Cork City’s gruelling schedule sees them back in league action tomorrow against crisis club Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds (4pm) as they look to increase their lead at the top to 15 points once again.
Boss John Caulfield doesn’t think the furore surrounding Bray for the past two weeks will be to his side’s advantage, however. “I think they probably can’t wait to get back playing as they must be sick of what has gone on over the last few weeks,” said Caulfield.
“They still have a super side and still have their top players and I’m expecting an incredibly tough game as they will be eager to knock us off our perch. We must make sure we are on top of our game or we will drop points.”
The City boss will make a few changes for tomorrow’s game after a few players looked a bit leg-weary on Thursday night after their hectic few weeks. Disappointed and up against it but certainly not out of it — that’s Cork City manager John Caulfield view of his side’s predicament after going down 1-0 to AEK Larnaca in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg at Turner’s Cross.
Despite being outplayed for a lot of the night by their Cypriot opponents, it was only one goal that separated the sides and that will give the City boss a lot of encouragement when he looks back on the game ahead of Thursday’s night’s second leg in Larnaca.
“We knew we were up against it going into the game with all the internationals they have and it was a difficult game for us as they are so good in possession, said the City boss.
“However, we did give away a sloppy goal and we would have liked to have Alan Bennett’s experience there in a game like that.”
Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor were making their final home appearance before their move to Preston. And Maguire did trouble the AEK defence when he did get the ball at times but he was starved of any real service although he could have had a penalty right at the end but chose to stay on his feet.
“We’re disappointed with the goal we gave away but I felt Seanie (Maguire) was probably a bit too honest when he was taken down in the box in the last minute as he was definitely caught, said Caulfield.
“You could see that they were a quality side but if someone said to me at the start of the season that our first defeat would be on 13 July, I would have been happy with that.”
Caulfield knows next week will be a completely different game in Cyprus and it will take something special if his side are to progress to face either Rabotniki or Dinamo Minsk in the next round. “It’ll be 35 degrees out there so obviously we’ll need to have a different game plan as they keep the ball so well.
“We’ll definitely have a cut off them but being realistic we felt that we’d need to come out of the first leg with a result to take over there. But we’re certainly not out of it. We need to be compact over there and we have pace and energy to trouble them so we will be dangerous on the counter attack.
“When you’re playing against a side with internationals in their side, who are of a higher standard than you — you have to play to your very best, which I didn’t feel we did in the first leg and gave away a soft goal but we’ll go over with a game plan and we’ll have a go off it next week.”
Meanwhile Sligo Rovers welcome Drogheda United to The Showgrounds tonight (7.45pm) looking to make it back-to-back home wins but they must bounce back from a disappointing 4-0 reversal to Derry City last week.
In team news, John Russell returns from suspension. Benny Igiehon has received international clearance and could make his debut while Rhys McCabe could make his first Showgrounds appearance.
Manager Gerard Lyttle said: “This is an opportunity to bounce back. Last week was very poor but we move on and we are back in The Showgrounds, a place we have tried to make it difficult for teams to come and we want to continue that.”
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