Sligo Rovers were beaten 1-0 by Bray Wanderers in the Carlisle Grounds on Friday night in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division.
In a game devoid of any real quality, Ciaran Byrne’s opportunistic strike moments after the interval proved to be the difference between the sides in an otherwise tight affair.
The visitors had the majority of possession but lacked cohesion and composure on front of goal as they were left to rue several missed opportunities.
Ian Baraclough’s side started the brighter and looked to stamp their authority on proceedings from the outset, but the returning Danny North and Eric Odhiambo saw efforts well saved by Shane Redmond in the Bray goal.
That was as good as it got for the Bit O’Red as the hosts grew into proceedings as the half wore on. Jake Kelly was central to their attacking threat and proved to be a constant thorn in the side. His effort on 21 minutes was tame but after the break, his pinpoint cross teed up Byrne for what proved to be the winner.
Sligo rallied late on but despite forcing Bray back into their own half for the final quarter, it was too little too late as they slipped to a disappointing defeat.
On his return to the starting line-up, North took just a couple of minutes to have his first sight of goal but his hooked effort from Odhiambo’s in-swinger was pushed behind by Redmond. Moments later, it was Odhiambo’s turn to test the Bray ‘keeper; his low effort from the right was dealt with comfortably however.
With the central areas compacted from the outset, the right flank proved to be a fruitful outlet for the visitors but again the end product was lacking.
This time, Odhiambo’s delightful centre was headed narrowly wide by North at the back-post with the goal at his mercy.
For all their possession in the opening exchanges, Sligo were nearly caught cold as Kalen Spillane’s indecision allowed the Seagulls to break at speed and having been set free by Byrne - Kelly was thwarted by Gary Rogers.
The game’s pivotal moment came just after the interval, when more hesitancy in the Rovers rearguard allowed the ball to find its way to Kelly on the right and his low cross was guided home by Byrne for his first goal in Bray colours.
Kelly, who returned to the seaside during the winter from St. Patrick’s Athletic, was causing plenty of problems as he roamed from his wing with freedom. Firstly, his rasping strike was comfortably dealt with by Rogers but in the next attack, the Sligo ‘keeper could only watch as Kelly saw his stinging shot rebound off the bar.
In an attempt to alter the flow of the game and find an equaliser, Baraclough introduced Kieran Djilali and his arrival spurred Sligo into life for the last quarter as Bray receded into their own half.
Odhiambo failed to find the power to beat Redmond after Evan McMillan’s initial header was blocked and Paul O’Conor couldn’t jump high enough to head Aaron Greene’s wicked cross into the empty net in the closing stages.
Bray Wanderers: Shane Redmond; Dean Zambra, Dave Webster (c), Adam Mitchell (Niall Cooney 27’), Robert Maloney; Eric McGill, Adam Hanlon, Shane Byrne (Gary Curran 87’), Graham Kelly, Jake Kelly; Ciaran Byrne (Dave Scully 64’).
Subs: Stephen McGuinness, Jamie McGlynn, Philip Nolan, Shane O’Neill.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Evan McMillan, Kalen Spillane, Daniel Ledwith (Aaron Greene 76’); John Russell (Seamus Connelly 37’) , David Cawley (Kieran Djilai 63’), Paul O’Conor, Ross Gaynor; Eric Odhiambo, Danny North.
Subs: Richard Brush, Sean Maguire, Raffaele Cretaro, Jake Dykes.