Martin Russell’s UCD paid no heed to the form book as they dismissed visitors Bohemians at the Belfield Bowl tonight. Second half goals from Stephen Doyle and Darren Meenan not only gave the Students all three points, but may also have put an end to the title hopes of Pat Fenlon’s side.
The best chance of the first half came early on, after only five minutes. A scrappy exchange in the middle of the park saw the ball drift wide to the right where Anto Flood picked up possession. He swung a ball right onto the head of Aidan Downes but the striker could only glance the ball wide of Mark McGinley’s goal.
Only a minute later Robert Bayly found Flood at the edge of the area. He managed to turn neatly but could his shot was deflected wide.
Genuine chances did not materialise for the Gypsies thereafter, despite just about having the better of the early exchanges. Flood - who played wide on the right for most of the game - managed some good crosses but there was rarely any trouble for the UCD defence.
As Bohs became frustrated with their inability to create, UCD grew into the game. Keeping the ball on the ground, they pulled their opposition’s five-man midfield across the park.
They too struggled to forge clear chances though, instead leaving themselves open to quick breaks. Bayly came closest on 26 minutes when Flood fed him from the end line but McGinley wasn’t worked. The former Shamrock Rovers player could only pull the ball across the face of goal.
Dean Marshall’s introduction for Robbie Creevy on the half an hour mark saw Paul O’Conor move into the centre of midfield and this was the turning point for a more creative UCD. O’Conor provided a spark as the ball passed through the middle of the park and, almost immediately, Graham Rusk was put through only to scuff his shot under pressure.
Bohs finished the half on top but again, couldn’t make a breakthrough. The very lively Killian Brennan provided an opportunity for Downes a couple of minutes before the whistle. Brennan played a long diagonal ball into space, over the top of a retreating UCD defence, but the striker’s control could not match the delivery.
Bohs kicked off the second half but UCD quickly established themselves as the dominant force as Man of the Match Darren Meenan flexed his skills on the left side of midfield. On 51 minutes he found Stephen Doyle with a low cross, but his teammate fired well over, leaning back as he hit the shot.
The breakthrough came for the home team with just under an hour on the clock. Stephen Doyle gave himself some space to shoot at the edge of the box. Unfortunately for Barry Murphy, he could only scramble back as the deflected shot sailed over him and into the net.
UCD continued to press but it was Bayly who threatened next at the other end. He managed to get on the end of a Brennan free kick but could not find the target. Wasted chances would come back to haunt Bohs as UCD piled on more pressure with their slick and confident passing.
Meenan forced a good save from Murphy with twenty minutes to play as his twenty-yard effort looked to be curling in under the bar. Meenan almost taunted the floundering Bohs players who tried to press him in the second half. A series of silky touches and deft flicks combined with potent passing and runs down the side caused more and more headaches for those nipping helplessly at his heels.
It was fitting that it was Meenan who put the varnish on tonight’s win after 83 minutes. He turned inside from the left and let one fly only to find his effort blocked. He immediately picked up the loose ball and curled a beautiful shot past Murphy into the top right corner from just outside the box.
Killian Brennan’s late forty yard free kick – which he blasted that much again over bar – was symptomatic of a disappointing night for Bohemians and Pat Fenlon. Graham Rusk might even have made it a three goal drubbing if he had beaten a sprawling Murphy just before the final whistle.
Still alive in the cup, but most likely adrift in the league, Fenlon may have to weigh up his priorities over the coming weeks.
UCD: Mark McGinley; Hugh Douglas, David OConnor, Tomas Boyle, Michael Leahy; Paul Corry, Paul O’Conor, Robbie Creevy (Dean Marshall, 30), Stephen Doyle (Samir Belhout, 76), Darren Meenan; Graham Rusk.
Subs not used: Chris Lyons, Daniel Ledwith, Barry McCabe, Ger Barron, Mark Langtry
Bohemians: Barry Murphy; Mark Rossiter (Roberto Lopez, 46), Ger O’Brien, Aiden Price, Ollie Cahill; Killian Brennan, Glen Cronin (Lee Dixon, 50), Robert Bayly, Stephen Hurley (Christy Fagan, 68); Anto Flood, Aiden Downes.
Subs not used: Stephen Traynor, Keith Buckley, Kevin Feely, Craig Sexton
Referee: Damien Hancock
Attendance: 450 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Darren Meenan