Cahal McAuley reports on UCD AFC’s final preseason game, which finished in a 2-2 draw against Shamrock Rovers
UCD AFC rounded out their pre-season campaign with a 2-2 stalemate against Shamrock Rovers, as a header in the dying seconds from Sam Todd secured a deserved draw for the students at the UCD Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Aaron Greene and Dean Williams put Rovers two goals to the good but UCD fought back to level terms as a thunderous effort from Evan Weir and the late header from Todd were enough to deny the Premier Division champions.
Having got their title defence underway against St.Patrick’s Athletic on Friday evening, Rovers left most of their key players at home but their starting XI contained eight players who had been on the bench at the Tallaght Stadium, including Aaron Greene who played thirty-five minutes and scored a late equaliser to salvage a point for the hoops.
UCD made a bright start with their intense pressing and sharp passing leading to Paul Doyle curling an effort over the bar after five minutes. The students looked unrecognisable from the team that put in an uninspired display against Pat’s last week, but Rovers gave a quick reminder of their threat in attack as Greene flashed a header just wide of the near post from a Dylan Watts corner.
Greene didn’t have long to wait for another opportunity as he put Rovers ahead on 12 minutes after converting a cross from the right-wing with a bullet header past Lorcan Healy to score in his second game in less than 24 hours, somewhat against the run of play.
The student’s attitude didn’t change after conceding as they continued to press and look comfortable in possession, but Greene could have had a second as he failed to connect with another header, this time after a cross from the left-wing just before the half-hour mark.
The students went in at the break a goal behind having had the lion’s share of possession but failing to create any clear chances to trouble the Rovers defence with Paul Doyle, in particular, working tirelessly to link attack and defence but the presence of Greene was always a threat as he led the hoops from the front.
Rovers immediately ramped up the pressure on the UCD defence from the outset of the second half as Dean Williams forced a double save at point-blank range from Healy after he got on the end of a flick-on header from Cole Omorehiomwan.
Williams was not to be denied a second time, however, as he latched on to a clever chipped ball behind the UCD defence to slot home and double Rovers’ advantage on 55 minutes.
The students responded to going two behind in positive fashion with Sam Todd’s control letting him down as a UCD free-kick bounced off his side and wide past Rovers’ keeper Leon Pohls post just after the restart.
UCD’s persistence paid dividends after 65 minutes as they halved the Rovers lead when Mark Dignam pounced on a loose touch in the Hoops’ defence to bring the students up the pitch. The ball eventually fell to Evan Weir who unleashed a rasping effort into the top corner from the edge of the box to put UCD back into contention.
Rovers’ substitute Aidomo Emakhu squandered a promising opportunity to put the game to bed as he ran at the heart of the student’s defence but dragged his shot wide of the far post with just under 20 minutes to play.
UCD looked much more fatigued in the second half as it was Rovers who began to cause problems with their pressing. Despite the game being played increasingly in Rovers’ territory in the closing minutes, it looked as though the students had run out of ideas until Sam Todd was able to nod the ball home in the last action of the game after Leon Pohls had failed to claim a UCD free-kick, allowing the defender recently signed from Finn Harps to deny the Hoops at the last.
Although both their goals came in the second half, UCD played their best football before the break as they looked comfortable in control of the ball. Rovers took over in the second half, but Andy Meyler will be pleased by his side’s mentality in persevering to get back in the game.
The students conclude their pre-season fixture list with one win, two draws, and three defeats with five of their six matches coming against Premier Division opposition. UCD get their First Division campaign underway at home to Athlone Town on Friday evening while Shamrock Rovers continue their Premier Division title defence away at Derry City next Saturday.