Cobh Ramblers 2-0 UCD: As UCD endure yet another defeat, their place in the Eircom League looks ever more uncertain, writes Fearghal Kerin.
The Students find themselves well and truly in grave danger of being relegated after a disappointing defeat to fellow strugglers Cobh Ramblers on Saturday night. A goal in either half from striker, Davin O’Neill was enough to pull Cobh out of the relegation zone, and plunge Pete Mahon’s charges into a now seemingly inescapable battle against demotion.
The match was played on Saturday night, which meant that the majority of UCD and Cobh’s relegation rivals had already played the previous night.
Galway’s victory over Bray Wanderers meant they had leapfrogged the Students, and meant UCD needed a key victory to give them the poll position in the fight for survival that they yearned for after recent good results against Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United.
This result now leaves the College side rooted in the relegation zone, with time quickly running out to sustain Eircom League football at the Bowl.
It need not have been this way however, with Darren Meehan carving an early chance before dispatching a strong shot that careered onto the post, from 20 metres. The ball rebounded onto the back of goalkeeper James McCarthy, who was relieved to pounce on the ball to prevent an embarrassing own goal.
Somewhat against the run of play, Ramblers took the lead with in form striker, Davin O’Neill sinking his fourth goal in just two games. The Ramblers tactics of playing Colin O’Brien in the traditional Makelele role and isolating Davin O’Neill paid off with O’Brien nicking the ball away during a UCD attack and starting a move that culminated in the opener.
An in-swinging cross from the impressive Kenny Coleman was dispatched past Matt Gregg by O’Neill with a fine bullet header, and from there Cobh’s nerves seemed to ease and they played more relaxed and began to dominate the remainder of the half.
Alan Carey and Ross Gaynor unleashed venomous shots that could easily have doubled Cobh’s lead.
Though the home side seemed to have all the ball, UCD managed to create several chances for an equaliser. Pat McWalter continued what sometimes seems like his one-man crusade to save the Students, and brought a great save from McCarthy from close range.
UCD’s next chance came shortly after half-time, with full back Conor Kenna’s long ranger arcing inches over the bar.
Such extravagance was punished on the hour mark, with Ramblers crucial second coming again from the in-form O’Neill. Defensive errors are never welcome, but certainly not when a team is as embroiled in difficulty, as the Students are.
Conor Kenna got robbed in possession by Davin O’Neill, who was left with the simple task of lifting the ball over the out of position Gregg, and effectively ending the game as a contest.
While UCD will be disappointed at the result, they should look at Cobh for inspiration as to how to raise your game as crunch time of the season approaches. The recently promoted side were many people’s favourites to go back down and for many months it looked that way.
However, a run of form comprising three consecutive wins and just one defeat in eight leaves them on the verge of the great escape as the season winds up.
For the Students, defeat in a relegation six-pointer such as this was disappointing, and the smart money is on it consigning UCD to relegation, much to the disappointment of all those involved with UCD AFC. A strong finish as the season reaches its final straight is required for Mahon to pull off the ultimate miracle.
COBH: McCarthy; Coleman, Guthrie, Murray, J Meade; Carey, O’Brien, J Kearney, O’Halloran, O’Neill; Gaynor.
Subs: Kavanagh for Gaynor 82 mins, C Meade, R Lally, S Barrett, S Mulcahy.
UCD; Gregg; Shortall, Bermingham, Kenna, McNally, McFaul, Finn, Purcell, Meenan, King, McWalter.
Subs: Duggan and Fitzgerald for Meenan and McFaul both 70 mins, McMillan, Bolger for Shortall 82, Brennan.
Referee: Damien Hancock (Dublin)