Three games left, two points from safety, relegation is looming for Cork City

Three games left, two points from safety, relegation is looming for Cork City

An empty Turner's Cross ahead of Cork City and Dundalk. Next season it's likely to host First Division games. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

COLIN Healy’s first home game in charge ended in disappointment, a 2-0 loss to Dundalk. 

Relegation is a clear and present danger, with time running out and the end of the season in sight.

City next welcome Waterford to the Cross on Saturday. After that it's Sligo away and Derry at home and it's hard to see how they'll get the points, or even goals, to stay up.

It will be one of the most important Munster derbies ever. If City can get a victory, somehow, over fourth-placed Waterford, they'll go ahead of Finn Harps by a point. 

The Donegal side will have two games in hand, but their first is against champions-elect Shamrock Rovers on Monday night.

All the Rebel Army can do is grind out a result. Finishing second from bottom and entering a play-off against First Division opponents is their only chance of survival at this stage. 

Two surprises at the Cross on Tuesday were seeing John Cotter as part of the coaching staff and Mark McNulty’s name missing from the team sheet. McNulty was injured but it was odd that former manager Cotter was brought in unannounced.

There were actually a few positives to take from the game. The attitude was improved from the previous loss to Bohs.

Healy had said after that game he wanted players giving everything. There’s no doubt that is what is needed from now until the end of the season. 

Five changes freshened up the team. 

Liam Bossin, Alan Bennett, Henry Ochieng, Dylan McGlade and Cian Coleman came in which meant McNulty, Dale Holland, Cian Bargarry, Cory Galvin and Ricardo Dinanga missed out. 

It was disappointing to see Galvin, in particular, to lose out as I felt he had a great game against Bohs. We expected Healy to put out a more defensive unit and to be fair to him it worked for the majority of the game.

It was a great team effort in the first half and I would imagine the new boss was quite pleased to be 0-0 at the break. 

Throughout that first half, City showed great shape. It was probably the first time all season that the team actually looked like they were playing as a unit. 

Although playing a bit deep, City did well to break down any of Dundalk’s attacks which were fairly scarce to be fair. Chances created by both sides very slim in this half with probably just three half-decent chances between the sides. 

Deshane Dalling played the lone striker so while we would expect very little chances from him, credit to the youngster, he did extremely well to hold the ball up. At times he was a threat going forward but without any support, it was difficult to create any decent chance. 

Chris Shields of Dundalk in action against Deshane Dalling of Cork City. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Chris Shields of Dundalk in action against Deshane Dalling of Cork City. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

In fact, the only effort City had in this half was a long-range strike from Cian Coleman which was comfortably gathered by Gary Rogers.

City’s physicality was a huge factor in their battling display. They physically matched their opponents which we haven't seen much of all season.

The second half continued much the same as the first however City continued to play deep and therefore invited Dundalk onto them. 

It always looked as if it was only a matter of time before the visitors would score. City dealt with the pressure, at least up until around the 73rd-minute mark when Dundalk’s Patrick Hoban slotted from close range. 

It was a high dropping ball sent into the box which Bossin failed to gathered. Things got worse two minutes later when again Hoban doubled his lead slotting home from a ball sent in by Chris Shiels.

City introduced Alec Byrne at half time and Cian Bargary midway through the half. Both players definitely added a threatening force with the latter unleashing a superb strike only to see his shot go inches wide of the post. 

Byrne, a player I admire a lot, did well to break down a lot of play and also looked great going forward and neither could be faulted for the shift they put in. 

Conor Simpson also came in for Deshane Dalling but had very little time to make an impact. City to be fair to them battled hard right until the end and they certainly couldn’t be faulted for their work rate.

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