IT SEEMS a long time ago since Cork City last won in the Premier Division, a 2-0 home victory against Bohemians on March 15.
That result made it four games unbeaten for the Rebel Army and put them fourth in the table, seemingly having overcome the start which saw them lose their first two games.
However, since then City have drawn three and lost five and failure to win tonight would mean that the team would have faced all nine top-flight opponents without registering a victory.
Ultimately, that run has resulted in manager John Caulfield leaving the club and tonight’s game will be the first since the 4-2 win over then-champions St Patrick’s Athletic at the end of 2013 that Caulfield won’t be in the dugout overseeing things.
Earlier this week, just before his departure, Caulfield was asked about the threat Bohs pose, given how they have transformed themselves into challengers at the top of the table.
A 2-0 win over Derry City at the Ryan McBride Brandywell on Monday night leaves the Gypsies in third place, only trailing Dundalk on goal difference. Ironically, given events since then, Caulfield felt that their improvement was proof of the benefit of keeping faith with manager Keith Long.
“There was a lot of talk a few years ago about Keith and Trevor [Croly], were they the right people,” he said, “two years ago people were saying they should be gone.
“All of a sudden, they were persisting with them and they’ve been bringing a number of players through. They’ve got quite a few good players back from England, Dublin lads, who have turned out to be very good, but they’ve had the same consistency.
“I suppose they still have the cleverness of [Dinny] Corcoran, [Keith] Ward, [Keith] Buckley, [Derek] Pender, these guys, and they’ve mixed them in with some brilliant players. They’re a team on form, they won away to [Shamrock] Rovers, they won away to Derry on Monday night, so they’re playing well.
“It’s great to see for Bohs to be up at the top challenging. It’s an incredibly tough game for us but we have to go in and try to meet the challenge head-on. Obviously, their form suggests there’s only one winner on the night but we have to make sure that we can get back to high levels of performance.”
City are likely to be without midfielder Gearóid Morrissey, who hasn’t featured since the loss to Waterford last month, while Colm Horgan will be absent too. The full-back made his return from injury in Monday night’s draw with Finn Harps at Turner’s Cross but was forced off just before the Donegal side scored an equaliser.
On-loan attacker Matthew Gillam, whose appearances have been limited since his arrival from Rochdale, also remains out but there is a boost with the return of defender Dan Casey and midfielders Conor McCormack and Garry Comerford, all of whom were suspended.
Apart from that win on March 15, when Casey and fellow defender Conor McCarthy scored, Bohs have been a tough nut for City to crack. Last season, the Gypsies won 4-1 in the league at Dalymount, a result which put the final nail in the coffin of the Rebel Army’s title hopes, while the FAI Cup semi-final at the same venue two weeks later nearly went the way of the Phibsborough club too.
A late Kieran Sadlier penalty saved City and they completed the job in the replay, winning 2-1. But the failure to adequately replace Sadlier and the goals and assists he provided has been a major contributory factor to City’s decline this season.
Caulfield’s exit won’t be a cure for all of the current ills and the problems in front of goal will have to be sorted regardless of who is in charge. To that end, Bohs are far from ideal opponents to be facing, especially away from home.
Nevertheless, a change in management can often result in a bounce in form, if only short-term. City will hope that a fresh start can prove beneficial to them tonight as they seek to avoid a ninth game without a win.