By Glenn Mason at the UCD Bowl
Hugh Douglas and Sean Russell were on target as UCD stunned Shamrock Rovers to record their first win of the season with a 2-0 victory at the UCD Bowl.
The visitors dominated possession for long spells, but lacked a cutting edge in the final third and were made to pay the price by the hard-working Students.
Russell’s free-kick was headed home by defender Douglas for the opener on 75 minutes, with the young winger putting the gloss on the result with a goal on the break in injury-time.
The victory was built on the foundations of a spirited defensive display and it lifts the Students off the bottom of the table above Bray Wanderers and Shelbourne.
The defeat deepens Rovers’ league woes and means they have just two wins and six draws from their opening ten Premier Division games. They fall further behind the leading contenders, with their hopes of a European place now in serious doubt.
Sligo Rovers manager Ian Baraclough was an interested spectator as his side take on the Hoops next week in Tallaght.
Injuries and suspensions played a major part in the Rovers selection, with three changes from the side that reached the Setanta Sports Cup final against Cork City on Monday.
The home side pushed Drogheda United close last time out and made just one change, as Douglas replaced Gareth Matthews at the back.
Rovers started brightly as Gary McCabe set up Karl Sheppard twice inside the first five minutes and James Chambers went close with a long-range effort.
Further chances came and went for Sheppard, McCabe, Chambers and Billy Dennehy, as Rovers enjoyed plenty of the ball, yet they could find no way past Mark McGinley.
With the majority of play taking place in their half, UCD were limited to rare breaks forward. And their disciplined defending was almost rewarded with a goal late in the half.
Neat approach play saw Gary Burke find space on the backline and Barry Murphy needed to be alert to cut out a dangerous low cross at his front post.
With half-time approaching, Chambers drilled a free-kick just wide and Sheppard failed to capitalise on a mix-up in the home defence by McGinley and David O’Connor.
It was McGinley’s last action of the night as he was replaced at half-time by Ger Barron following an injury in the first half.
Barron was soon involved when he was tested by a Ronan Finn header and then Dennehy’s low strike. UCD were grateful to the keeper again soon afterwards when he denied Shane Robinson at the near post.
McCabe was the next to go close when his spectacular overhead effort from Sheppard’s cutback just cleared the crossbar.
In a brief respite for the Students, David McMillan’s hooked shot was easily saved by Murphy.
It was a frustrating night for Rovers, with Dennehy’s horrible miscue in front of goal summing up their fortunes.
Things got a lot worse for them with 15 minutes remaining on the clock, when Douglas nodded in the opening goal from Russell’s free-kick.
As Rovers pressed for a late equaliser, Barron denied Chambers and McCabe, with the former effort being tipped onto the bar.
In a final throw of the dice, Murphy came forward for a corner. He was just back in his goal to see Russell slot home a second and secure what had looked like an unlikely victory.
UCD: 16 Mark McGinley (1 Gerard Barron h/t); 13 Hugh Douglas, 4 David O’Connor, 12 Tomas Boyle, 3 Mark Langtry; 8 Robbie Creevy (James Kavanagh ’68), 21 Craig Walsh, 10 Robbie Benson, 7 Gary Burke (11 Dean Clarke); 9 David McMillan, 11 Sean Russell.
Shamrock Rovers: 1 Barry Murphy; 6 Stephen Rice, 16 Derek Foran (22 Conor McCormack h/t), 26 David Elebert, 14 Danny Ledwith; 7 Gary McCabe, 8 James Chambers, 18 Shane Robinson (11 Ciaran Kilduff ’78), 20 Billy Dennehy; 17 Karl Sheppard.
Referee: Rob Rogers.