Declan Roche’s men were almost made to pay for a slow second half start, but a resilient performance saw the home side run out deserved 5-2 winners against University Ulster Jordanstown.
On a windy Wednesday afternoon in St Clare’s, the home side were optimistic of a win with in-form striker Michael Isichei and dependable centre half Robbie Gaul all present in a strong starting line-up.
The match began slowly with both sides still adjusting to the conditions. Even after the wind had died down, neither side were really comfortable playing ball to feet, opting for an aerial approach.
The opening ten minutes saw tame efforts from UUJ, with the DCU goalkeeper Ben Dale looking slightly indecisive. Promising interplay from both sides slowly opened up the game.
The first real chance came in the tenth minute when Danny Aherne was played through on goal, only to blast the ball against the outside of the post.
UUJ seemed to be causing the home side problems from set pieces and in the 18th minute a goal mouth scramble almost saw the visitors take the lead. A headed effort off the bar followed by the referees whistle for a foul was a wake up call for the hosts.
The deadlock was broken on 40 minutes when Gaul collected possession on the edge of the box and slipped the ball through to Isichei. The DCU forward then squared the ball for Adam Byrne who slotted home for one nil.
Isichei was in the mix again just three minutes later when a blundering clearance from the UUJ shot stopper fell to Byrne who fed the number 10 and a cool side foot finish saw DCU finish the half with a comfortable two goal cushion.
A somewhat re-energised UUJ side entered the fray in the second half with slick attacking football in the opening 10 minutes. DCU, who had switched to a 3-5-2 formation, seemed to struggle with the threat from both wings.
This threat paid dividends for UUJ when Jason Rogers pulled one back for the Ulstermen in the 59th minute after a pulled back cross fell kindly at his feet and a simple tap in reduced the deficit to just one.
A litany of substitutions came just past the hour mark, including Michael Cogley’s introduction for David Brick, in an attempt to introduce fresh legs to the game.
UUJ were level in the 66th minute when Rogers split the DCU defence with a superb through ball and Barry Murray hammered home from close range.
Roche then reverted his tactics back to a 4-4-2 set-up and within minutes the reshuffle paid dividends. After sustained pressure and good possession in the middle of the park, Isichei broke free of defender Fra Brennan to finish for a 3-2 lead.
Brennan, who had been enjoying a good performance up until then, was now at the mercy of the DCU forward line as service increased to Aherne.
The hosts breathed sigh of relief after a goal mouth scramble following a corner in the 76th minutes spelt danger, but a fourth goal just minutes later put the result beyond any doubt.
Indecision in the UUJ back four meant Byrne could pounce on a loose pass and sprint towards goal. A cool finish into the bottom corner from the man of the match doubled DCU’s lead.
Shane Madigan rounded up the scoring with just three minutes left after a period of sustained pressure and good work in the midfield to put the score at 5-2.
Despite reshuffling the midfield in the second half, it was clear the Declan Roche’s charges had the determination and stamina to see out the 90 minutes and take home all three points.
Speaking after the game Roche said: “I didn’t think it was one of our best [games], but we did really well at the end.”
“Our fitness should be good. We do an early morning shift, we’re in at half seven in the mornings and we’re training. We’ve got great attacking options in the team.
Roche also felt confident about the current casualties in the squad. “We’re hoping to have David [Gaul] back within maybe three weeks. Daniel Mirren will be back in this week. “James Rooney is probably another month away and Jack Memery is probably about 2 weeks away.”
Image Credit: Aidan Broletti