UCD and Finn Harps fail miserably to find the net


NEITHER of these sides are showing signs of panicking in the face of worsening positions at the wrong end of the premier table, but the position might have been different if both sides were aware of what had happened in the dying seconds at the Carlisle Grounds.

Having started the season so strongly, the pair are back in trouble courtesy of Brian Byrne's late winner for Dundalk. And if Theo Dunne and Charlie McGeever were keen to reflect on the positive aspects of their defensive performances, there was no getting away from their inability to find the net despite creating plenty of chances.

Given the way they have been conceding goals over the past couple of weeks, the students had, perhaps, the greater cause for contentment.

Harps, however, have invested heavily in the goal scoring talents of Jonathan Speak and James Mulligan and the fact that the latter ended the game on the right wing while Davey Dowling partnered Speak up front would seem to indicate some concern on the part of McGeever.

In fairness, though, the switch might well have paid off with Mulligan's speed and excellent touch a constant threat in the closing stages. Aidan Lynch, in particular, was given a roasting by the Donegal club's latest signing.

The team's best move of the game, in the 74th minute, involved all three players with Dowling heading a long ball on for Mulligan whose low cross seemed certain to reach Speak before Seamus Kelly managed to deflect the ball with his fingertips.

Mulligan might have scored himself with a couple of minutes left when he finished a run down the right with a shot that Kelly once again did well to block. But for all of his side's second half domination, they simply could not find a successful route to goal.

They did, however, play much better than in the first period when the front runners, towered over by Tony McDonnell, were forced to play from so deep that they barely managed to threaten Kelly's area.

Their best chance of the first half fell to Stephen Kelly in the 37th minute who narrowly failed to get a touch to Jonathon Minnock's low free kick when both the goalkeeper and his defence were clearly beaten.

UCD, in contrast, created plenty of opportunities from play in the early stages but Stuart Gaold did well at the heart of a defence that always seemed too powerful for their hosts.

Jason Sherlock did get free on the right after just six minutes when Ciaran Kavanagh pushed the ball into space behind the Harps back four, but Darren Nash was quickly off his line to block and he was equally alert later when a Mick O'Byrne shot from the edge of the area took a deflection that almost sent it inside the bottom of the right hand post.

"Points lost for both sides," as Dunne admitted immediately afterwards, and a growing feeling that the run in might provide a more interesting four way battle to avoid the play off at the bottom than the title race itself.