Two cheaply conceded goals in the opening six minutes not only cost DCU the match, but a first place finish in CUFL Premier Division East against DIT in Grangegorman.
Much like last week against IT Tallaght, DCU’s inability to defend set pieces-particularly in the continued absence of Mark Logan- was exploited. However, these latest indiscretions had genuine consequences; a home quarter-final tie has been lost and their perfect four game winning streak ended unceremoniously. Additionally, squad moral has surely taken a hit.
Subsequently, DIT win the group on goal difference, with both sides finishing on twelve points.
In many respects this loss was a long time in the making for DCU, as their performances have steadily declined since their impressive win against UCD on the opening day. The four-four-two formation is, increasingly, looking like a counter-productive system for this particular group of players.
The absence of a conduit between midfield and attack was glaringly obvious against DIT and, it could be advantageous to give Darren Mahon a full ninety minutes in this role, which he more than adequately filled when moved in from the wing during previous matches. Food for thought.
DCU were possibly shell-shocked by the frenetic pace DIT set from the opening minutes, it must also be mentioned that they were playing into a contrary wind and up a steeply-inclined pitch. The visitors had hardly blinked when Eoin Murray whipped in a free-kick from the right-hand side and the elusive Paul Malone easily escaped the attention of Robbie Gaul and Philip Smithers to head home unchallenged.
In what felt like a heartbeat later, DIT had doubled their lead, this time Murray took advantage of mass panic in the DCU defence resulting from a relatively tame corner, smashing a half volley past Ben Dale.
DCU were gallant in their attempt gain parity, Stephen Traynor in particular, but were unable to unlock a well organised muscular DIT defence. For the first time this season Lodola and Isichei could not physically impose themselves on their markers, and were largely nullified.
DIT passed well and could have completely killed the game by the break, but for two excellent saves by Ben Dale and fine last-ditch interception by Rory Dunleavy.
DIT astutely filled the midfield with close to eight men prior to all of Dale’s goal kicks, limiting his distribution options and reducing DCU to speculative route one football for long periods.
By the end of the half DCU had found some rhythm. Stephen Traynor and Darren Mahon moved the ball well when afforded possession, creating chances for Isichei and Lodola that should have been converted. The closest they came to scoring was a Darren Mahon effort cleared off the line by Niall Cooney.
The second half was largely uneventful and the sting had gone out of the game by the hour mark. DCU continued to drive forward but lax passing in vital moments coupled with an overpopulated DIT defence, left them empty-handed.
Substitute Eddi Ekofo’s header in dying seconds only served to further emphasise the victory.