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Cork City boss defends decision to let top scorer leave as goal drought continues

Last night’s 2-0 loss to Progres Niederkorn was City’s seventh consecutive European game without a goal.

JOHN COTTER BELIEVES his side are capable of salvaging their Europa League prospects in Luxembourg next week despite last night’s disastrous first leg against Progres Niederkorn.

Following a pair of errors from wing-back Colm Horgan inside the opening quarter, City gifted the visitors a 2-0 victory at Turner’s Cross in their meeting in the first qualifying round.

Sean McLoughlin dejected after the game A dejected Sean McLoughlin after Cork City's defeat to Progres Niederkorn. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Horgan was robbed of possession in his own penalty area in the 10th minute, which allowed Belmin Muratovic to open the scoring. Having been fouled in the box by Horgan, Mayron De Almeida doubled the visitors’ lead from the penalty spot on 21 minutes.

Cork City’s Karl Sheppard then had a penalty saved by Sebastian Flauss, as the Leesiders extended their winless run to an eighth game. Progres are now in pole position to set up a clash with Rangers — who they eliminated in 2017 — in the second qualifying round.

Admitting that his team were guilty of conceding a couple of “awful goals”, Cork City head coach John Cotter did his utmost to strike a note of optimism ahead of Thursday’s second leg.

City went into this tie as the seeded team, taking on a side who needed the away goals rule to see off the students of Cardiff Metropolitan University in the preliminary round. 

“The most disappointing thing is the two goals,” Cotter said. “You can’t legislate for that, whether you’re favourites or not. If you make two mistakes like that, you just need to pick yourselves up and get going again. That’s what we’re planning to do next week.

“We need to regroup. If we go over there and show a bit of character, the tie is open again. That’s what we have to do. It’s pointless going over there with your tail between your legs and feeling sorry for yourself. There’ll be no one going over there like that, I can assure you.”

John Cotter Cork City head coach John Cotter. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

While defensive errors were responsible for ensuring that City will need to overturn a deficit in Luxembourg, their struggles at the other end of the pitch are also a major concern.

Only bottom club UCD have scored fewer Premier Division goals this season than Cork City, who have now failed to find the net in three successive games. In Europe, they haven’t produced a goal in their last seven outings, which have all ended in defeat.

Earlier this month, Graham Cummins — City’s top scorer this season with five goals — was allowed to leave for Shamrock Rovers, with winger Joel Coustrain moving in the opposite direction. After helping Avondale United to win the FAI Intermediate Cup in May, veteran striker Mark O’Sullivan has returned for another spell with City.

Cummins came off the bench for Rovers in their valuable 2-2 draw with SK Brann in Norway last night, but Cotter has no regrets about letting him go on the eve of a European campaign. 

“Was it bad timing? I don’t think so,” said the Cork City boss. “A lot of people might disagree with me but I don’t. I’m not saying Graham wasn’t a great lad around the place — he was — but sometimes things get stale in certain places and I thought that was an area where it was. I thought it would be good for Graham to go away and get a fresh start as well.

“We brought Marky [O'Sullivan] back in then as well. Bad timing? No, absolutely not. And it wasn’t the club’s decision, it was my decision. I take full responsibility for it and I still back my decision to this day.”

Graham Cummins Graham Cummins is currently a Shamrock Rovers player. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Addressing their drastic decline this season, Cotter insisted that everyone involved with Cork City is united in the quest to bring about a change in fortunes, as they prepare to travel to Luxembourg in search of a first victory since 20 May.

He said: “Sometimes you need a bit of patience in these moments. We have that and we know what we have to do. That doesn’t just happen overnight. These things take time. We just need to have confidence that it will turn. That’s what we’re planning to do — keep working hard.

“We have good people all through the club, from the players and the staff to the people behind the scenes, the board. Everyone is rowing together, to be fair. That is the case at the moment and that’s all we can keep doing.” 

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Paul Dollery

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