UCDAFC took on Shamrock Rovers in the UCD Bowl on Friday night in a preseason friendly. College, losers in last year’s playoff game to Finn Harps are looking to go one better this year and gain automatic promotion.
College, without last year’s captain Robbie Benson, lacked fluency in midfield throughout the game as form and fitness slowly creep back in after the season break. UCD started the match well looking to press Rovers high up the pitch with Swan in particular impressing with his eagerness to win the ball back. With ex Ireland international Stephen McPhail though Rovers’ defenders were always able to find a free man and bypass the press. Collie O’Neill will need to think hard in the coming weeks about the implementation of this press, in this game the gap between the UCD midfield and the pressing forwards was far too great for it to be effective.
As the first half wore on Rovers began to see much more of the ball in dangerous positions with their attacking play putting pressure on Corbet’s goal. Brennan and Miele interchanged beautifully and their composure on the ball was far greater than their college opponents. The pace of Drennan also told as he easily outpaced the central defenders to win his side a corner kick. The delivery was perfect and, after some confusion in the box, was stroked into the back of the net by Blanchard.
UCD needed a response but non came with the College finding it very difficult to create anything in the Rovers area. Brady caused some danger on the wing but his final ball was poor showing more of a lack of understanding with his new teammates than anything else.
In the second half both teams began ringing out the changes with UCD’s fluency definitely suffering for it. Space began to develop between the lines and Miele continued to find himself in space around the UCD area. His finishing was often wayward but as the season progresses it is bound to somewhat improve. UCD struggled to hold onto the ball for any length of time and failed to involve Swan at all in the play.
On the 29th minute things got worse for UCD with Josh Collins heading the ball into his own net while backtracking to defend a cross. Again the response from UCD was not there with the once more failing to control the ball in midfield. The chances for Rovers began to get more and more clearer with the Rovers substitutes clearly thinking that this was an opportunity to get their names into the starting line-up for the new season.
As the game came to an end UCD came under more and more pressure as Rovers pumped the ball into their box. The best chance of the game fell to ex Aston Villa youngster Michael Drennan controlling a cross with his chest alone in the box, taking it down before volleying it past the advancing keeper and onto the post.
- Neil Ryan, Sports Editor