Cork City are winning without playing well, a positive but also cause for concern

Colin Healy's side could easily have dropped points to Cobh and Athlone but remain on top of the First Division
Cork City are winning without playing well, a positive but also cause for concern

David Harrington, Cork City goalkeeper, saves a penalty from Thomas Oluwa, Athlone Town, on Friday night. Picture: Ray Ryan

CITY had a lucky escape on Friday night in Athlone when Aaron Bolger scored the winner in injury time.

With the sides level at 1-1, the goal could prove vital yet in their pursuit to claim the First Division title.

A game between the top and bottom sides in the league was expected to be an easy three points for Colin Healy's side but that certainly wasn’t the way it panned out.

City found themselves a goal behind in the first minute when Thomas Oluwa headed home. While there was no immediate panic, they still failed to take hold of the game and in fact, Athlone looked the more impressive side. 

Martin Russell’s side had a game plan which they almost executed perfectly.

Oluwa was causing the City defence fierce problems. His strength and pace were a huge threat and City's high line worked to his advantage. That speed allowed him to get in behind and the visitors were lucky that he wasn’t clinical.

Credit to Athlone with their early lead, they didn’t sit back and attacked as much as City did. 

City didn’t play badly but they created very little which was disappointing against one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

Not long after the restart former City player Stephen Kenny received his marching orders after picking up his second yellow. From here you’d expect City to take over and dominate. 

And while the extra man made a slight difference, I still felt City should have done better. They had to wait 20 minutes after the sending-off before they managed to get the equaliser when Cian Murphy got on the end of Matt Healy's free and the sides were level.

Cian Murphy watches his header hit the back of the net despite the challenge from Carlton Ubaezuonu, Athlone Town. Picture:BB Ray Ryan
Cian Murphy watches his header hit the back of the net despite the challenge from Carlton Ubaezuonu, Athlone Town. Picture:BB Ray Ryan

City should have gone behind again but thankfully for the visitors, David Harrington did superbly to deny Oluwa from the penalty spot. At this stage, you believed the luck was with City and that’s certainly how it played out.

Both sides created chances in the late stages of the game but credit to both keepers for denying on each occasion.

RELIEF

When I thought the game was over and ready to write about a disappointing two points dropped for City, especially when Galway had a comfortable win over Cobh, Bolger saved the blushes, much to the joy of the travelling support. 

A huge three points in the end for a game that City didn’t play well in. City remain top of the league and a break from the league next week means we will see them back at the Cross on May 20 to face Wexford. 

While players returning from injury is always a positive, I’m not sure if the switching of players so regularly in the starting XI is helping. 

They need to get back to being comfortable on the ball and play with the confidence they’ve had all season. Bad performances against teams such as Athlone and Cobh aren't good for the lads' confidence but hopefully, that can be rectified ahead of the bigger games.

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