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Students' late goal cramming session gives Drogheda fifth straight defeat

Robbie Benson and Cillian Morrison struck in the space of three minutes to give UCD 2 – 1 win at Belfield.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

UCD 2

Drogheda United 1

WHEN YOU’RE ENDURING a difficult period, the world seems to conspire against you.

For Drogheda United, a costly error ten minutes from time initiated an unlikely UCD comeback at the Belfield Bowl on Friday evening as Robbie Horgan’s side slumped to a fifth successive defeat. For much of this tightly-fought encounter, the visitors were in control as Gary O’Neill’s first-half strike gave the Louth men the ascendancy but Robbie Benson and Cillian Morrison struck in the space of three minutes to turn the game on it’s head.

When confidence is low, deficiencies are ruthlessly exposed and luck goes against you. Michael Daly dallied in possession, when there was no danger, and as the ball ricocheted off Samir Belhout, Benson was the quickest to react and slot home unattended. Minutes later, as Drogheda were still smarting from the concession of an equaliser, Morrison charged in to head Chris Mulhall’s corner home. There was hardly enough time for a response as the Drogs slump to ninth in the standings.

Conversely, victory propels Aaron Callaghan’s side to eleven points from their opening set of fixtures and in touch with those above them.

Conviction

It was the hosts – unchanged from last week’s draw at Derry – who came out of the traps with purpose and conviction. Having conceded twelve goals in their last four outings, it was no surprise the United rearguard were tentative in their means during the opening exchanges. Firstly, Benson stole possession in midfield before teeing up Morrison but the striker’s curling effort was tipped around the past by Dave Ryan. Then the ‘keeper, after O’Brien struck the post with a low effort from close range at the other end, did brilliantly to push Benson’s crisp drive to safety after Morrison was afforded too much time and space on the edge of the box.

UCD have scored just four times at home this campaign and much of their problems can be put down to their struggles on front of goal. Here, the first and last quarter apart, they were otherwise blunt and short of ideas at the business end. In comparison, the Brennan, O’Neill and O’Brien axis was penetrative and caused the Students boundless problems as they interchanged seamlessly.

Having enjoyed the better of much of the first period in terms of possession, United hit the front shortly after the half-hour mark. Brennan’s initial centre wasn’t dealt with and after O’Brien held off the challenge of Tomas Boyle, pulled it back for the onrushing O’Neill to curl home with precision.

College looked to respond instantly but Samir Belhout was the latest to be denied by Ryan, after striking Gareth Matthews’ cross sweetly. The pattern continued after the interval, as both sides scrapped for ascendancy in the central areas, with neither taking control. Out of nothing, O’Neill found some space between the lines and slipped O’Brien in down the right. The striker composed himself before cutting inside but his powerful drive from a tight angle struck the outside of the upright.

The visitors were to rue that missed opportunity, and not making the most of their superiority. As UCD struggled to find any inspiration in search of an equaliser, their fortunes turned with fifteen minutes remaining. Belhout’s industry created the opening and Benson made no mistake before Morrison headed home, for his fourth of the campaign, to give UCD three points they had looked unlikely to collect for much of the evening.

UCD: Conor O’Donnell, Hugh Douglas, Tomas Boyle, James Kavanagh, Gareth Matthews, Samir Belhout (Gary Burke, 90), Colm Crowe, Robbie Creevy, Robbie Benson, Chris Mulhall; Cillian Morrison.

Subs not used: Mark McGinley, Michael Barker, Michael Scott, Tom O’Halloran, Sean Coyne, Dwayne Wilson.

Drogheda United: David Ryan; Shane Grimes, Paul Andrews, Alan McNally, Michael Daly; Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe, 82), Gary O’Neill, Gavin Brennan, Ciaran McGuigan, Stephen Maher (Paul Crowley, 23); Declan O’Brien (Phillip Hughes, 75)

Subs not used: Dylan Connolly, Gavin Holohan, Daire Doyle, Sean O’Connor.

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Ryan Bailey

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