THIS is another huge game for Cork City.
Although it is still early in the season, victory against Longford Town would make the First Division title a two-horse race for the title.
Gary Cronin’s side sit in third eight points behind City albeit with two games in hand. Defeat for Longford would see them 11 points adrift of Colin Healy’s team and at best could reduce the deficit to five points if they were to win their two extra games.
I just think that the consistency that both City and Galway United have shown; that five points is a lot to make up.
I know the league hasn’t reached the halfway stage but just seeing how City are playing this season, the character they have shown and their determination to win games, that in the past they would have been happy to draw, I don’t see them dropping many points.
They showed that character in their last outing against Cobh Ramblers.
Throwing away a two-goal lead, sometimes players will say to each other on the pitch ‘we have blown this’ and that is putting it nicely. Often it is the case that players will start finger-pointing and shouting at others, to lay blame anywhere else apart from themselves.
Against Ramblers, the mentality was that they could still win the game and that nothing but three points would be acceptable and I believe they approach every game like this at the moment.
What was uncharacteristic of City against Ramblers was the way in which they conceded the two goals.
They have been excellent at defending set-plays this season but switched off for the first goal last week. Longford are a strong side at set-plays and it will be an area that they will be looking at as a way of beating City.
The delivery of their free-kicks and corners is exceptional. It’s not a ‘floaty’ cross, where the ball has little pace on it which makes it more difficult for attacking players to score from, it's an aggressive pacy pass, which makes it harder for defenders to contest and trickier for goalkeepers to come and claim the ball.
It also means that attacking players only need to direct the ball rather than having to worry about generating pace on the ball. However, in saying this, defensively at set-plays is a vulnerability of Longford’s.
They have the joint best defensive record in the division with City, again albeit having played two games less, but it’s clear to see they are a good, organised team, but I do believe set-pieces is an area that City can hurt them. City are a dangerous side from set-pieces this season.
Last year, it seemed they were always trying to work a routine into their corners or free-kicks because they lacked the quality of delivery at times. This year, they have not been afraid to put the ball into the box with the likes of Matt Healy and Kevin O’Connor at their disposal, who have quality delivery, and then allow Ally Gilchrist, Cian Coleman or Jonas Hakkinen to attack the ball.
Cobh’s second goal came from a mistake from David Harrington last week and it will be important that he moves on from it.
That was his first mistake this season but what will help was that it didn’t cost his side the three points.
He shouldn’t forget about the mistake but rather learn from it and I’m sure he has and will.
Longford are a decent First Division outfit and work hard as a team. It’s important that City are quick to second balls because that was an area where they were poor in the reverse fixture earlier this season and meant that they never really got any firm foothold on the game.
That night City were fortunate to come away with a point but they have improved since then and I would expect them to get three points again.