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Ryan Byrne/INPHO Ryan Brennan celebrates his goal.
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Shelbourne extend lead at top of First Division table with draw against Bray
Richie O’Farrell’s leveller earned the Seagulls a point after Ryan Brennan gave Shels a first-half lead.

Shelbourne 1

Bray Wanderers 1

Andrew Dempsey reports from Tolka Park

SHELBOURNE EXTENDED THEIR lead at the top of the First Division table thanks to a hard-fought 1-1 draw at home to Bray Wanderers.

Richie O’Farrell’s leveller earned the Seagulls a point after Ryan Brennan gave Shels a first-half lead, but the Reds were still able to extend their lead at the top of the table thanks to Galway’s costly defeat away to Athlone.

Winless in their last three games and having endured a Covid-19 scare in their camp, Shels made four changes from their 3-1 defeat to Galway United last time out.

As for Bray, it was a heavy defeat at home to Shelbourne that all but ended their title hopes in June, but an eight-game unbeaten streak, coupled with Shels’ wobble gave them a glimmer of hope again.

And after last weekend’s dramatic win over Treaty United, their manager Gary Cronin went with one change as they sought to catapult themselves back into the title picture.

The Seagulls, however, were very nearly undone inside the first two minutes of the game, but they could not convert as the unmarked Michael O’Connor headed wide from a Ryan Brennan cross.

Bray responded to the Shels challenge, though. Darren Craven proved to be at the heart of some good play, shooting wide from long-range, before then playing in Callum Thompson who scooped his effort over the bar while one-on-one with Brendan Clarke.

Ian Morris’ side took charge of the game once more as the first-half wore on, and they were rewarded for their attacking play on the stroke of half-time, taking a 1-0 lead.

Dayle Rooney’s low cross across the penalty area was met by the foot of Brennan who was on hand to slot home his 11th league goal of the season, beating Brian Maher with ease.

Having gone behind, Bray’s influence in the contest grew substantially in the early stages of the second-half. Conor Clifford went close, but was denied by a Shels block on the line.

Richie O’Farrell would then test the Reds rear-guard past the hour mark, but his low effort was well saved by Clarke.

Clarke would, however, be beaten moments later in the 68th by the aforementioned O’Farrell who finished off a fine Bray attacking move.

The former UCD midfielder was played in after playing an exquisite one-two with Craven, firing home low into the far corner of the net.

The hosts composed themselves after that leveller, going close through John Ross Wilson and Michael O’Connor, but neither could make their chances count.

And that was exactly how it finished as Ian Morris’ side took another huge step towards the First Division title, and most importantly, a top-flight return.

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Kurtis Byrne’s second-half strike was enough to see Athlone beat Galway, while two goals in the final 10 minutes saw Cabinteely rescue a 2-2 draw at home to Cork City.

Sean McSweeney’s late strike saw Treaty United draw 1-1 with Wexford.

SHELBOURNE: Brendan Clarke; John Ross Wilson, Ally Gilchrist, Luke Byrne, Kameron Ledwidge (Kevin O’Connor, 75); Georgie Poynton, Brian McManus; Dayle Rooney, Ryan Brennan (Yassine En-Neyah, 75), Shane Farrell; Michael O’Connor.

BRAY WANDERERS: Brian Maher; Daniel Jones, Aaron Barry, Andrew Quinn, Dylan Barnett; Conor Clifford; Brandon Kavanagh (Steven Kinsella, 87), Richie O’Farrell; Callum Thompson (Ryan Graydon, 69), Joe Doyle (Gary Shaw, 83), Darren Craven.

Referee: Mark Moynihan. 

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