Gerard Grimes reports from United Park
UCD edged to within touching distance of the First Division title with a 3-0 victory over ten-man Drogheda United on Friday, courtesy of a Conor Davis hat-trick.
The Students started off the brighter, with Greg Sloggett winning the ball back with a sliding tackle, Conor Davis collecting, turning and shooting narrowly wide from 25 yards.
Full-back Evan Osam impressed throughout as he looked to get forward and on 13 minutes, he beat Luke Gallagher, cut the ball back into the six-yard box with pace but Neil Farrugia fired over the bar.
Drogheda began to grow into the game just before the 20-minute mark when Brennan played the ball left to Hyland but the Drogheda captain’s dipping effort was just too high.
Brennan went close to opening the scoring three minutes later as his 25-yard free kick almost caught out Kearns but bounced wide of the near post.
Man-of-the-match Neil Farrugia was a constant threat throughout and had the next effort on the half hour mark as he cut inside following a run down the right wing, but his low shot was gathered by Paul Skinner at the second attempt.
Teenager William Hondermarck went close for Drogheda a minute later from range before the home side registered their only shot on target of the game through Jake Hyland.
Chris Lyons managed to loop a ball over the UCD defence into the path of Hyland who fired straight at Kearns, seemingly caught in two minds, of whether to shoot, or try square it to Lyons or Hondermarck.
The game was turned on its head a minute before the break though as Drogheda’s Sean Brennan, already on a yellow for dissent, lunged into a needless tackle on the edge of the UCD box and was shown a second yellow card, with Drogheda reduced to ten men.
UCD hit the front less than a minute later, in the first of two added minutes at the end of the half. Ciaran Kelly failed to clear Jason McClelland’s cross, allowed Conor Davis to fire past Skinner into the far corner.
The visitors thought they had doubled their lead within a minute of the second half starting as Liam Scales headed home a superb Gary O’Neill free kick, but the linesman’s flag was up, with Scales adjudged to have been offside.
UCD did double their lead on 55 minutes though as Farrugia capitalised on another defensive mistake, broke free on the right, and crossed to McClelland at the back post.
McClelland saw his shot brilliantly saved by Skinner, but Davis reacted quicker than a number of Drogheda defenders to fire home his and UCD’s second of the evening.
It was comfortable for UCD as they limited Drogheda to just a Richie Purdy shot in anger from 30 yards, which sailed well wide of Kearns goal.
UCD, meanwhile, passed the ball around in search of more goals and almost found a third on 71 minutes but McClelland’s shot, cutting in from the left, hit the side netting.
The Student’s kept pushing and Gary O’Neill’s 30-yard free kick almost crept in at the near post on 77 minutes before they finally made it 3-0 with eight minutes to play.
Yet again, it was Neil Farrugia who beat his man on the right, took it to the line, cut the ball back into the box and Davis was there to make it three.
Drogheda United: Paul Skinner; Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher, Ciaran Kelly, Conor Kane; Richie Purdy, Jake Hyland (C), Sean Brennan; William Hondermarck (Gareth McCaffrey 53’), Chris Lyons (Jordan Adeyemo 59’), Mark Doyle (Rob Manley 61’).
Unused Subs: Luca Gratzer (GK), Kealan Dillon, Lloyd Buckley, Sean Trimble.
Booked: Sean Brennan (28’, 44’), William Hondermarck (37’).
Sent Off: Sean Brennan (44’).
UCD: Conor Kearns; Dan Tobin, Josh Collins, Liam Scales, Evan Osam; Greg Sloggett, Gary O’Neill (C), Timmy Molloy (Kevin Coffey 91’); Neil Farrugia, Conor Davis (Yoyo Mahdy 91’), Jason McClelland (Daire O’Connor 91’).
Unused Subs: Gavin Sheridan (GK), Evan Farrell, Paul Doyle, Sean McDonald.
Booked: Josh Collins (26’).
Referee: Adriano Reale.
Attendance: 350 (est).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Neil Farrugia (UCD).