SSE Airtircity League Premier Division: Waterford v Cork City Regional Sports Centre, 2pm
GIVEN that it’s almost a year since Cork City last won, or even scored, away from home in the league, the Rebel Army will hope that tomorrow’s trip to the RSC is a good omen.
On August 16 last year, goals from captain Conor McCarthy and Mark O’Sullivan earned the Rebel Army a first victory in 10 domestic games, defeating the home side 2-1 to stave off relegation worries.
It proved to be the last win of John Cotter’s reign as interim manager as he departed following the FAI Cup defeat to Galway United the next week. While City did win at home to UCD and Dundalk under new boss Neale Fenn, there were no more away successes in 2019 and none in three games played before the lockdown, either.
Obviously, the fact that they were against Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, and St Patrick’s Athletic meant it was a tall order to get anything from them, but the performance in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Bohemian at Turner’s Cross will have been cause for some concern. Coupled with Sligo Rovers’ win over Derry City on Friday night, it left City bottom of the table with 12 games remaining in the season.
At the time of writing, the game was in some doubt as Waterford’s match with Sligo Rovers, scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed as a player had to undergo a test for Covid-19. That returned negative on Wednesday lunchtime, but a second player was awaiting results for an unconnected potential case.
The episode led to Waterford team doctor Sinéad Fitzpatrick resigning from her role on Tuesday night, as she outlined in a Facebook post:
“Been a really wonderful five seasons at Waterford FC (well one as United…!) and I’ve made some great friends and had some fantastic times (with the club). Resigning when you feel things are very wrong is sometimes the right thing to do though. I’m very sad tonight, but happy I have done the right thing.”
In the expectation that the all-clear is given, City will try to make sure that they do the right things. While Fenn was disappointed with Sunday’s result, he did nevertheless see some bright spots to take from the game.
“It was a bit of a mixed reaction,” he said.
“We know where we can improve and that we have to improve, but there were elements of it that were quite pleasing.
“It’s certainly not panic stations at the moment. There is room for improvement, everyone can understand that, but I think that there was not a lot in the game between the two sides.
“Bohs had good spells, but we defended well and limited them to half-chances and long-range shots.
“There were plenty of positives to take out of it.”
With just three points and a solitary goal, Alec Byrne’s winner against Finn Harps, City need to produce more in attack and the signings of Scott Fenwick and Kit Elliott are designed to solve that issue.
Neither is available for tomorrow, though, and while Fenn accepts that City’s position is a cause for criticism.
“When you’ve lost five out of six, people have every right to be negative,” he said.
“We can’t be negative, we have to look at each individual game in context. The game was certainly a very tight one.
“If you concede after three and a half minutes at any stage of the season, especially after the restart, it made the boys take a step back and start doubting themselves again.
“Confidence was low, but I think, as the game went on, certainly towards the last 20 minutes, we came back into it and we looked a threat.
“That’s what we have to replicate. We know we’re short in attacking areas, that’s why we brought in two new strikers. It’s something that we’re working on.”
Waterford, now under the management of former Republic of Ireland midfielder John Sheridan, won last week away to Shelbourne.
“They played well on Saturday against Shels,” Fenn said.
“It was a good game, I watched it, not a lot in it, a very tight affair. They’re a good team and we’ll have to be wary of that.
“I’m sure they won’t be getting carried away with a win against Shelbourne, but they’ll be tough to beat.
“We will get better and we will create more. The next test is to be solid, but also to be a threat going forward.”