There was much at stake when Bray Wanderers met Athlone Town in the final league game of the season last Tuesday night.
The visitors were looking to lift the title while Athlone were hoping to stay out of the bottom two on the table. As it turned out, Bray's win was of little consequence as Drogheda also won against Cabinteely to be crowned champions. Athlone's failure to match the Shamrock Rovers result in Cobh meant Adrian Carberry’s men lost out on an eight place finish on goal difference.
The early pressure came from the visitors with three corner kicks being earned in the first 10 minutes. Athlone had a handful of chances but did have the opportunity to open the scoring after 14 minutes when Jack Reynolds passed to Dean George who looked set to score but his close range shot was pushed away by the Bray goalkeeper.
Soon after, Bray were out of lucky when the woodwork came to the Town's rescue. The visitor’s fourth corner fell to Killian Cantwell but his header brushed off the upright. Gary Cronin’s men dominated the half but struggled to break down a solid Athlone rearguard.
Aaron Myles did well to push away a Gary Shaw effort while Sean McEvoy headed wide. Athlone's last chance of the half saw Ciaran Grogan off target following a Ronan Manning free kick. Bray finished the stronger and another corner was followed by Myles denying Derek Daly.
The deadlock was finally broken a minute before the half time break. Scott Delaney was booked for a foul on the edge of the penalty area and Ryan Graydon fired the resulting free kick past the defensive wall as Myles remained rooted to his goal line.
When play resumed, Bray were again on top as they looked to kill off the home challenge with a second goal. There were few further chances up to the midway point. Adam Lennon had the first chance but drilled his shot straight at the Bray keeper. On the hour mark, Daly looked to double the lead but scuffed his shot when well placed to score.
Athlone were defending in depth but a free kick in a similar position to that which lead to the opening goal offered the visitors a chance to settle the game. Graydon's strike though was parried by the keeper. Lee Duffy came on for the Town and the substitute could have celebrated but his shot on the turn cleared the bar.
The corner count for Wanderers was eventually to reach double figures reflecting their dominance but it could have all unravelled late on. With the game heading into the 90th minute, Mark Birrane took aim from long range. The superb strike from the midfielder beat the keeper but instead of entering the net bounced off the post instead.
Five additional minutes were eventually played but there was no change in the score during this period. A first home corner was earned but no late drama ensued on a disappointing night for both teams.