UCD secured a vital with over Shelbourne at Tolka Park, writes Ryan Bailey
UCD are now just two points adrift of Dundalk at the bottom of the Airtricity League table after picking up their first away victory of the season on Friday evening as they beat Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
Paul Corry’s superb late strike earned the Students all three points after Philip Hughes had cancelled out David McMillan’s first half goal. The home side dominated large periods of the game but Martin Russell’s side were dangerous throughout on the counter-attack and in an evenly contested opening quarter, it was Shelbourne who had the first sight of goal.
Conan Byrne cut inside Ciaran Nangle from the right but his effort was tipped onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Mark McGinley who continues to keep his place despite the return of Ger Barron.
Martin Russell opted for Dean Clarke over Chris Lyons in attack and the teenager should have put the Students ahead after good work from the midfield trio of Corry, James Kavanagh and Paul O’Conor. The young striker miscued his effort from six yards after Robbie Benson had cut the ball back from the left flank.
As UCD began to gain a foothold in proceedings, Paul Corry started to pull the strings and his inch perfect ball behind the Shels defence saw Paul O’Conor come agonisingly close to diverting Clarke’s low cross into the empty goal after twenty minutes.
Shortly after the half-way point of the first period, it seemed the home side had the perfect chance to take the lead when referee Graham Kelly pointed to the spot after he deemed Mick Leahy had handled a Paddy Kavanagh cross, but the linesman said it was outside the box and the free kick was awarded.
It was the bit of luck UCD needed but they were thankful shortly after that Philip Hughes couldn’t convert two clear cut chances in quick succession. Firstly, the striker found himself in acres of space at the back post but couldn’t hit the target from 12 yards and then some last ditch defending from David O’Connor denied Hughes a certain goal after he had lobbed the advancing McGinley.
The home side began to boss the game and Hughes once again came close to opening the scoring on the 39th minute but his free kick struck McGinley’s post before former Student Paddy Kavanagh blasted the rebound high and wide.
With a few minutes to go until the break, UCD hit the front thanks to a brilliant counter attack which left Tolka Park stunned. Paul Corry once again split the Shels defence with a pin point ball for the onrushing Clarke before he squared for David McMillan to smash home his first goal since returning to the club.
The Reds came out after the break in determined mood as they searched for the equaliser but both Hughes and Kavanagh once again squandered clear cut chances as UCD put bodies on the line to preserve their slim advantage.
Martin Russell’s young charges continued to hit the home side on the break and could have easily doubled their lead shortly after the hour mark but Robbie Benson’s long range effort went just over before another swift breakaway saw substitute Sean Russell’s cross land at the feet of Paul O’Conor but his deflected shot was safely dealt with by ‘keeper Chris Bennion.
In recent weeks UCD have been unlucky not to pick up points from games they deserved something from and it seemed they would have to settle for a point from this closely fought encounter when with just under ten minutes left on the clock, David Cassidy’s cross was diverted in by the dynamic Hughes from a couple of yards out.
Roared on by the home fans, Shels went in search of a winner but continued to leave space at the back for UCD to counter and after shots from Corry and Benson, it was the visitors who grabbed all three points with just a minute of normal time remaining.
Mark McGinley made two fine saves before kicking long for the unmarked Dean Clarke on the right wing. The striker now operating in a wide position drove at the Shels defence before teeing up the on-rushing Corry who opened his body up and perfectly placed a rising shot into the top corner past the flapping Bennion.
It was a sublime goal to round off a pretty complete performance from the Students and it was no more than they deserved despite the opposition having large periods of possession.
Next up is a home clash with Cork City next Friday evening at the UCD Bowl with a 7.45pm kick off. The game sees the start of the final round of fixtures of the season as Martin Russell’s men begin their push up the table.
Shelbourne: Chris Bennion; Lorcan Fitzgerald, Andy Boyle, Stephen Paisley, Brian Shortall (Glen Cronin 75’); Conan Byrne (Sean Byrne 19’), David Cassidy, Kevin Dawson, Stephen Hurley, Paddy Kavanagh (Philip Gorman 60’); Philip Hughes
Subs not used: Dean Delaney, Barry Clancy, Ian Ryan, Anto Murphy
Bookings: Kevin Dawson (57’), Brian Shortall (66’), Philip Gorman (89’)
UCD: Mark McGinley; Hugh Douglas, David O’Connor, Mick Leahy, Ciaran Nangle; Paul O’Conor, Paul O’Conor, James Kavanagh (Sean Russell 61’), Robert Benson, Dave McMillan (Chris Lyons 75’); Dean Clarke
Subs not used: Ger Barron, Barry McCabe, Tyrone McNelis, Gary Burke, Tomas Boyle
Bookings: Hugh Douglas (20’)
ucdsoccer.com Man of the Match: Paul Corry