Determined UCD keep champions at bay
St Pat’s unable to turn their pressure into a victory as Samir Belhout’s equaliser earns students a share of the spoils
UCD’s James Kavanagh battles with Christy Fagan of St Patrick’s Athletic during the Premier Division clash at the UCD Bowl. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
UCD 1 St Patrick’s Ath 1
UCD’s recent improvement had yielded five points from three games but it was scarcely enough to suggest they would trip the title-holders up by halting their recent run.
Keeping things tighter at the back against Bohemians, Drogheda and Derry is one thing but St Patrick’s made the short journey across town having scored 20 times in their last six league outings, 21 in their last six in all competitions against their opponents here.
They’ll wonder how they didn’t maintain their momentum but the home side’s dogged resilience through the second half ultimately cost St Pat’s two points and top spot in the table.
The champions can have few complaints, though. Having led early on, they dominated almost the entire game.
Having been created enough first-half chances to suggest they would score at least once more after the break, they found the home side’s back four an impossible nut to crack late on with the team’s lack of physical power in attack looking costly late on after countless attempts to engineer a winner by more attractive means.
Robbie Benson had gone close for the students early on but in truth there was a sense that it might turn into a night of one-way traffic when Christy Fagan put the visitors in front just 10 minutes in.
It was a soft goal for Aaron Callaghan’s side to concede with the striker left unmarked for James Chambers to pick out and goalkeeper Conor O’Donnell then allowing what was a tame enough shot to go between his legs. But Liam Buckley’s side were worth the lead even at that stage.
They should have at least doubled it during the spell that followed with Fagan, in particular, going close on a couple of occasions but O’Donnell did well and when he was eventually beaten Robbie Creevy headed off the line before Conan Byrne fired a close-range shot straight at the goalkeeper’s head.
By that stage, though, the locals were level thanks to Samir Belhout who had finished coolly to the bottom right corner after Thomas O’Halloran had sent him clear down the left hand side of the box.
However there was always the sense that the league champions would get back on top which they certainly did their best to do through long periods of pressure in the second half.
At times UCD were obliged to scrape by but they always seemed to do just about enough with O’Donnell rarely required through the final 30 minutes to produce many heroics.
They struggled to create much more than half-chances, though, with the midfielder’s long free that dipped just too late as close as they came except for his far post tap-in of a low Ian Bermingham cross, helped on by Kavanagh, that was disallowed for offside.
St Pat’s kept chasing the winner to the end and there were claims for an injury-time penalty when Brennan and O’Donnell both went for a loose ball inside the area. Gareth Matthews arrived to tidy up as the pair tangled on the ground, however, and the visitors had to settle for a corner which the hosts scrambled away to safety.
UCD: O’Donnell; Matthews, Douglas, Kavanagh, Langtry; Creevy, Crowe (Burke, 51 mins); Mulhall, Benson, O’Halloran (Barker, 73 mins); Belhout.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; McCormack, O’Brien, Browne, Bermingham; Fahey, Chambers; Byrne (Brennan, 65 mins), Lynch (Quigley, 81 mins), Forrester; Fagan (Kavanagh, 71 mins).
Referee: G Kelly (Cork).