WHILE it wasn’t a St Valentine’s day massacre, a 1-0 defeat to Shels at home on the opening game of the season was a disaster for Cork City and new manager Neale Fenn.
Despite City playing well for periods, particularly in the first half, Shels probably deserved the victory in the end, They created three or four good chances without City creating any.
What makes the result so worrying is that Waterford and Finn Harps, two of the weaker teams in the top flight, both won on Friday night. On top of that, City face Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk in their next two games.
That will definitely test their ability to survive in this division with such a young and revamped squad.
We can’t be too critical about the opening night of the season. This team is a work in progress that will need seven or eight games to bed in.
In that regard, the Rovers and Dundalk ties can be discounted really. It'll be at home to Finn Harps when we'll have a better idea of City's chances in 2020. Harps are the level of opposition that they’re going to have to beat to remain a Premier team.
City started as expected with a 4-3-3 formation with the full-backs pushing on giving plenty of width. On closer examination, it was more like a back four with Henry Ochieng in the holding role while Morrissey and Coleman were free to roam in front of him.
Coleman and Morrissey were impressive going forward but weren’t on the ball enough in the first half in dangerous areas.
Dylan McGlade saw plenty of the ball but being a right legged player maybe the left side doesn’t suit him as he failed to get good deliveries into the box. At times he took too much out of the ball and was eventually replaced by Deshane Dalling.
Reyon Dillon played up top and to be honest he struggled to get into the game and Beineon O’Brien Whitmarsh came on instead.
Both keepers didn’t have a shot to save in first half although Shels did have one chance in the 44th minute when Ryan Brennan’s header came back off the post.
The standard of the game in the second half dropped considerably with both sides continually losing possession. Shels did create a great chance on the 64th minute only to see goalkeeper Liam Bossin deny Ciaran Kilduff, but apart from that, it was dull stuff.
On a positive note, City have the potential to be better than many fans feared when they saw the squad being assembled in recent months. Yes, they are young, but they didn’t look out of place physically.
They kept a good shape and they tried to play decent football at all times. At times they could have got forward a little quicker.
There were eight new players, including the returning Coleman, as only Daire O’Connor, Ronan Hurley and Gearóid Morrissey lined out last season. Therefore it’s only fair that we be patient as this team gel together.
Fenn made three subs but none made an impact with the amount of time they were given. O'Brien Whitmarsh, Alec Byrne and Dalling replaced McGlade, Henry Chieng and Dillon.
It was encouraging to see such a great atmosphere and I was surprised with the fantastic crowd of 3,961 who got behind the team from the start and throughout. Hopefully, that will continue throughout the rest of the season.