UCD secured a hard fought 2-1 win against Cabinteely to regain control of the race for the playoffs at Stradbrook Road on Friday evening.
Second half goals from Colm Whelan and Liam Kerrigan were enough to ensure the visitors left with all three points as a late strike from Eoin McPhillips proved to be merely a consolation for Cabo.
Andy Meyler made three changes from the crushing defeat at Bray Wanderers with Paul Doyle and Adam Lennon coming in along with captain Jack Keaney who returned to the starting XI after nine games out.
The match commenced in a scrappy fashion which would continue for large spells with a few dangerous balls over the top from Doyle being the main threat from the Students early on.
It was the home team who threatened to break the deadlock first however, as Kieran Marty Waters found himself in acres of space in the box, but the Cabo striker could only fire straight at Lorcan Healy who did well to turn the ball over the bar.
Neither side could fashion a chance until the last ten minutes of the half when both came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock. UCD put together their best move of the game to that point with Paul Doyle eventually prodding a through ball to Adam Lennon who’s low shot struck the bottom of the post.
Cabo responded with a dangerous counter of their own through the teenage pairing of Vilius Labutis and Conor Knight. Labutis ran through the heart of the Students’ defence, laying the ball off to Knight who was denied his first senior goal by the outside of the post.
After a slow opening to the half the sides went in level with both having come within inches of giving themselves the lead.
It was difficult to see where a goal was going to come from in the opening period of the second half but a moment of quality from top scorer Colm Whelan gave the Students the lead on 57 minutes. Whelan skilfully created space for a shot before curling a low effort in off the post to score his tenth of the season.
Whelan came close to netting a second less than ten minutes later in almost identical fashion, but this time saw his effort fly past the wrong side of the post.
Cabo responded by committing more men forward but the Students’ defence, particularly Sam Todd and Evan Osam repelled the threat, clearing ball after ball before the game exploded into life once more in the final ten minutes.
Cabo substitute Eoin McPhillips crafted his side’s first real opportunity since going behind by storming into the UCD penalty area and drawing a fine fingertip save from Healy.
UCD capitalised on Cabinteely pushing up to chase the equaliser with a sweeping counter- attack down the left wing with the ball eventually being pulled back to Liam Kerrigan who produced a composed finish into the bottom corner to double the UCD advantage with just seconds left in normal time.
Cabo were not going to relinquish all three points easily however, as they hit back straight away through Eoin McPhillips who had been their biggest threat since coming onto the pitch. McPhillips broke into the UCD box once again, but this time hit his shot across Healy and into the far corner.
The home side pushed for what had seemed an unlikely equaliser moments before and almost found it in the closing seconds of additional time. After a Cabo corner, Healy pulled off a point- blank double save to deny Sean McDonald and make sure of an important three points for the Students.
UCD made life difficult for themselves in the closing stages and the win was far from convincing but a hard-fought, ground out victory could be just what the Students needed after deflating defeats against Cobh Ramblers and Bray Wanderers.
UCD move back into second place, taking control in the battle for the playoffs while Cabo drop to sixth, outside the playoff places on goal difference. The Students will look to build on their win at home to Galway United next Friday and Cabinteely face a difficult trip to leaders Shelbourne.