UCD slipped perilously close to the relegation play-off following their first Airtricity League defeat to Shamrock Rovers this season on Friday night. In atrocious conditions at the UCD Bowl Rovers scored a soft first goal early on before being awarded a penalty which was duly converted by Man of the Match Gary McCabe. UCD didn’t give up and pulled one back early in the second half, health but two quick goals from Rovers soon killed the game off as a contest.
Rovers scored their first goal from their first attack in the seventh minute. A dangerous ball from Gary McCabe on the right was not dealt with by UCD’s central defence and Shane Robinson finished from six yards.
Rovers doubled their lead two minutes later. O’Donnell slid in on the on rushing Thomas Stewart, who went down easy, and the referee didn’t hesitate before awarding the penalty. McCabe took the penalty and his two-part run up had O’Donnell diving before the ball was kicked.
Rovers continued to dominate and a free flowing move in the eighteenth minute, involving Conor Powell and Richie Ryan, saw the former cross, from the left, for the latter to hit a sweet volley. The effort was just over the UCD bar. A deflected cross from McCabe four minutes later fell perfectly for O’Connor but the midfielder somehow found O’Donnell’s arms with his header from five yards.
UCD, to their credit, began to pass the ball more in the last five minutes of the half. In the fortieth minute Craig Walsh got away from his man in midfield before laying it off for Robbie Benson. The winger’s super touch put him in space and he did everything right, hitting it hard and low towards the Rovers goal. Brush’s low save was particularly impressive given the greasy conditions.
This little spell of passing seemed to instill confidence in the UCD team and they created two very good chances in the opening quarter of an hour of the second half. Russell’s free-kick in the forty-ninth minute found Robbie Creevy. The midfielder’s header, frustratingly, didn’t trouble Brush.
On the hour Benson crossed a dangerous ball into the Rovers box which found its way to Mark Langtry. The former Rovers wing back didn’t quite get his foot around the ball and it went wide to the right of the target.
UCD weren’t to be denied however and they pulled one back in the sixty-fourth minute. Russell’s corner from the right was touched on by Creevy. Benson reacted quickest to smash the ball to the roof of Brush’s net and the game was back on.
College were only in it for five minutes as Rovers soon scored their third. UCD failed to clear a ball from the edge of their own box and it eventually fell to McCabe, who took one touch before hitting a tremendous low shot which skidded off the surface and into the bottom left corner.
As in the first half, Rovers quickly scored another. Robinson was given far too much space on the edge of the UCD box and he shot. The effort was parried by O’Donnell but if fell straight to Stewart who finished from all of three yards.
UCD had the better of the final exchanges. Second-half sub Tom O’Halloran ran in from the left wing in the seventy eight before unleashing a pacy, low shot. The effort was wide to the right of the goal. College had a much better chance in the eighty fourth minute as Creevy unleashed a screamer which beat Brush all ends up. Unfortunately for the midfielder, the ball bounced back off the crossbar. It fell to O’Halloran and his powerful effort from seven yards was somehow saved by the Rovers keeper.
The final whistle brought to a close an entertaining game. UCD must travel to already relegated Shelbourne next Friday and at least match whatever result Bray manage against Dundalk at the Carlisle Grounds.