Macdara Ferris reports from Richmond Park
There was to be no victory for Stephen O'Donnell in his first home game in charge of St. Patrick's Athletic as UCD stifled the Saints and held them to a scoreless draw in Inchicore on Friday night.
The point wasn’t much good for bottom of the table UCD or for the Saints in their quest to secure qualification for Europe but O’Donnell will be happy with his team’s application, if not their finishing, in a game that they pretty much dominated from start to finish.
The main talking point about O’Donnell’s starting XI was the dropping of goalkeeper Brendan Clarke with Barry Murphy coming in to make his first league start of the season.
To be honest O’Donnell could have put himself in goal in the first half and it wouldn’t have mattered much as UCD failed to force Murphy into any real action.
Yoyo Mahydy was left so isolated on his own up front with the Students failing to hold onto the ball for any length of time so that they could get men forward to support him – all the hallmarks of a team who have only scored four times on the road in their league campaign this season.
A UCD corner late in the opening period was really the only time that Saints supporters had any concern about conceding a goal. At the other end, Maciej Tarnoagrodzki’s men had enough players behind the ball that the Athletic were reduced to taking shots from distance.
The closest they came to scoring in the opening period was an early Dean Clarke swerving shot that just swept passed the frame of the post.
Clarke later played Rory Hale in on goal and he had the ball in the back of the net but assistant referee Michelle O’Neill correctly had her flag in the air for an offside. Conor Kearns twice was well positioned with his body behind the ball to take a couple of shots sent his way from distance off Rhys McCabe and Hale.
The best bit of play in the scoreless first half was some tricky feet from Darragh Markey who danced by a couple of tepid UCD tackles on the edge of the box but he couldn’t get a shot away.
Within two minutes of the restart the Students had a chance to get the opener but Harry McEvoy’s header looped over the bar. At the other end the Saints won a corner and when it was cleared Ian Bermingham let fly but he couldn’t keep the ball down. They had another goal ruled off for offside on 52 minutes when Glen McAuley found the back of the net.
After the hour mark O’Donnell brought on Chris Forrester in place of Ronan Hale in an effort to liven up their attacking options with Glen McAuley pushing into the number nine role. It was Forrester who threaded the ball through to McAuley on 67 minutes and for the third time they had the ball in the back of the net only for an offside flag rule it out.
The Saints continued to press and Kearns did well to stand up to a Lee Desmond shot from an acute angle before in the next Saints attack he saved from McAuley who was clean in on goal but rushed his effort.
O’Donnell wasn’t afraid to make changes to try and win the game bringing Gary Shaw on in place of Simon Madden with McCabe dropping to fill in at right back as they chased the game.
Jason McCellend and Yoyo Mahdy both tried their luck from distance with Mahdy’s effort just millimetres by Murphy’s right hand post.
Shaw did brilliantly to save Shaw’s header low to his left from a McCabe cross nine moinutes from time. As the home side pushed on it allowed UCD to break and they did have some opportunites late on but they couldn’t get back-to-back wins over the Saints who they defeated in the FAI Cup last month.
The point moves the Saints level with Derry City in fourth place while at the other end UCD cut the deficit to Finn Harps above them in the table to five points with just five games remaining.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden (Gary Shaw 74), Dave Webster, Kevin Toner, Ian Bermingham ©; Rhys McCabe, Lee Desmond (Jake Walker 86); Dean Clarke, Darragh Markey, Glen McAuley; Ronan Hale (Chris Forrester 63).
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke (gk), Ciaran Kelly, Conor Clifford, Cian Coleman.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Dan Tobin, Liam Scales, Harry McEvoy, Evan Farrell; Jason McClelland, Dara Keane, Paul Doyle © (Ciaran Behan 79), Mark Dignam; Richie O’Farrell; Yoyo Mahdy (Sam Byrne 90+3).
Subs not used: Tom Murphy (gk), Luke Boore, Dan Mullen, Isaac Akinsete, James Daly.
Booked: Harry McEvoy (69).
Referee: Damien MacGraith.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Dean Clarke(St. Patrick’s Athletic).