UCD left it late in Belfield on Friday night as a 92nd minute winner secured a 3-2 victory against Dublin rivals Shelbourne. This puts the Students’ four points clear of Cobh Ramblers in 4th place and just a point behind Drogheda in second as the race for a top three finish and a place in the promotion playoff heats up ahead of next week’s vital clash away to Drogheda. The game looked set to end a stalemate as the second half petered out towards a 2-2 draw before substitute Ryan Swan popped up in the box to break the deadlock.
UCD started the game the better of the two sides as the pace and skill of wingers Cathal Brady and Kieran Waters troubled the Shelbourne defence early on. UCD’s domination in the opening phases was nearly rewarded just past the ten minute mark when the ball broke out to midfielder Greg Sloggett but his shot was cleared off the line by Shels defender Jack Tuite.
After this Shelbourne found their feet in the encounter as the UCD midfield went missing on occasion. Shels’ midfield had time and space on the ball while the partnership between Reece McEnteer and Adam Evans down the left flank caused UCD trouble on more than one occasion. It was however UCD who got the breakthrough after 20 minutes as Shelbourne once again failed to clear a UCD attack. Gary O’Neill’s shot could only be parried by the visiting keeper before striker Georgie Kelly reacted quickest to slot the ball into the empty net.
Shelbourne’s width continued to cause trouble for UCD as crosses were being whipped in well from both flanks. The Shels break came just past the half hour mark building on this good period of play. A drilled cross from right full back Lorcan Shannon broke to Adam Evans at the back post who kept his composure to slot past Niall Corbet in the UCD goal for a deserved equaliser.
Students player Daire O’Connor was soon forced off and was replaced by Jason McLelland whose energy, along with the strength of Kelly up front, wreaked havoc in the Shelbourne defence. The visiting North Dublin side were lucky to make it to the break still level. However, immediately after the interval UCD’s good play was rewarded as a beautiful inswinging delivery from a corner picked out defender Liam Scales at the back post, for the easiest of headers from 6 yards out to make it 2-1.
This then opened the game up, with the quality of the sand-based pitch at times making the game scrappy, despite both teams best efforts to pass the ball around. A spell of good Shelbourne play eventually led to a cross from the left flank which UCD could only clear as far as Dylan Kavanagh. The Shels man who made no mistake with a great low strike from the edge of the 18-yard box past the despairing dive of Corbet in the UCD goal.
UCD now needed to chase the game in search of a winner and introduced veteran striker Jason Byrne which gave the home side a noticeable boost. Several good chances went begging for both sides to take the lead and the game looked like a certain draw until substitute Ryan Swan popped up at the back post.
Swann exploited a rebound that fell into his path from a Maxi Kouogun shot, and he had the simplest of finishes to secure the home side took all 3 points. Cobh Ramblers have a game in hand against Cabinteely to keep pace to within a point of the Students after this win. As teams head into the final weekend of fixtures next weekend, UCD will need a win against second place Drogheda to ensure they keep their spot in the promotion playoffs.
Eoghan Brennan | Sports Writer