Defensive steel sets Cork City up for hosting John Caulfield's Galway

Tightening up at the back has turned the Rebel Army's fortunes this season
Defensive steel sets Cork City up for hosting John Caulfield's Galway

Cork City's Gordon Walker, Jack Baxter, Jack Walsh in the wall as a free-kick by Evan Weir of UCD goes wide in Belfield last Friday. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

THE unbeaten run now stands at three games.

During the week we wrote about how confidence appeared to be growing in the Cork City camp in the hope the signs that they may have turned a corner continued against UCD.

While it wasn’t the most impressive of displays, the 0-0 result against the league leaders in their own backyard at the UCD Bowl was enough to secure the Leesiders their third clean sheet on the bounce.

To be successful, you need to be tough to score against and therefore tough to beat. In that sense, the last three games have been extremely promising especially coming on the back of four defeats in a row the weeks previous.

Manager Colin Healy kept faith with the same starting 11 that began both their 0-0 draw away to Bray Wanderers two weeks ago and their emphatic 5-0 victory against Wexford Youths one week ago at Turner’s Cross.

If it ain't broke, don’t fix it I guess. But this was set to be the toughest test that City have faced so far this season with their recent upturn in results nothing compared to UCD’s form.

The Students came into this game sitting top of the league with the joint best defensive record in the league - albeit that was just one fewer than City - but it was their endeavours at the other end of that pitch that had rightly earned them many plaudits.

Their 21 goals before Friday night’s clash meant they have scored more goals than any other side (including the Premier Division clubs) with 15 of those coming in the previous four games alone that kept them top of the table ahead of Shelbourne on goal difference.

So the fact that City kept them at nil, you’d have to say it was a test they passed with flying colours. It was only the second time this season that UCD has failed to find the back of the net.

And their defence should be further aided by the return of George Heaven in the near future (hopefully) but even though he had settled well to life in Cork, he may have a tough task on his hands forcing his way back into selection.

UNDERSTANDING

That’s because the back five of Mark McNulty, Gordon Walker, Cian Coleman, Jonas Hakkinen, Ronan Hurley individually have hardly put a foot wrong and collectively they look to be forming an understanding with one another.

They have also been helped by Alec Byrne’s ability to sweep up the danger in front of them but more so his talent at being able to keep the ball.

His withdrawal shortly before the half-time break was one of the disappointing aspects of an otherwise positive evening’s work but hopefully it was just a precaution and he won’t be out for a significant period of time.

Gearoid Morrissey came on in his place but with the captain only just returning from injury himself, he will probably need more time to show what he is truly capable of again.

But the pleasing aspect from this latest Cork City performance against a high flying UCD side was that the 0-0 scoreline didn’t come courtesy of a hugely defensive mentality.

Jack Baxter of Cork City gets past Eoin Farrell of UCD. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Jack Baxter of Cork City gets past Eoin Farrell of UCD. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It wasn’t a case of City turning up, parking a bus or two in front of their own goal and hoping for the best, hoping to keep a clean sheet so they could come away with a valuable point against the run of play.

In fact, City players, management and fans may feel that they actually should have won the game.

They created the best goal-scoring opportunities with Jack Walsh striking the post from close range before Cian Murphy’s goal-bound rebound was somehow deflected over the bar by the defenders in the first half.

Cian Bargary’s deliveries from set-pieces caused the Dubliners problems on numerous occasions and he had the last sight at goal late on but his free-kick from the edge of the penalty area deflected just wide of the target.

McNulty made a couple of good saves during the 90 plus minutes but nothing too troubling. His opposite number will be more relieved not to have conceded.

Cian Murphy was lively following his brace last week and Beineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh was given over half an hour to build on his own double against Wexford but neither could snatch the three points.

But it would’ve been hard to find someone associated with City that wouldn’t have taken a 0-0 before kick-off.

Confidence continues to grow, the defence continues to grow strong and the unbeaten run stretches to three games.

There should be the belief now that they can stretch it to four at home to Galway next week, at least.

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