Galway United make the trip to the Carlisle Grounds on Saturday for an SSE Airtricity League of Ireland first division encounter against table toppers Bray Wanderers aware that only a victory will suffice to have any chance of reaching a promotion play-off.
Tuesday’s disappointing and controversial defeat to Drogheda United at Eamonn Deacy Park hurt the Tribesmen. Wilson Waweru’s opener gave John Caulfield’s charges an early lead, but Drogheda responded with Brandon Bermingham netting twice each side of a sweet Conor Kane effort.
Ultimately, though, the hotly disputed red card brandished to Stephen Christopher dominated the post match discussion.
“It was a funny game in the sense we had one sending off and six bookings in a game that there really was nothing in,” Caulfield says. “That is frustrating because the only booking they got was in the last minute of the match. I don't think we are a dirty team by any means, so it was frustrating, I will have to have a look at the sending off.
“To me it didn't look like anything, he tripped him, maybe a yellow card. A frustrating night, but in football you have got to pick yourself up, we go to Bray on Saturday.”
Under Caulfield’s direction United have accumulated six league wins from eight matches, but they need two more from the remaining encounters with Bray and UCD, who visit the west next Tuesday.
“I think if we go back seven or eight weeks ago, we had nothing to play for,” Caulfield comments. “We are down to the second last game and we have a chance.
“Obviously Stephen Christopher will be out; Mikey Place will come back in. We will train on Wednesday and Thursday, try to get ourselves right. Lots of things we did well, but it was just frustrating because it is difficult when you are down to 10.
“Certainly the yellow cards and sending offs are very, very frustrating for me. Whether they were all justified I don't know, but it did seem a number of occasions that decisions didn't just go our way.”
A recent Covid-19 outbreak in the United squad meant that two weeks of inactivity were required which was a challenge at a key stage of the campaign.
“We know the long lay-off didn't help our preparations,” Caulfield says. “We had a couple of days training. For the first half hour we were outstanding, we got the goal, Wilson hit the post, Killian [Brouder] had a chance with a header to get a second goal. Then we got caught out of possession for one-all, and for 10 minutes we just lost our shape. We gave away a second goal that was poor defensively from our point of view.
“At half-time we felt we should try to keep our three men forward, to give us options. We hit the crossbar with a glorious chance after half-time, it could have been two-all. It was one of those games where I still felt we were in the match, but obviously the third goal killed it.
“Some of our lads tired, some haven't trained at all, they were only back since Monday. We have lots of positives, but overall it was disappointing.”