It wasn’t pretty but in the end they got there. Stephen Rice’s lads got just the tonic they needed to get back on track following their previous game away to Wexford. And, instead of conceding an early goal as they had tended to do recently, today they took the lead against Bray as early as the fifth minute.
Left full Eric Abulu carried the ball down the left before providing Kenny Cunningham with the opportunity to go on a run from inside his own half. The Tipperary winger fired in an extremely high ball which was met by Dean Williams who headed it over Bray ‘keeper Dylan Davis and into the net.
Four minutes later Jake Byrne took a Cunningham effort off the line to prevent the Hoops from doubling their lead. Gavin Bazunu, who played the full game yesterday for the Under 19s, gave another super performance for the U17s this afternoon and made a brilliant save in the 15th minute which he palmed over the bar, Rovers had a wonderful opportunity on the half hour mark to go further ahead when Jack Kelly was sent on his way by Conor Behan and swung in a perfect ball which Williams couldn’t connect with, it travelled further across the box where it was met by Cunningham but he couldn’t control it and sent it just wide at the post.
Three minutes after that Bazunu was forced into making another top drawer save from Bray substitute Conor Dowling. The visitors had a good chance themselves in the 40th minute when Shane Flynn delivered the ball from the left into the box and Evan Dunne steadied himself before shooting but again Bazunu made a terrific save to keep it from crossing the line.
The pace continued early in the second half with Cunningham setting Williams up in the 52nd minute but ‘keeper Davis managed to get a critical block on the effort by the Hoops’ striker.
Matters were levelled in the 56th minute when Eoin D’arcy broke through and had a shot which took a deflection before entering the net. Two minutes later the Hoops’ goal was again threatened when Bray were awarded a free just outside the box but it went wide and the game remained at 1-1.
The Hoops weren’t as fluent in this half as they had been in the first and the game remained finely balanced. The deadlock was broken though in the 74th minute, when following a fine spell of pressure from Wanderers, Adam O’Connor played the ball up to Jack Kelly who carried it up to the box before finding Williams at the far post and the striker tapped it in to make it 2-1.
The action continued right up to the end with Daniel Madaghijan sending a screamer over the bar. Williams went close again for the Hoops when he might have made it 3-1 and then immediately after that Bazunu got a touch to Evan Dunne’s seriously close free kick to keep the score at 2-1.
Shamrock Rovers: 25. Gavin Bazunu; 14. Martins Olakanye, 5. Adam O’Connor, 4. Andy Spring, 3. Eric Abulu; 7. Jack Kelly, 14. Conor Behan, 16. Thomas Hannon, 2. Darren Prendergast, 11. Kenny Cunningham; 9. Dean Williams.
Substitutes: 10. Jordan Tallon, 18. Adam Murphy (for Cunningham 77 mins), 11. James Clarke (for Hannon 61 mins), 20. Emmanuel Odeniyi (for Abulu 71 mins), 23. Jay Nwanze (for Kelly 86 mins)
Match report and photos by Robert Goggins.