UCD claimed their third league win of the season when overcoming Drogheda United by 2-1 in their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division tie at Belfield this evening.

Both sides enjoyed chances to open the scoring early on but it was Gary O’Neill who finally broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute with a sublime curling shot from 16 yards.

Robert Benson’s calmly taken leveller in the 79th minute turned the tide in the hosts’ favour and they claimed the precious three points through Cillian Morrison’s winner four minutes later.

There was a pleasantly attacking start to proceedings with the visitors indebted to David Ryan in the third minute as he dived full-length to deflect Cillian Morrison’s 20-yard effort away to safety.

Within four minutes, Drogheda enjoyed a chance of their own but former-UCD player Alan McNally headed over when making a powerful connection to Gavin Brennan’s free-kick.

United went even closer in the 11th minute as Stephen Maher escaped down the inside-right channel but Declan O’Brien could only managed a scuffed shot from his resultant cross, hitting the upright before the ball was cleared to safety. 

The visitors were beginning to control matters at this stage but Ryan was once again called into action on the quarter-hour mark as he tipped Robert Benson’s low drive past his left-hand post.

In the 24th minute, the hosts should have broken the deadlock as Samir Belhout’s low cross from the right fell kindly to Morrison, but the centre-forward could only poke the ball as Ryan, when greater composure was required.

That miss was to prove costly as Drogheda opened the scoring in the 32nd minute as O’Brien held off Tomas Boyle before finding Gary O’Neill, whose curling shot from 16 yards had too much power and accuracy for Conor O’Donnell. 

The hosts battled in vain to restore parity before the interval but the closest they came was a Belhout effort on the volley in the 37th minute that lacked sufficient power to unduly trouble Ryan. 

The early passages of the second-half lacked the energy of the first period but Robbie Creevy’s speculative effort in the 48th minute had Ryan scrambling to cover his near post.

However, the greater threat belonged to the visitors and O’Brien was desperately unlucky to hit the post three minutes later after racing clear onto O’Neill’s intricate through ball.

The contest descended for the ensuing quarter hour with both sides guilty of some errant passing as UCD in particular looked bereft of ideas in the final third.

However, with United only a goal to the good, there was sufficient motivation for the hosts and Creevy once again troubled Ryan with a low shot from twenty yards after an enterprising sortie from right-back Hugh Douglas.

The leveller duly arrived in the 79th minute and in fitting with a sloppy second-half, it arrived as a result of some poor defending with Benson was afforded too much space to run onto Belhout’s pass to fire past a horribly-exposed Ryan from 14 yards.

The comeback was complete four minutes later as Morrison rose highest to nod home Chris Mulhall’s free-kick to move the Students to within a point of Drogheda in the league table. 

UCD: Conor O’Donnell; Hugh Douglas, Tomas Boyle, James Kavanagh, Gareth Matthews; Samir Belhout (Gary Burke, 90+2), Robbie Creevy, Robert Benson, Colm Crowe, Chris Mulhall; Cillian Morrison.  

Subs not used: Mark McGinley (GK), Michael Barker, Michael Scott, Thomas O’Halloran, Sean Coyne, Dwayne Wilson.   

DROGHEDA UNITED: David Ryan; Michael Daly, Paul Andrews, Alan McNally, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe, 82) Ciaran McGuigan, Gary O’Neill, Stephen Maher (Paul Crowley, 23) Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien (Philip Hughes, 76). 

Subs not used: Dylan Connolly (GK), Gavin Holohan, Carl Walshe, Daire Doyle, Sean O’Connor.

Referee: Jim McKell (Tipperary)

Attendance: 222