UCD’s poor run of form continued, as a failure to capitalise on their dominance again caused problems, writes Paul Fennessy.
Finn Harps 2-0 UCD
UCD were cosigned to yet another defeat last Saturday when they were put to the sword by relegation rivals, Finn Harps. The defeat leaves them in a perilous position, with relegation looking more of a realistic prospect than ever.
Finn Harps victory enabled them to advance one point clear of UCD with a game in hand, while fellow strugglers Cobh Ramblers and Galway United are two and three points behind them respectively.
As Brian King and Darren Meehan were both suspended, UCD had to reshuffle their attack, with Ronan Finn and Shane McFaul coming in for the Students.
However, despite this enforced alteration, there was a familiar theme to UCD’s attack play, as it continuously lacked penetration, a problem which has dogged the Students throughout their campaign.
Both sides struggled in difficult conditions and the wet surface ensured that technical football was at a premium. The adverse weather also resulted in several individual errors from both sides defences, but it was Finn Harps who were the quicker of the two teams to adjust to proceedings.
Davy Byrne and Dave Tyrell both tested UCD goalkeeper Matt Gregg, while Evan McMillan unwittingly deflected a menacing cross out for a corner. It was no surprise therefore, when the home side took the lead after fifteen minutes, with a goal courtesy of Tyrell. The striker struck a unstoppable shot from thirty yards out which left Gregg with no chance.
The lively Tyrell soon went close again, as another rasping shot struck the crossbar. Chris Breen then hit the woodwork yet again from Michael Funston’s pinpoint cross. At this stage the students were in danger of capitulating, so it was they would have been grateful to hear to sound of the half time whistle.
After the break, UCD improved slightly, yet still seemed to lack the killer instinct which has perpetually eluded them this season. Shane Fitzgerald proved a threat on occasion though, as he produced a series of dangerous crosses before flashing a shot narrowly wide.
Consequently, UCD suffered a significant blow when the energetic winger succumbed to injury and was replaced by John Reilly on the hour mark.
For all the Students endeavour and possesion, they failed to turn their second half dominance into goals.
Moreover, they always looked prone to conceding on the counter-attack.
As the visitors gradually began to launch bodies forward at will, sizeable gaps to started to appear in their defence. Mark Mukendi, Funston and Stephen Parkhouse all threatened, but a combination of poor finishing and superb shot stopping from Gregg kept UCD in the contest.
As the game drew to a close, the visitors belatedly made meaningful ventures into opposition territory. An excellent through ball from Finn provided Duggan with a scoring chance, but his attempted chip sailed well wide.
As the game drew to a close, the visitors belatedly made meaningful ventures into opposition territory
An intelligent backheel by Reilly subsequently gave Duggan an opportunity to make amends for his previous miss. However, the result was the same, as his shot flew agonisingly wide of the post.
After being put through on goal, the Longford native had displayed a noticeable lack of composure, in a moment which encapsulated UCD’s primary deficiency.
These inadequacies came back to haunt the students in the dying stages of the game. In marked contrast to Duggan’s efforts, Harp’s Breen demonstrated the requisite level of ruthlessness in front of goal.
The opportunity arose as a result of a slip from substitute Greg Bolger, causing him to concede possesion to the onrushing Breen. The Harps player then showed considerable poise to round the keeper, before casually slotting the ball into an empty net, sealing victory for the Donegal side in the process.
UCD will have been disappointed with the uneven nature of their performance. In spite of the fighting spirit which they possesed in abundance, the students will have been hugely upset with the manner of the defeat, particularly given its potential importance in deciding their eventual end of season fate.
The Students’ coach Martin Russell admitted that his side were devestated by this loss, but expressed hope that they will turn the situation around before the end of the season.
‘We’re looking to the next one at Sligo to be the part of a positive run,’ he explained. ‘I still think there’s a way forward that we can get enough points to stay in the league. The positive aspect is that in most games this season we’ve always been in with a shout, but we are running out of games.’