Thursday 14 December 2017

Benson derails Rovers' efforts to get back on title track

Shamrock Rovers 1 UCD 1

Garry Doyle

Yet again, Shamrock Rovers squandered two points to finish a game on level terms when victory was there for the taking.

Leading 1-0, and completely on top against a well-organised but underperforming UCD side, they conceded an equaliser 25 minutes from time and lacked either the wit or composure to reclaim a winning position.

The upshot is they trail leaders, St Pat's by eight points having played a game more – and a title dream which seemed alive yesterday morning, now seems distant and unlikely.

Yet it should have been different.

Had they taken their chances – and they had plenty – they would have been home and hosed long before Robbie Benson scored his superb equaliser for the visitors. Instead, the harsh reality is that Rovers lacked the necessary quality to see this game out.

What they did well was enough to ensure the game was largely played in the Students' half and on Rovers' terms. Squeezing the UCD defenders with merciless intent, they stopped the Students from getting their build-up play into operation. Inevitably then, the opening goal went Rovers' way, courtesy of Eamon Zayed's first goal for the club since his arrival two weeks ago.

The quickest to react to Stephen Rice's 24th-minute deflected shot, Zayed made the most of his good fortune, to calmly slot his subsequent shot past Mark McGinley. And from there, given the context of the game, you would have thought Rovers would have pushed on to claim the win.

But it was not to be. Instead, on 65 minutes, UCD equalised, when Benson met Gareth Matthews' cross to head past Richard Brush and change the tone of the game.

From here on in, a touch of panic ensued. Knowing they needed to win, Rovers' desire to increase the tempo wasn't matched by the necessary composure. Three times in the closing moments they came close – Sean O'Connor, Pat Sullivan and Conor McCormack – being a little unlucky as Rovers drew for the 11th time this season.

Shamrock Rovers – Brush; Sullivan, Foran, Oman, Powell; O'Connor, Rice, Chambers (McCormack h-t), Finn (McCabe 85), Stewart (Sheppard 74); Zayed.

UCD – McGinley; Matthews, O'Connor, Douglas, Langtry; Benson, Kavanagh, Creevy, Walsh (McCabe 81), Russell; Clarke.

Ref – P McLaughlin (Monaghan)

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