By Aaron Clarke (@Aaron_c91)
A late Matthew Whelan strike was all that separated the sides at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening as Cobh Ramblers recorded a third consecutive victory against the Students to leapfrog them into second place in the SSE Airtricity League First Division table.
In a game that both sides knew victory was key in order to maintain the pressure on league leader Waterford FC, the sides exchanged early opportunities. First Ian Mylod fired wide for the visitors before Gary O’Neill failed to trouble Paul Hunt from distance.
Soon after, Cobh though they’d got off to a dream start through Whelan after the 19-year-old fired home from close range, but the forward was adjudged to have been offside from Jason Abbott’s original effort.
After a quiet opening 38 minutes for the Rams keeper Hunt, the shot-stopper was soon called into action when he produced an excellent save to deny Georgie Kelly from close range after Ben Hanrahan’s initial shot took a wicked deflection before the ball fell to Kelly whose half volley from close range forced to the keeper to be on his toes.
Moments later, Hunt was called into action once again after UCD full-back Daniel Tobin was allowed to glide down the right flank before shooting from 25 yards. Despite soaking up some late first-half pressure, Cobh had an excellent chance of their own 30 seconds later when Niall Corbet produced a fingertip save to deny Ben O’Riordan from a headed effort.
After the break the Student continued the late first-half pressure, but McClelland’s early shot failed to trouble Hunt. McClelland was again involved in UCD’s next opportunity, his quick throw in found Evan Osam before the full-back picked out O’Neill with a neat reverse pass, however, the UCD skippers curling effort sailed wide.
Soon after, UCD had another excellent opportunity to open the scoring, the ball fell to Greg Sloggett on the edge of the box and his half-volley appeared to be heading towards goal before taking a nick of Kelly inside the small rectangle before sailing wide.
As Cobh began to get a strangle hold on the game in the last 25 minutes, Craig Donnellan’s long range effort failed to trouble Corbet in the UCD goal.
The game’s only goal arrived 11 minutes from time after a long ball forward from Kyle McNamara was allowed to bounce by Liam Scales before the central defender was out muscled by Whelan before raced through on goal and calmly slotted low past onrushing goalkeeper.
Despite a late headed effort for Maxi Kouogun sailing over the bar, the Rams held on for what could prove to be a vital three points later in the season and next Saturday they welcome league leaders Waterford FC to St Coleman’s Park while UCD make the trip to the Midlands to play Athlone Town.
UCD AFC: Niall Corbet; Daniel Tobin (Josh Collins 82), Liam Scales, Maxim Kouogun, Evan Osam; Daire O’Connor, Greg Sloggett, Gary O’Neill, Jason McClelland; Ben Hanrahan, Georgie Kelly.
Subs Not Used: Conor Kearns, , Sean Coyne, Cian Kavanagh, Sean Byrne, Gareth Coughlan, Rob Manley.
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt; Charlie Fleming, Ben O’Riordan, James McSweeney, Kyle McNamara; Stephen Christopher, Craig Donnellan, Cian Coleman, Ian Mylod; Jason Abbott, Matthew Whelan (Dean Swords 89).
Subs Not Used: Michael Sadys; Shane Lowth, Anthony O’Donnell, Scott McCarthy, Darren Murphy,.
Bookings: Cian Coleman (35’), James McSweeney (63’)
Referee: Damien MacGraith
Man of the Match: Matthew Whelan (Cobh Ramblers)