Late strikes from Bastien Héry and Dean Clarke saw the Markets Field erupt as Limerick conjured up some unlikely magic to defeat Bray Wanderers 5-3 in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division on Friday night, in the last game before the midseason break.
The eye-catching Chiedozie Ogbene put the Shannonsiders in early command with a confident brace but within six minutes of his second Bray were level after goals from Ryan Brennan and former Blue Aaron Greene.
In a crazy first half Limerick restored their lead on 35 minutes through Rodrigo Tosi and the Brazilian could have put them further ahead after the break, before Gary McCabe equalised from the penalty spot with just over 20 minutes remaining.
It was then the turn of Bray to miss a big opening as Dylan Connolly fired wide. And that proved the turning point as the home side – struggling to cope with three injuries forced on them midgame – struck through Héry in the dying moments before substitute Clarke put the cherry on top.
Limerick manager Neil McDonald made two changes to the team that lost 3-2 at Finn Harps the previous Friday, as Chris Mulhall and injured captain Shane Duggan were replaced by Dave O’Connor and Paul O’Conor, with the team in a new 3-5-2 style.
But it was Bray that threatened first, Brennan sending a shot into the arms of Freddy Hall. That, though, was the only meaningful effort in the opening exchanges, until Limerick hit the front on 13 minutes. Ogbene showed determination to break through the defence, past Conor Kenna, before rifling an unstoppable shot to the bottom corner.
Shortly after, Lee-J Lynch delivered a cross from the left which was met by Tosi whose downward header was smartly pushed behind by Peter Cherrie. But there was little the Scotsman could do on 19 minutes as the lively Ogbene broke into the box from the right and cut into space before coolly rolling to the net.
A crazy five-minute spell followed as Bray dragged themselves level out of nowhere. In an immediate response to Ogbene’s second, Brennan fired to the net from inside the box following Greene’s cross. And after Greene saw a drive turned around the post, from the resulting corner he headed in from close range after a cross from Connolly.
Limerick were hit with a further blow on 32 minutes when Shaun Kelly – in a wing-back position in the new formation – was forced off through injury and replaced by Clarke. But three minutes later the substitute set up the third goal when he stood up a cross from the right and Tosi rose highest at the back post to stick a header in the near corner.
Bray should have replied again within moments but right in front of goal Greene failed to control when he looked certain to score, as Limerick led into half-time. During the interval, Hall withdrew as a goalkeeping change was forced due to a shoulder injury, and five minutes into the second half Tommy Robson went off with injury.
On 54 minutes, Limerick went close to extending their lead when Lynch played in Tosi who held off his man but he found Cherrie in the way as the ‘keeper blocked well with his feet. But the game turned midway through the second half when Héry fouled Brennan in the box and up stood McCabe to make it 3-3 from the spot.
Bray were well on top at this stage, with Limerick unable to make any further substitutions following the three injuries. And the Seagulls should have been ahead on 81 minutes when Brennan played Connolly through on goal but as he looked set to make it 4-3, Dean Clarke worked back brilliantly to put him under pressure which saw him shoot wide.
That laid the platform for a valuable Limerick victory as they hit the front on 87 minutes, O’Conor’s initial shot blocked back into the path of Héry who fired a sweet drive to the bottom corner. Moments later, the points were secured when Lynch put in Clarke who made no mistake with the finish, as the Shannonsiders moved to within four points of fourth.
Limerick: Freddy Hall (Brendan Clarke HT), Shaun Kelly (Dean Clarke 32), Tony Whitehead, Robbie Williams ©, David O’Connor, Tommy Robson (Shane Tracy 50), Paul O’Conor, Bastien Háry, Lee-J Lynch, Chiedozie Ogbene, Rodrigo Tosi. Goals: C Ogbene (13, 19), R Tosi (35), B Héry (87), D Clarke (89). Booked: None. Unused Subs: Garbhán Coughlan, Ian Turner, Stephen Kenny, Chris Mulhall.
Bray Wanderers: Peter Cherrie, Keith Buckley, Tim Clancy, Conor Kenna ©, Kevin Lynch (John Sullivan 64), Mark Salmon (Karl Moore 64), Ryan Brennan, Dylan Connolly, Gary McCabe, Darragh Noone, Aaron Greene. Goals: R Brennan (20), A Greene (25), G McCabe (70 pen). Booked: C Kenna (36), D Connolly (44). Unused Subs: Lee Steacy (GK), Derek Foran, Hugh Douglas, Ger Pender, Anto Flood.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork). Attendance: 1,447 (Official).
Report Date: Friday 2 June 2017