Andrew Dempsey reports from the UCD Bowl
UCD extended their unbeaten run to eight games after a deserved 4-3 win at home to Bray Wanderers on Friday night.
Andy Myler’s side raced into a 4-0 lead after 63 minutes with goals from Harvey O’Brien, Sam Todd, Liam Kerrigan and Eoin Farrell.
They did, however, concede three goals late on from Gary Shaw, but it mattered little as they held out for a pivotal win in their playoff push.
While UCD came into the game in good form, their recent record against Bray Wanderers was anything but good.
They came into the game without a win over the Seagulls since 2012, and in their last game against Gary Cronin’s side, they sunk to a heavy 4-0 defeat.
Both teams, however, had a number of players missing due to suspensions and international call-ups, with Bray hit the hardest.
They went into the game without Conor Clifford, Dylan Barnett and Richie O’Farrell as Brian Maher linked up with UCD’s Colm Whelan on Ireland under-21 duty.
Evan Weir also missed out for the Students through suspension as Andy Myler was forced into four changes. Jack Keaney also missed out.
Despite a few absentees, UCD took an early through Harvey O’Brien in just the fourth minute of the game.
O’Brien found himself free after a Liam Kerrigan free-kick found his path, with O’Brien slotting home past the helpless Kian Clarke.
Bray’s deficiencies at set-pieces came to the fore minutes later once more as Sam Todd made it two after 11 minutes.
Todd pounced on some really poor defending from a Paul Doyle corner kick routine. The Seagulls were unable to clear a bouncing ball and were duly punished as a result.
Incredibly, UCD almost made it three from another set-piece, with Todd going close again.
Clarke, however, would make amends for an earlier mistake to deny the ex-Finn Harps defender.
Bray were still a threat, and they too may have scored through Darren Craven. Craven, however, could not beat Carl Williams with a stinging volley, with the latter batting away the ball from danger.
And they went close again just before the break through Craven. But he could not clip his effort under the bar after Joe Doyle’s long-range effort was fumbled somewhat by Williams.
Craven would go close again moments later, but his goal-bound effort was blocked by UCD defender Michael Gallagher.
But UCD awoke from their first-half slumber early on in the second-half, with Doyle and Eoin Farrell going close respectively.
And their positive play was rewarded with a third just before the hour mark as Kerrigan grabbed his seventh league goal of the season.
The former Sligo Rovers winger finished off a fine move, linking up with makeshift striker Dara Keane on the edge of the penalty area.
Farrell then made it four moments later as got on the end of a Mark Dignam knockdown to find the roof of the net to end the game as a contest.
Doyle then went close minutes later, but his outside of the boot effort hit the side netting after some wonderful play from Adam Verdon.
Bray did have time to claw their way back into the game at the end somewhat, with Gary Shaw scoring a late hat-trick.
That they did, but it may have been much worse had Clarke not saved a one-on-one late on from Dara Keane.
The former Shamrock Rovers forward opened his account with a volley following a pullback from Craven to open his account on the night.
He then headed home at the back post after a hanging headed ball back into danger from Sean Callan caused all sorts of problems for the hosts.
And he would then score from the spot after a UCD defender was adjudged to have handballed, sending Williams the wrong way.
But it mattered little as the Students did not look in danger of losing their lead, racking up an encouraging win over a promotion rival in Bray.
UCD: Carl Williams; Sam Todd (c), Evan Osam, Harvey O'Brien, Michael Gallagher; Adam Verdon, Liam Kerrigan, Eoin Farrell (Sean Brennan 78), Paul Doyle, Mark Dignam; Dara Keane.
Subs not used: Mark Smith, Luke Boore, Ciaran Behan, Harry McEvoy, Donal Higgins, Lennon Gill, Sami Ayoola, Danu Kinsella Bishop.
Bray Wanderers: Kian Clarke; Daniel Jones, Mark Byrne, Aaron Barry (c), Andrew Quinn (Sean Callan 75); Luka Lovic, Brandon Kavanagh (Steven Kinsella 75), Ryan Graydon (Gary Shaw 61), Darren Craven, Callum Thompson (Sam Verdon 61); Joe Doyle.
Subs not used: Cian Connors, Sam Hayden, Darragh Lynch, Jamie Bowden, Jamie O'Callaghan.
Referee: Oliver Moran.
Attendance: 300 (Estimate).
extratime.com Player of the Match: Paul Doyle (UCD).