Andrew Dempsey reports from the UCD Bowl
The Students suffered their seventh defeat in a row as they fell to a 1-0 loss at home to a dominant Shamrock Rovers side at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening.
Dan Carr’s first half goal proved decisive in what was a comfortable enough one goal success for the Hoops.
It has been a tumultuous few weeks for UCD as Collie O’Neill’s side have succumbed to six successive league defeats – now seven. Prior to kick-off it had been 439 minutes since UCD scored their last league goal – it is now 529.
With enforced changes for the Students due to exam commitments, Collie O’Neill opted for a changed tactical shape too. In the place of the usual 4-2-3-1, an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation was used, with Neil Farrugia operating as a left wing-back.
Despite dominating much of the early period of the game, it was Shamrock Rovers who coughed up the first guilt-edged chance of the game.
Gary O’Neill’s central free kick was met by the head of Josh Collins at the back post. Collins’ header then floated its way back into danger where Yoyo Mahdy was free. Mahdy then just about missed the flight of the ball with the goal at his mercy as the Hoops survived a very real early scare.
Given the Students unfamiliarity with their new system, the Hoops eventually benefitted from some industrious wide play as they grabbed the opener midway through the first half.
Aaron Greene was set free on the right before crossing the ball into danger as Dan Carr was on hand to score from close range.
UCD struggled to cope with the overlap as both Jack Byrne and ex-Student Dylan Watts both went close for Stephen Bradley’s side from very close range as both Collins and the busy Conor Kearns in the UCD goal came to the Students rescue.
While they were on the ropes, the Students really should have levelled just after the half hour mark. Liam Scales fed in Farrugia whose cross was scrambled away by Alan Mannus.
Richie O’Farrell then played the ball back to Conor Davis who saw his shot cleared off the line by Roberto Lopes.
Rovers continued to probe as the opening period reached its conclusion but were unable to score a second which their play and dominance probably merited.
The Hoops continued to dominate in the second half as Carr went close twice in just a few short minutes as the Students lived dangerously against their title-chasing opposition.
While they did struggle to get on the ball and play at times, UCD remained a threat from set-pieces with Gary O’Neill going close from an effort that was just outside the penalty area.
Well in control, the Hoops ought to have secured all three points just after the hour mark but Byrne’s effort with the outside of his boot just crept wide of the UCD goal.
Substitute Joel Coustrain then saw his shot hit the butt of the post shortly afterwards as UCD were continually pressed high, preventing any sort of flow to emanate through the middle of the park for the Students.
Stephen Bradley’s side continued to assert their control and even looked to have put the result beyond all doubt with just under ten minutes to go but Trevor Clarke was adjudged to have been offside as he buried the ball home.
Sub Orhan Vojic went close shortly after forcing a smart save from Kearns as did Clarke once more as UCD were unable to get any sort of attack going as they became increasingly desperate.
Collie O’Neill’s side never gave up, but their efforts were in vain as they could not force a way through the Rovers staunch defensive rear-guard at the end of play to earn the three points and keep level pegging with league leaders Dundalk.
It was a painful defeat for the Students especially as Finn Harps below them picked up all three points and sent UCD bottom of the table.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Liam Scales, Evan Farrell, Paul Doyle, Josh Collins; Gary O'Neill, Richie O'Farrell, Jason McClelland, Neil Farrugia; Yousef Mahdy (Sean McDonald, h/t), Conor Davis.
Subs not used: Gavin Sheridan, Harry McEvoy, Danu Kinsella Bishop, Mark Dignam, Darragh Corcoran, Jack Ryan.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O'Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Dylan Watts, Brandon Kavanagh (Joel Coustrain 62), Trevor Clarke, Jack Byrne, Greg Bolger; Aaron Greene (Orhan Vojic 84), Daniel Carr (Ethan Boyle 76).
Subs not used: Orhan Vojic, Leon Pohls, James Furlong, Dean Dillon,.
Booked: Roberto Lopes (61), Ethan Boyle (90+1)
Referee: Neil Doyle.
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Aaron Greene (Shamrock Rovers).