effort went just wide of the post, much to the relief of the Bray defence.
The Rebel Army looked the side more likely to break the deadlock in the game. Cian Coleman almost caught Maher off guard with a looping header but the keeper was able to steer the ball over the crossbar.
Bray should have taken the lead through Gary Shaw, but the striker misjudged the timing of his header from Brandon Kavanagh’s cross and wasted a golden opportunity.
Referee: Michael Connolly.