A new vista greets Cork City this week – for the first time since the end of the 2016 Premier Division season, John Caulfield’s side have fewer points than another team.
In fact, they have fewer points than two teams, as Waterford’s win in the Regional Sports Centre on Friday night catapulted Alan Reynolds’ men above City and at the same time Dundalk were seeing off Shamrock Rovers to stay level with the Blues, leaving City two off the pace.
From the very start of the season, City manager John Caulfield has predicted a more even battle for the title than last year, and Waterford’s addition that what been a duopoly provides an extra element.
“I keep saying, nine or team games gone, it’s the first quarter of the season so there’s a long way to go,” he said after Friday’s defeat to two second-half goals.
“We know we’ve a lot of work to do, when you bring players in it takes time. Certainly, we need to stop conceding bad goals.
“It could be a topsy-turvy season with teams winning a few, losing a few. What we have too do is get back to better performances, there are no excuses other than that.”
The task now is for City to respond again. They had been due to travel to Waterford again today for the EA Sports Cup tie which was postponed a week ago, but that match has again been re-set, for this day fortnight, meaning that City have a clear run to Friday’s home league game against St Patrick’s Athletic.
The Rebel Army have yet to concede at Turner’s Cross this season, beating Waterford, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians, though the sample size is small, exacerbated by the fact that they have had six away games.
In John Caulfield’s time in charge of City, generally the responses to defeats have been good. In August 2015, their title challenge ran aground as a 3-2 home defeat against Limerick was followed by a 3-0 loss to Rovers in Tallaght. From then until September 2017, though, the club didn’t lose two consecutive league games – coincidentally, the next pair of losses was also against Limerick and Rovers, during the dip in form after the departure of Seán Maguire.
Likewise, Pat’s haven’t had much joy at the Cross in recent times. While they have beaten City at Richmond Park in every season bar 2015 since City came back up in 2012, not since a 2-0 win in May 2013 have they taken the points back to Inchicore from Cork.
Liam Buckley’s side will be coming in on a high after a 5-0 win over Bray – for whom it was a last game for manager Dave Mackey, leaving them going to Oriel Park on a hiding to nothing.
However, City won’t take too much cognisance of the opposition, with Caulfield aware that there are plenty of kinks needing to be smoothed within his own panel. Having to chase rather than be chased will be a newish experience for this team, but it might serve to re-focus minds.