Cork City may have got off to the perfect start at home to Bray Wanderers on Friday night but once again they were pegged back by a spirited Seagulls side at Turner’s Cross.
Tommy Dunne made five changes from their last league assignment, the 2-0 loss to Derry City at the Brandywell last Friday, and although the Premier Division new boys looked a much better side for long spells, there is still much to work on.
Their next chance to earn a first win of the season is against bottom of the table Bohemians at Dalymount Park on Good Friday, but they will need to eradicate a worrying pattern which has emerged. They’ve been a much better side in the first half of games, taking the lead in all three home games, but have conceded in the second half every time.
Although Bray lined up in a 451 formation, with an isolated Jason Byrne leading the line by himself, the Seagulls provided plenty of attacking threat from midfield, Adam Hanlon on the right wing their best performer. He constantly ran at City left-back Danny Murphy and some of his deliveries caused plenty of concern in the home side’s back four.
Pat Devlin set his side up just right for a trip to Turner’s Cross, and it worked brilliantly with them as they travelled back up the M8 with a deserved point.
City, meanwhile, stuck with the 433 formation which worked to their advantage against Wexford Youths in the EA Sports Cup on Monday evening and with Tadhg Purcell putting in his best performance since joining the club on loan at the end of February, the three-man front line paid dividends in just the fourth minute.
After some good defensive play from Colin Healy, the ball broke down the right flank and Daryl Horgan played a wonderful pass to Purcell and he guided the ball past the onrushing Darren Quigley three and a half minutes in.
The game had a nice zippy pace to it but there wasn’t that much to shout about in terms of attempts on goal. Jamie Murphy’s left footed strike on 33 minutes was City’s best chance of making it 2-0 before the interval, the young striker’s effort turned away by an alert Quigley.
The remainder of the talking points in the opening 45 came at the other end where Bray threatened from distance on several occasions, while Danny Murphy made a brave block with his face on the line when Adam Hanlon’s shot had Mark McNulty beaten after Kevin Knight played him in.
Byrne nodded wide from a Hanlon corner shortly afterwards, while a busy Hanlon saw a couple of teasing crosses into the area from the right flank cleared away. Bray were also handed two great chances of earning parity early in the second half, Hanlon and Byrne both making McNulty work inside the opening 10 minutes of the half.
Horgan continued to be City’s biggest attacking threat in the second half and went close to doubling their advantage nearing the hour mark with a left footed strike from 22 yards which flew past Quigley but also the posts. And the same player did brilliantly to bamboozle the Wanderers defence four minutes later before laying-off to Davin O’Neill, the substitute’s attempt put out for a corner by Quigley.
That signalled the start of a dominant spell for the home team but Bray remained very dangerous on the counter-attack and were level after a deadly break from defence. A throw-in from Danny Murphy was won by the Seagulls at the back, Kieran Waters fed to John Mulroy who then split the defence and allowed Byrne to run through.
For 13 seasons the 34 year-old has been a master in finishing and he was never going to miss with acres of space inside the box and only McNulty to beat, a low drive rocketing into the left corner.
City worked hard in the final stages in search of a winner but it never materialised as Bray defended strongly as Quigley had little to do despite the Leesiders’ territorial dominance.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Ian Turner, Dan Murray, Kalen Spillane, Danny Murphy; Shane Duggan, Gearóid Morrissey, Colin Healy; Daryl Horgan, Tadhg Purcell, Jamie Murphy (Davin O’Neill 57).
Subs not used: Kevin Burns, Jason Forde, Cathal Lordan, Shane O’Connor, Vinny Sullivan, Gavin Kavanagh.
Booked: Dan Murray (74), Ian Turner (84).
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Danny O’Connor, Pierce Sweeney, Kevin Knight; Adam Hanlon, Dean Zambra, John Mulroy, Sean Houston, Kieran Marty Waters (Anthony Bolger 86); Jason Byrne (Jonathan Kelty 88).
Subs not used: Ian Byrne, Daire Doyle, Graham Kelly, Stephen Last, Brian Kane.
Referee: Tom Connolly.
Official Attendance: 2,888.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Adam Hanlon (Bray Wanderers).
Alan Smith works as a sub-editor for the Guardian newspaper in London. Originally from Cork, he freelances for several other newspapers and websites. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.