Cork City set a modern Premier Division record of nine straight wins out of the traps as they maintained their perfect start to the season with victory over Bohemians, writes Liam Mackey at Dalymount Park.
And nine was definitely the magic number for City as, with Dundalk losing to Bray, John Caulfield’s team extended their lead at the top to nine points.
Ironically, it was a far from vintage performance by the league leaders, who were decidedly out of sorts from much of the game, but even if this was case of title-chasers winning ugly it was nonetheless a victory crowned by a thing of beauty, as Karl Sheppard’s spectacular first half volley set City on their way before Garry Buckley sealed the deal in the dying minutes of the game.
Bohs, who have blown hot and cold this season, came into this one off the back of a 2-0 defeat in Sligo, a result which hardly did justice to the quality of a second half performance in which the largely dominant visitors were let down only by a chronic failure to find the finishing touch, the consequence of injury issues upfront for Keith Long's side.
In the continued absence of Dinny Corcoran and Ismahil Akinade Kaleen Simon had once again to take on the frontman’s role while, in the only change from the side which started in the Showgrounds, fans’ favourite Keith Ward replaced Dean Casey.
For the fourth game in a row Cork City were unchanged, with Stephen Dooley passing a late fitness test, and the continuing good form of Conor McCormack – so commanding in the 3-0 victory over Derry in Turner’s Cross last Friday – meaning the back from injury Greg Bolger was relegated to a place on the bench until late on in the game.
That Keith Long’s team are a good footballing side was evident right from the start as the men in black and red weaved some pretty passing patterns and Oscar Brennan tested Mark McNulty with a long-ranger. City, by contrast, were lacking in composure in the opening exchanges, too hurried and imprecise in their apparent eagerness to get the ball forward to Sean Maguire.
Not for the first time this season, it must be said, the leaders were making a sluggish start to a game with even appeals for a penalty when Bohs ‘keeper Shane Supple collided with Karl Sheppard having a half-hearted feel to them. But the appeals at the other end were much louder, if no less unrequited, when first Georgie Poynton outside the box and then Saleem inside it both ended up on the turf before the ball ran through tamely for Mark McNulty to smother.
But there was absolutely no doubt about either the legitimacy or sheer quality of the goal which, largely against the run of play, gave City the lead in the 40th minute, as the in-form Karl Sheppard steadied himself under a dropping ball from a defensive clearance after a Kevin O’Connor corner and, from twenty yards out, sent a superb volley flying into the top corner of Supple’s goal.
Despite that setback, it was Bohs who were again asking all the questions when play resumed after the break though the lack of a cutting edge continued to undermine their good approach work, with McNulty doing extremely well to come out and block Poynton’s shot at the end of penetrating run, as the clock ticked past 60 minutes.
Garry Buckley might have copperfastened it for Cork late on but Supple denied him with a fine save but, four minutes from the end, Buckley made no mistake at the second attempt, turning home a Sean Maguire ball across the face of goal after excellent work by the striker – who otherwise had an uncharacteristically quiet night - to outfox Dan Byrne on the right-hand side.
It all meant that it was the healthy Cork contingent, in a crowd of 2214, who were making all the noise at the end.
Bohemians: Supple, Pender, Cornwall, Byrne, Fitzgerald, Kavanagh, Sule (Morris 76), Brennan, Ward (Hamilton 65), Poynton (Nolan 85), Simon.
Cork City: McNulty, Keohane (Beattie 53), Bennett, Delaney, O’Connor, Sheppard , McCormack, Morrissey, Buckley (Bolger 89), Dooley (Griffin 81), Maguire Referee: Ben Connolly (Dublin)