Cork City manager John Caulfield believes that the team are suffering from a lack of confidence at the moment, but at the same time doesn’t think Friday’s 3-1 loss to Shamrock Rovers is a sign of a crisis.
The defeat to the Premier Division leaders at Turner’s Cross means City have lost four of their first eight league games and Caulfield admits that things aren’t functioning as well as they could.
“It is confidence,” he says, “but, to be fair to Rovers, you have to look at the quality of the teams as well.
“Are Rovers better than Bohemians? They are, they have serious quality players there, but the lads worked really hard. We had parts of the match where we were getting the ball wide and getting crosses in but you look at the first goal, we lost a soft ball and three passes later the ball was in the back of the net.
“Second goal, we backed off a bit, these things happen and guys will learn from that. When the third goal goes in and heads drop, it’s easy for everyone to say that there are loads of problems there, at 2-1 there weren’t lots of problems, we were well in the match.
“At the moment, we’re just down in confidence, defeats do that to you, but we’ll just go back and work hard.” Of the game itself, Caulfield felt that Rovers’ third goal just after the hour mark was a killer.
“I think the killer was that we gave away a soft first goal,” he says.
“You look at the back four, McCarthy, Casey, McLoughlin, they’re only 20, 21, they’re young guys with a great attitude and brilliant ability but, certainly, we got caught for one or two goals.
“I think, overall, we got back in the match at 2-1, Graham [Cummins] had a chance on the stroke of half-time, we were doing okay and the crowd were on their feet. We came out in the second half and did well but we gave [Aaron] McEneff a free strike on the edge of the box.
“He took it well and then probably for the last 20 minutes the lads put their heads down. That can happen in a team but there’s nothing wrong with this team in terms of their attitude and their commitment.
“You can see Rovers are a good team, they’re up there with Dundalk and we’re probably a bit off that at the moment. But we’ll work hard during the week and try to get ourselves ready for next Friday.” As to whether City should change their system away from a 4-2-3-1, Caulfield doesn’t want to be too rash.
“Supporters are entitled to criticise,” he says, “but, generally, since the day I’ve come in, the support has been phenomenal.
“You’ll always have criticism, even when we won the double there was criticism, so that’s the way it is.
“We’ve played that system for years with the three, two wide and one up top, Shamrock Rovers play it, Dundalk play. The problem is that if you don’t dominate the middle of the park, you’ve no chance.
“We’ve known that it would be tough since the start of the season and we’ve never complained about squads or budgets or anything like that, we’ve just got on with it and that’s what we’ll continue to do.” The attendance at the cross was 3,273 – less than would have been expected, given Rovers are normally a big draw?
“You would think so,” Caulfield says.
“A lot of attractions are out there and I suppose, at the end of the day, maybe some of the crowd think we’re not going to challenge this year, with the way the start of the season was and the way the panel is and that’s just the way it goes.
“It was disappointing, was Munster a distraction, Liverpool on the box, a wet night? Maybe so.” Midfielder Dáire O’Connor missed the game as he continues to recover from a dislocated shoulder sustained against Bohemians three weeks ago, but Caulfield expects him back soon.
“Hopefully in the next two weeks,” he says.
“Certainly, he’ll give us a lift because we need someone with a bit of creativity on the wings.
“It’ll be a couple of weeks, as well as that Colm Horgan will be out for a few weeks.”