UCD played out a 0-0 draw with Shelbourne in an exciting encounter despite the lack of goals at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening.
Ireland legend Damien Duff watched from the stand as the students shut out the league leaders for the second successive game
Shels came looking to avenge the FAI Cup defeat suffered at the hands of UCD two weeks earlier and made the brighter start in the opening ten minutes as Shane Farrell flashed an effort over the bar from outside the box.
UCD soaked up this early pressure however, and began to take control of proceedings, creating a succession of chances throughout the half with the first of these coming from set pieces.
Some UCD supporters were convinced that Harvey O’Brien had scored against Shels for the third game running, but the defender’s header had instead hit the side netting. The Students came close from a dead ball once again as an Evan Weir free-kick was spilled by Jack McCarthy, making his senior debut, but the young keeper made up for his error to deny Sam Todd and turn his rebounded effort around the post.
The Students were without top scorer Colm Whelan, forcing Andy Meyler to play Dara Keane as a makeshift striker. Keane almost found the net in the 22nd minute as he latched onto a long ball that flew over the head of Maxim Kouogunbut could only prod an effort into McCarthy in the Shels goal.
The long ball over the top proved effective for UCD?once again four minutes later as Jack Keaney launched a pass to Liam Kerrigan, but the Students were denied by McCarthy for a third time with the Shels keeper making his presence felt after a nervy start.
UCD continued to push for the opener in the closing minutes of the half with Mark Dignam and Paul Doyle both trying their luck at breaking the deadlock.
Keane gained possession inside the box and cut the ball back to Dignam who’s shot with the outside of the boot flew wide of the far post. Paul Doyle, still waiting for his first league goal with the Students, curled an effort wide from the edge ofbox a few minutes later.
Shels, who had not significantly troubled the UCD defence, gave the Students a slight scare in first half stoppage time as Ryan Brennan picked up possession in the box after getting on the end of a Dayle Rooney free kick, but Todd blocked his shot to ensure the sides went in scoreless at the break.
Keane and Kerrigan spurned clear one on one chances to put UCD into the lead but the Students had once again proven they could cause the strongest team in the league difficulties while not coughing up chances at the back.
UCD would have hoped to continue this trend into the second half, but there was a drastic shift in momentum after the interval.
Rooney and Michael O’Connor came close with long range shots as Shels began to find their rhythm in the opening period of the half.
Brian McManus could have had a brace of headers within five minutes just after the hour mark as he clipped the crossbar from a corner and flashed another just wide from a delicately chipped cross from Shane Farrell.
Keane missed UCD’s first chance since the opening half with 15 minutes to play as he headed over after being found by a cross from the left wing from Doyle.
Shels began to turn the screw in the final minutes with Rooney rifling a shot wide of the post from inside the box.
Lorcan Healy, who had not been worked throughout the evening was called into action twice in the final five minutes.
Ryan Brennan hit a low shot from distance forcing Healy to get down to his right- hand side and palm the effort away. Todd reacted quickly to turn a second attempt over the bar with his head and Healy produced another stop moments later to deny Farrell who had ghosted in at the back post.
Despite soaking up pressure for the majority of the game since the break, the Students almost claimed victory with their last attack of the game in stoppage time.
Kerrigan mustered his final reserves of energy to embark on a lung busting run from deep inside his own half, squaring the ball to Adam Lennon, but the substitute could only produce a tame effort which McCarthy held onto, ensuring that he ended his debut with a clean sheet.
UCD controlled the first half and Shels the second, meaning a draw was probably the fairest result on the night as neither side could produce the quality of finishing needed to claim all three points.
Dara Keane put in a gargantuan shift out of his normal position with his hold up play and endless pressing causing difficulty to Shels, but the Students missed the killer instinct of Colm Whelan at the top end of the pitch who likely would have converted one of the chances that his teammates missed.
At the other end of the pitch UCD looked defensively solid once again with Sam Todd in particular, standing out as the Students denied Shels for the second time in a matter of weeks.
UCD drop to fifth place but can put daylight between themselves and sixth placed Athlone Town when they face off in Belfield next Friday while Shelbourne look to continue their march on the title away at Galway United.