UCD 0 – 1 Sligo Rovers – A first half penalty at the Belfield Bowl consigned a sorry UCD side to their fourth consecutive Eircom League, writes Fearghal Kerin.
Last Friday night’s clash with Sligo Rovers at the Belfield Bowl led to further disappointment for UCD’s soccer start, with their inability to convert chances once more leading to the Students’ downfall.
What will be most galling for manager Pete Mahon will be the fact that Finn Harps, conquerors of UCD only two weeks ago, were beaten by Bohemians. As a result, this was a great opportunity for College to close the gap on those around them in their battle against relegation.
As the Sligo pressure grew, Richie Ryan unleashed a seemingly unstoppable shot, only for Gregg to dive full length to brilliantly parry away the strike
Though Sligo had the bulk of possession, chances and territory, the Rovers’ goal came only as a result of a rare mistake by the home side’s goalkeeper Matt Gregg, who his mistake for the penalty notwithstanding was in fine form, repelling countless attacks, but losing his focus at a most inopportune time.
Despite that, UCD had their opportunity to end a run of three straight defeats, managing to make their first clear-cut chance inside two minutes. A swinging free kick by right-back Alan Mahon, straight onto the head of the incoming Ian Bermingham was a chance for the perfect start, but the header went straight at the goalkeeper allowing him to make an unlikely save.
A good start for College included further chances, which on another day, or for a team on form would have given the hosts the lead. Good play by Pat McWalter set up Mark Duggan who unleashed a drive that deflected off a Rovers’ defender and was only gathered at the second attempt by Sligo goalkeeper, Richard Brush.
The McWalter-Duggan axis again cut the Rovers’ defence to shreds, with McWalter’s slided pass playing in Duggan
With a quarter of the game gone, Brush was again called into action with his best stop of the day. The McWalter-Duggan axis again cut the Rovers’ defence to shreds, with McWalter’s slided pass playing in Duggan for a chance that, despite Brush’s heroics, he’ll be disappointed he was unable to convert.
That was as good as it got for the home side, however, with Sligo slowly gaining a foothold in midfield and placing College on the back foot. As the Sligo pressure grew, Richie Ryan unleashed a seemingly unstoppable shot, only for Gregg to dive full length to brilliantly parry away the strike.
Only minutes later however, a seemingly innocuous corner swung in by Sligo was being headed harmlessly over the bar by the impressive Rafael Cretaro, only for Gregg to needless bundle the midfielder over for a caste-iron penalty given by referee Dave McKeon.
The penalty was coolly slotted into the bottom corner by Doherty, despite Gregg’s attempts to makeamends for his mistake. From then on however, Gregg played like a man possessed, particularly in the second half as Sligo began to dominate in their search of a killer second.
Further good saves to deny the Benin Captain Romu Boco, first from a low drive and late on after a clever one two with Doherty all but made up for his earlier error, and few will blame Gregg for the defeat.
Long periods of possession in the second half led to nothing, with a single shot off target the only reward for all their domination, something that will be of concern to Pete Mahon over the coming weeks as the battle for Eircom League survival heats up.
The concern for UCD will be their inability to take any points from what was a good opportunity against a midtable side with little left to play for his season. The gulf in class between those at the bottom and those above was abundantly evident in this clash, and time is running out for College to ease the pressure on themselves. A paltry return of 17 points from 26 games is not survival form, and on recent evidence, Eircom League soccer at the Belfield Bowl is on it’s last legs.
However, there are some positives to take from the performance, with the class of McWalter again shining, and there is still time for UCD to pull themselves out of the mire they have found themselves in, with next week’s difficult clash at Turner’s Park against Cork City a vital but unlikely source of precious points, as College begin to move into last chance saloon as far as survival is concerned.
UCD: Gregg; Mahon, McNally, Kenna, Bermingham (Ward 75 mins); Shortall 84 mins); McWalter, Finn, McFaul, Duggan (King 75 mins); Purcell, Meenan.
Sligo Rovers: Brush; Coleman, Peers, Ventre, Butler; Cash (McTiernan 73 mins), O’Grady, Ryan, Doherty (McDaid 75 mins); Boco, Cretaro (Curran 68 mins)