Cork City manager John Caulfield has admitted that the club are in a relegation battle after Monday’s draw with Finn Harps left them without a win in eight league games.
While City went ahead through Kevin O’Connor, an equaliser from Harps captain Keith Cowan earned the Donegal side a draw. It leaves City in eighth place, three behind Sligo Rovers, and Caulfield accepts that, right now, the Rebel Army are fighting to avoid the drop.
“Well at the moment, you are, let’s call a spade a spade,” he said.
“We are because our position is there and we haven’t taken points. The only thing is that there’s an awful long way to go and a lot of games left and a huge amount of points.
“We need to get back and score goals and win matches. We’re working on that but you look at Monday, our experienced players [Graham Cummins and Karl Sheppard] had four chances between them and we didn’t take them.
“That’s frustrating for them and frustrating for us.”
While City did play well in the first half, they were unable to find the net.
“We said beforehand that we needed to create chances and we did,” Caulfield said.
“Unfortunately, we missed about four gilt-edged chances at vital stages. Certainly, we had a few chances to go ahead in the first half, then after we went 1-0 up there were a couple of opportunities.
“Obviously, the Harps goal was desperately disappointing because we’ve given away another soft goal from a set-piece and over the years we’ve been very good at that. At the moment, guys aren’t switching on and tracking players.
“We’re under pressure in the sense of where we’re at. At the end of the day, we haven’t won in a while, we’ve led three games and lost the lead and they’ve been all soft goals.
“Obviously, on Monday we had a number of guys suspended and out injured and our strength in depth isn’t as big as it was, but they’re not excuses, that’s just the situation.
“We’re in a battle, we’re in a scrap and we have to turn it around and start getting wins. Ultimately, when players cross the line we need to start digging out performances.
“Monday was disappointing because we had the lead but we didn’t kill off Harps and that’s what’s frustrating.
“At the same time, if you look at the table from fourth down to ninth, if you can turn your form around you can get back up the table but at the moment we’re not getting wins and that’s disappointing.”
Given that Harps are without a win, is the failure to end the run more disappointing?
“It’s a setback every game because we go out to win every match,” Caulfield said.
“At the moment, we’re in a very bad run of form but we need to get out of it and drive on. We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, I don’t want to sound like a broken record but we need to work harder and maybe some of the lads are feeling the criticism and shying away from it but you have to take it on the chin.
“A lot of the team have had great days and enjoyed the praise and at the moment it might be affecting them but we have to override that. I’m sure that that will happen but at the same time, we move on to Bohs, which is an incredibly tough game on Friday night.
“If we don’t put in a top performance then we won’t get a result.”
It’s a far cry from the past five seasons under Caulfield when City won the league once and recorded four second-place finishes as well as winning the FAI Cup twice.
“You can’t compare where we were,” he said.
“We were top two for five years and we managed the club very well, but I think you have to be realistic, we had a massive cut in budgets this year, there was a change of emphasis in where the club want to go. Maybe some people just assumed that we’d be there.
“Previously, if you were missing three or four, you brought in guys who were just as good and we just don’t have that at the moment. At the same time, are we better than where we are? We should be and we see that every day in training.
“I think it is a confidence thing. You go back to basics and try to hit the target, we do a lot of work in training but it’s different because there’s no pressure in training – there’s a lot of pressure out there.”