Students’ title hopes hanging by a thread after Cobh Ramblers defeat
UCD’s title hopes took a major blow as they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Cobh Ramblers at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening with Ramblers claiming their first win over the Students since July 2017.
A quick-fire brace from Jake Hegarty early in the second half was enough to secure all three points for the visitors who stunned the Students with their start after the break. Colm Whelan pulled one back from the spot, but it was merely a consolation as UCD fall eight points behind league leaders Shelbourne.
Andy Meyler made three changes to the eleven that beat Athlone Town with Adam Verdon, Donal Higgins, and Evan Osam coming into the side.
UCD, playing in a changed all-white kit, looked the livelier of the teams in possession in the opening minutes but it was Ramblers who threatened first when Killian Cooper controlled the ball well, turned, and shot from the edge of the box, but his effort flew just wide of Lorcan Healy’s post after seven minutes.
The Students responded shortly after, as Evan Weir picked out Liam Kerrigan from a short corner with Kerrigan driving at the Ramblers penalty area and unleashing a powerful shot that wouldn’t dip quickly enough and flew just over the crossbar.
After repelling a couple of threatening Ramblers attacks, UCD began to dominate possession with Eoin Farrell being heavily involved in most of the Students’ good play. However, despite their probing, UCD couldn’t create anything clear-cut as the Ramblers defence resolutely soaked up the pressure put on them.
Kerrigan took a different approach five minutes before half time, running through the Cobh defence, but was off balance as he struck the ball and gave a routine stop to keeper Sean Barron.
The teams went in level at the break after a half lacking in chances with the packed Ramblers defence proving difficult to break down for the Students.
After a dull opening, the game exploded into life after the restart as the visitors took the lead on 50 minutes. Lee Devitt played a delicate through ball behind the UCD defence and Jake Hegarty was on hand to produce an emphatic finish past Healy to give Ramblers the lead.
It got even better for the Cork men just moments later as Hegarty got in behind the Students’ defence again and produced an equally cool finish to double Ramblers’ lead. There were shouts for offside, but the goal stood and a shellshocked UCD attempted to dust themselves off and try and play their way back into the game.
The home side gave themselves hope on 65 minutes as substitute Adam Lennon marauded into the Ramblers box and was brought down by Dave O’Leary to win his side a penalty. Colm Whelan slotted home the spot kick to halve the deficit and give the Students a chance of taking something from the match heading into the closing stages.
Although UCD have come from two goals down to beat Treaty United and Athlone Town this season, they never looked like replicating the feat against the stubborn Ramblers defence.
Poor touches and loose passes crept into the performance, and it was Cobh who looked the more likely to score as they capitalized on the space that UCD had left as they pushed for the equaliser.
Healy got down to his right- hand side to deny Devitt shortly after the penalty and Ramblers captain Ian Turner struck the side netting with ten minutes to play.
There was to be no last gasp comeback for the Students this time as the game finished 2-1 after a well below par performance in both defence and attack.
UCD created no chances of note bar the penalty and Meyler will surely be worried to see his side, the most prolific attack in the division, fail to lay a glove on the second leakiest defence. The Students’ home form will also be cause for concern as they have won just two of their opening six games at the Bowl this season.
UCD sorely missed the tenacity of the suspended Paul Doyle in midfield and will have to turn their form around quickly if they are to stay in touch with leaders Shelbourne. They could even find themselves in a battle for the play-offs, but despite the poor display by the Students, credit must be given to Ramblers who came with a gameplan, stuck to it, and ran out deserved winners.
UCD will look to bounce back at Bray Wanderers next Friday while Cobh Ramblers will hope to build on their momentum at home to Treaty United next Saturday.