Healy’s trust in players pays off as City learn to grind out great results

Healy’s trust in players pays off as City learn to grind out great results

Cork City supporters against Athlone Town during the SSE Airtricity First Division game at Turner's Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WITH a free week for Cork City in this round of fixtures, the team can relax and reflect on the opening quarter of the season. 

Although I predicted City would win the title before the season started, I am surprised at how good their start has been. I expected them to be flirting in and around the top three early on, before eventually going on to win the title. I didn’t anticipate that they would be the early pacesetters.

City deserve to be top of the table because they have been the best team in the division. They have swept teams aside in games but have also shown that they are capable of grinding out a result.

City fans will point to their convincing derby victories over Cobh Ramblers, Waterford and Treaty United as their most pleasing but it’s their win against Wexford that could be the most beneficial for the players.

Anyone that watched that game will know that performance-wise; City were well off the standards they set in previous games but Wexford do deserve credit for that. Ian Ryan’s side pressed really well out of possession and fought for every ball. 

Wexford have a lot of new faces in their side and are getting better and will continue to improve each game.

The City players will know that they were fortunate to get the three points that night but there are going to be many more games similar to this between now and the end of the season. That battling performance was exactly the type of experience that will teach the City players that there are many ways to win a game, especially if you are the team that others will overperform against because you are the side that everyone wants to beat.

Cork City's Cian Bargary and Kevin O'Connor challenge Wexford's Jordon Tallon. Picture: Patrick Browne
Cork City's Cian Bargary and Kevin O'Connor challenge Wexford's Jordon Tallon. Picture: Patrick Browne

I can imagine what the dressing room was like after the game. I would suspect the players would have celebrated as much if not more than they have after previous victories because it was probably the hardest they have had to work to earn three points this season and every player had to put in a shift for the win. 

In saying that; I would also imagine comments such as, ‘that was a horrible game’ were muttered in the dressing room.

I read some City fans' displeasure at the use of substitutes in that game, with only one change, and although the league leaders were playing well, they were however defending well and Healy trusted his players to see out the game. 

On the balance of the game; he rightly wasn’t concerned about extending City’s advantage which might have happened had he made more changes but in doing so, it could have had a negative effect and upset the excellent defensive organisation City showed on the night.

It was a disciplined performance from City and bringing on more substitutes could have upset that. The players on the pitch knew their jobs and knew exactly where to be based on the opposition. Coming on as a substitute, it sometimes can take five or 10 minutes to get up to the speed of the game and Healy couldn’t risk that. 

All it might have taken was for one small bit of lack of concentration from a substitute, whether that be by not tracking their man in open play or not fully knowing their jobs at set-pieces, could have cost City two points. Healy trusted the players on the pitch to get the job done and he was proved right.

What has benefitted City this season is the switch in the formation to three at the back. After using four at the back, in their first three games, City have gone with a back three and that has led to their current five-game league-winning run. 

They look stronger defensively and credit must go to the players and the management staff because everyone seems to know exactly their jobs on the pitch. Three at the back is an excellent formation when correctly done, but it is a difficult system to play -which is why so many teams don’t opt to use it. However the City players have flawlessly adapted to it.

If there wasn’t a target on City’s back before, there certainly is now. Teams will try that little bit harder against the league leaders because of where they are in the table and because of the history of the club.

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