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Late Ward strike stalls Rovers' march to glory

ALEX Ferguson often states that his side never do things the easy way and the most successful club this side of the Irish Sea may have to do things the hard way after they suffered a stunning defeat last night.

Michael O'Neill's side looked to have taken another huge step to the Airtricity league title as they headed toward a draw that would have left them six clear of Bohemians with four to play.

But a dramatic late goal from Keith Ward changed that completely and put a whole new twist on the title race with a stunning curled free kick two minutes from time.

To add insult to injury, Rovers will also be without Robert Bayly, who was sent off in the lead up to the winner, and Danny Murphy -- also sent off late -- for what is shaping up to be the game of the season as they take on their greatest rivals Bohs on Tuesday night.

The Hoops' lead at the top is now down to five points and could be reduced to two on Tuesday.


The Students, in a battle of their own as they attempt to claw themselves away from the bottom three and a relegation play-off, were holding their own in the opening 45 even if the visitors were much more fluid going forward.

Since Neale Fenn's controversial arrival in Tallaght in August, the former Dundalk man has formed a partnership with Twigg that currently looks as lethal as any front pairing the league has seen in recent years.

The understanding between the two is almost telepathic and having teamed up for two of the three goals against Galway last week, the same pattern of Fenn to Twigg, Twigg to net, opened the scoring on 20 minutes.

Twigg, under the watchful eye of a Fulham scout amongst the 1,986 crowd at the Bowl, rose to meet Fenn's cross, directing a precise header past the scrambling Billy Brennan.

The Scotsman gestured to his fans as if it was another step in their inevitable path to a first title since 1994, but it was all about to change 13 minutes later.

Paul Corry exchanged passes with Greg Bolger and, despite receiving a knock, struck a shot that hit a Rovers leg and the ball fell to Ciaran Kilduff, who tucked it past Alan Mannus from the edge of the six-yard box.

UCD then took a shock lead through substitute Brian Shortall, who pounced after Kilduff beat Mannus to Robbie Creevy's corner.

But, as news filtered through that Bohs' numbers and odds were shortening in Dalymount, Rovers drew level on 73 minutes via a dubious penalty after Evan McMillan was adjudged to have handled. Turner stroked it into the top corner.

But there was more drama to come as Craig Sives gave away a crazy free-kick at the edge of the box, while Bayly was sent for an early shower after reacting, and Ward stroked home a stupendous winner before Murphy saw red right before the end.

UCD -- Brennan, O'Connor, Leahy, E McMillan, Russell (Shortall 46); Mulhall (Ward 54), Bolger, Corry, Moore (Creevy 46); Kilduff, McMillan.

SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus, Murphy, Sives, Price, Stevens; Kavanagh (Dennehy 64), Bradley (Bayly 68), Turner, Stewart; Twigg, Fenn (Rice 90).

REF -- R Winter (Wicklow).

Irish Independent