By Rory Houston
Gary Twigg’s late strike earned Shamrock Rovers three points against UCD in the Airtricity Premier Division at the UCD Bowl on Friday night.
Rovers took the lead in the eighth minute when James Chambers struck a brilliant free-kick from 20 yards into the bottom corner of the net after Stephen Bradley was fouled.
Paul Corry equalised six minutes later when his long-range effort deceived Alan Mannus in the Hoops goal.
But in the 87th minute Twigg raced clear and finished superbly to give the Hoops the win.
College were aiming to carry on the form that saw them beat Bray Wanderers 6-0 in their league top-flight outing as Brian Shorthall and Ciaran Kilduff replaced Ciaran Nangle and Graham Rusk
Rovers made three changes from their league win over Galway United with Stephen Bradley, James Chambers and Chris Turner coming in for Stephen Rice, Robert Bayly and Thomas Stewart.
Michael O’Neill’s side started brightly with Billy Dennehy and Danny Murphy causing problems for the Students from the off.
And Rovers deservedly took the lead thanks to Chambers’ fantastic strike.
But UCD responded well with David McMillan’s shot from Dwayne Wilson’s cross well held by Hoops keeper Mannus.
Corry was the next to threaten the Rovers goal as his long-range effort went wide.
However, he did find the net for Martin Russell’s team on 14 minutes. Chris Mulhall laid the ball off to Corry 25 yards from goal, the midfielder’s effort deflected off Paddy Kavanagh, deceiving Mannus, and the Students were level.
On 18 minutes, Greg Bolger’s cross-come-shot went narrowly wide with the Rovers defence looking rattled by UCD’s crisp attacking play.
A superb break by Dwayne Wilson almost gave College the lead six minutes later. He picked up the ball in his own half, beat two defenders, but his shot was deflected away by Murray.
Dan Murray had to be alert a minute later as Kilduff found space in the box but the former Cork City defender cleared for a corner.
From the set-piece, Evan McMillan forced Mannus into another smart save with a towering header.
In the 34th minute the Students were on the attack once again as Wilson’s cross was met by Kilduff and the striker’s header had to be tipped over by Mannus.
A minute later and it was Rovers who threatened as Dennehy’s pass was met by Kavanagh, but the ex-Bray midfielder knocked the ball wide.
Dennehy’s mazy run offered hope for Rovers in the 42nd minute, but unfortunately for the away side, his shot was well off-target.
Rovers showed a big improvement in the early stages of the second half, looking a lot more dangerous in the UCD half.
The Hoops came agonisingly close to finding the net in the 52nd minute.
Chambers burst through the Students backline and exchanged passes with Twigg.
The former Drogheda midfielder’s low shot was parried by Brennan in the UCD goal and Dennehy was slightly ahead of the ball so he could not convert into the open goal.
Turner was booked for a very poor tackle in the 60th minute but then came close to edging Rovers in front as his header from a Bradley corner bounced narrowly over.
A host of substitutions killed the momentum of the game with chances quite scarce in the second period.
Corry did force Mannus into a save in the 75th minute but it was comfortable for the Northern Ireland international.
Rovers then grabbed a dramatic winner as leading scorer Twigg once again stole the show.
The Scottish striker, so quiet throughout the match, found himself through on goal after Dessie Baker’s flicked header and he slammed the ball passed Brennan.
Shorthall almost grabbed the Students an equaliser in the final minute of added time but his rasping shot went wide, much to the delight of the large travelling support.
UCD: Billy Brennan, Sean Harding, Evan McMillan, Andy Boyle, Brian Shorthall, Chris Mulhall, Greg Bolger, Paul Corry, Dwayne Wilson (Shane Fitzgerald 71), Ciaran Kilduff (Robbie Creevy 71), David McMillan.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Pat Flynn, Dan Murray, Craig Sives. Danny Murphy, Paddy Kavanagh (Sean O‘Connor 61), Chris Turner (Dessie Baker 68) Stephen Bradley, Billy Dennehy (Thomas Stewart 78), James Chambers, Gary Twigg.
Referee: Declan Hanney.