UCD AFC moved into the 3rd round of the FAI Ford Cup following a 3-1 win over Phoenix FC.
FAI Ford Cup 2nd Round
Friday 25th May 2012
UCD AFC 3-1 Phoenix FC
O'Conor 27' Dawson (pen) 33'
With the sun in their eyes UCD AFC got off to a rip roaring start against Phoenix FC of the Leinster Senior League Sunday in Fridays night’s FAI Ford cup fixture. Martin Russell, perhaps in an attempt to kill off the lower league outfit early, started with a 4-2-4 formation with two out and out wingers in Gary Burke and Samir Belhout while Robbie Benson provided the deep lying runs and Graham Rusk led the line.
Belhout in particular looked dangerous in the opening exchanges with his pace and trickery causing Phoenix left full Brian Kelly all kinds of problems, with Kelly’s frustration getting the better off him with an early booking against Belhout. With one eye on the dangerous Belhout, Phoenix goalkeeper Tadgh Murphy almost gifted UCD the opening goal when he delayed his clearance, Rusk closed him down at speed and was only a fraction away from grabbing the first goal of the game
With UCD consistently building the pressure the first goal looked inevitable; after Robbie Benson played a superb through ball to Paul O’Conor, free on the right side of the box the veteran student shot wide. Paul O’Conor had another opportunity minutes later when Gary Burke chipped a ball into his path taking the ball on his chest and riffling a bullet towards Murphy, the Phoenix keeper did well to palm the ball away before referee Robbie Winter spotted his assistant had flagged for offside.
When the first goal eventually came Paul O’Conor would have been a relived man. Graham Rusk and Gary Burke had both wasted good opportunities before it became third time lucky for the Dun Loaghaire native. Once again Robbie Benson was the architect playing a fantastic pass right into the on running O’Conor, without a hint of hesitation he chipped the ball over Murphy.
Moments later Gary Burke almost opened his UCD account in speculator fashion smashing a 30 yard pile driver against the bar, Graham Rusk was quick to chase up but Murphy’s quick reactions denied the students a two goal advantage.
Without the advantage of Opta stats we are left to estimate that UCD had a territorial and possession advantage of at least 60%. Yet if the recent events of football have taught us anything, the team that dominates stats don’t necessarily dominate the score sheet. With their first forage in the UCD box in the 37th minute Phoenix managed to pouch themselves an equalising goal when a reckless challenge resulted in a penalty with striker Keith Dawson duly despatched with easy.
Despite the setback UCD continued to pile on the pressure and continued to miss chance after chance. Balls just missed as they flashed across the edge of the box, lasted ditch tackles made and plenty of excuses about the sun will no doubt explain UCD’s profligacy in the first half.
Harry Kenny’s side continued to sit off UCD in the second half, refusing to press them in their half. With Leahy and O’Connor pushing up and playing on the halfway line the Phoenix half remained very congested through the second half. Credit must go to a very disciplined performance from the LSL side but also UCD will regret missed chances.
Danny Ledwith had a valid claim for a penalty waved away before Paul O’Conor smashed an effort against the up right.
With the game continuing in the same vein well into the second half Martin Russell’s frustration became palatable as he made two changes. Langtry came on for Belhout and Burke made way for Clarke. The refusal of Phoenix full back to move forward and the three centre back and two holding midfielders made it near impossible for UCD to break them down. Paul Corry and O’Conor along with Benson attempted to play through them and more often than not found themselves on the deck.
It was from one of these free kicks that UCD retook the lead; Danny Ledwith bending the ball into the top left hand corner after minimum of a run up. With a little over ten minutes remaining UCD had put themselves into a commanding position. Minutes later Clarke burst down the left and fed Rusk who buried it from close range. Despite their tactical commitment Phoenix eventually proved easy fodder for UCD AFC.
UCD AFC: McGinley, Ledwith, Nangle, O’Connor (Douglas), Leahy, Corry, O’Conor, Benson, Burke (Clarke), Rusk, Belhout (Langtry)
Phoenix FC: Murphy, Sheridan, Kelly, Philips, Keane, Wade, Gleeson, Cooney, Dawson (Ianolli), Giffney (Swan), Brophy (Kennedy)