Glentoran were behind twice against Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds today, but successfully came back to give themselves a two goal cushion for the second leg of this Setanta Sports Cup first round tie. The 4-2 final score was fitting for a fine game that should be a great advertisement for a competition widely written off as mere pre-season folly.
A mild Saturday afternoon and the promise of uncommon opposition in the form of Belfast’s Glentoran was not enough to draw many Bray Wanderers fans to the Carlisle Grounds. As the teams marched out for battle two minutes before kick off, there was only one sound, the chorus of Glens supporters clad in green, red and black scarves and wooly hats.
And it was the away team who started the brighter, with debutant Leon Knight and Andrew Waterworth looking lively at the head of the Glentoran attack. The pair did not manage to create a chance though, and Bray quickly settled into the game.
With six minutes on the clock Bray had their first opening. John Mulroy found space on the left hand side to put in a low cross. Unfortunately for Pat Devlin’s Seagulls, the ball was just a stretch too far for the incoming Adam Hanlon who could only watch as it rolled wide.
The visitors then found themselves struggling with the pace of the game as their hosts began to take control. Jason Hill was left lunging in late on Sean Houston as he broke away down the right and earned a yellow card for his troubles with not even ten minutes played.
Dane Massey had the chance to convert his team’s dominance into a lead on the scoreboard on the 12 minute mark. The 22-year-old rose to meet a Jonathan Kelty corner eight yards from goal, completely unmarked, but could not get his header on target. Glentoran goalkeeper Elliott Morris was glad to see that effort sail over his bar but he would be picking the ball out of his net a few minutes later.
Jonathan Kelty, signed from Wicklow side Arklow Town during the winter break, was the architect of the opener. Kelty picked up the ball in front of the Glentoran defence and slipped a pass in to Kieran Marty Waters. Waters calmy touched the ball around the onrushing Morris before coolly finishing with his left foot from the corner of the six yard box on 18 minutes.
That lead was short lived however. Only two minutes later Eamon Murray got the ball just outside the Bray area. His snap shot may not have been on target but a wicked deflection off midfielder Kelty wrong-footed Darren Quigley in goal and Murray wheeled away to celebrate his team’s equaliser.
Sean Ward almost put Glentoran ahead in a similar fashion immediately after the restart. A long-range effort from the full-back came off the back of Waterworth but, this time, Quigley was able to re-adjust and gather the ball safely.
While Bray stayed on still on top in terms of possession, Waterworth was a constant threat. He forced Quigley into a smart save after 37 minutes as he waltzed through Bray’s defence, perhaps taking one touch too many before trying to force it home.
Waters put the seasiders back in front in the 42nd minute. Danny O’Connor spread the ball to Mulroy on the right. Mulroy was able to slip in his strike partner and the 21-year-old curled his shot in the far corner, safely past an outstretched Morris.
The second half was a different story altogether and Glentoran drew level five minutes after the break. Leon Knight was the scorer, finishing low from six yards after a delicate pass inside from Waterworth.
Bray may have been the fresher team during the first 45 minutes but Glentoran showed their fitness as the game wore on. Only Sean Houston continued to provide a threat from the home team with continued bursts from midfield.
Nine minutes after Knight leveled the game, he was instrumental in the move that put his team a goal up. Substitute Jim O’Hanlon powered into the box and finished after a smart one-two with the former Chelsea prospect as Bray’s tiring defence seemed to momentarily fall asleep.
Keltie made way for Dean Zambra on 63 minutes and was quick to get into the game. He tested Morris from distance with one of his first touches but the Glentoran stopper was equal to the task, pushing Zambra’s effort away to his left.
With 20 minutes left to play, Dave Webster dragged back O’Hanlon as he ran through the box towards the end line at the other end. Referee Alan Kelly had no doubts in awarding a penalty. Richard Clarke’s attempt was not successful though, foiled by the spry reflexes of Quigley.
Bray were unable to show any attacking nouse as they tired, and they were unable to prevent Glentoran’s Leon Knight finishing the game off with a superb half volley from just outside the box with his left foot in the 87th minute.
A fitter and stronger Bray will show up to the Oval for the return leg, but Glentoran will certainly be favourites to go through after a superb second half display that thrilled their strong travelling support.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Dane Massey, Dave Webster, Adam Mitchell, Daire Doyle; Jonathan Kelty (Dean Zambra, 63), Sean Houston (Graham Kelly, 72), Danny O’Connor, Adam Hanlon; Kieran Marty Waters, John Mulroy.
Subs not used: Brian Kane, Colm Tresson, Conor Butler, Kevin Knight, Anthony Bolger.
Glentoran: Elliott Morris; Jason Hill (Aidan O’Kane, 34), Colin Nixon, Jimmy Callacher, Sean Ward; Stephen Carson, David Howland (Ciaran Martyn, 46), Richard Clark, Eamonn Murray (Jim O’Hanlon, 46); Andrew Waterworth, Leon Knight.
Subs not used: Darren Boyce, Richard Gibson, Jaimie McGovern, Martin Murray.
Bookings: Hill (10), Howland (41), Ward (84).
Referee: Alan Kelly.
Attendance: 650 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Andrew Waterworth. He didn’t score but he was involved in everything.