Beware the wounded animal.
That will be Vinny Perth’s message to his Dundalk side as they travel to face old foes Cork City at Turner’s Cross this Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
While the Leesiders have had their struggles this season and currently sit eighth in the table, they have won back-to-back matches without conceding since John Caulfield’s departure at the end of last month.
While a poor start means Cork are likely to finish outside the top two for the first time since 2013, Perth says that matches against the Rebels cannot be taken lightly.
“Probably our biggest game of the season is next Friday against Cork,” he said.
“They’ll be waiting for us in the long grass and certainly won’t give us an easy game. I know they’ve had a run of bad form but I think their position is false because I think they’re better than that.
“It’s still the big game for us and the one we look out for. Ourselves and Cork have had some great battles over the years and that’s not going to change.
“It’s an extremely difficult game but we’ve got to sort ourselves out. I say to the players all the time that you’ve got to be obsessed about getting better. That’s all we can do is keep improving all the time.”
Perth said he had sympathy for his old foe John Caulfield after he parted ways with the club following their poor start recently.
“You never know what is going on behind the scenes in the background but I have sympathy for John. He probably won’t thank me for that sympathy but I do.
“At the end of the day he has teenagers and a family. I was disappointed in some of the media, not necessarily the traditional media, calling for his head because this isn’t like England where if a manager gets let go they end up a million euro handshake or anything like that.
“I know John Cotter personally and wish him well. I’m sure they’ll give us a good game and we have to be ready for that.”
Dundalk go into the game on top of the table for the first time this season following their 2-0 win away to Bohemians on Friday. It has been a remarkable turnaround in just 28 days after the side trailed Shamrock Rovers by 13 points following their defeat away to Sligo Rovers on April 12th.
“I felt I fronted up that night and the players did too.
“We’ve turned a corner since then but there’s a lot of work to do still.
“I’ve been asked how do I feel personally about going back top of the league but I don’t take any personal satisfaction in that. I feel like this is my seventh season at the club. I don’t see it in the sense that I’ve only taken over the role. I feel I’ve played as much importance in the last six years as I am at the moment. It’s not about me or any of the management staff. This bunch of players have probably been criticised a little bit but they continue to answer people.
“We’ve got to get a little bit fitter. Sean Murray is coming back from a long injury and his performance is a credit to the medical staff. A game a week will obviously help.
“Patrick McEleney came back and he was really on top form but he has probably dipped a little bit because again he has played a lot of football. We need to get him up to the next stage. Georgie Kelly looked like he struggled a little bit at times in terms of fitness. His general play I thought was outstanding but it’s understandable that he dipped because he hasn’t played a lot.
“I think there’s huge improvements to be made in this team and we’ve got to be obsessed about getting better. We’re not going to let them rest on their laurels they’ve got to get better.
“That said I felt we were worthy winners. We relied on a very good save from Gary (Rogers) but at the same time we were worthy winners. I’m disappointed we didn’t take a few more chances. There were spells in the game where they had a bit more possession than I would have liked but at the same time it was a proper team performance by the lads. They defended so well and as I said I think we ran out worthy winners.”
With Georgie Kelly scoring on his first Premier Division start, it gives the manager a headache with Pat Hoban back from suspension for the trip to Cork on Friday.
“It does but no more so than it does with Dean Jarvis and Dane Massey or Brian Gartland and Daniel Cleary. We’ve a lot of top players at this club vying for similar positions but it’s good to have that competition.”
While Sean Hoare is suspended for the trip to Turner’s Cross, Perth is hopeful that Patrick McEleney will be available after picking up a knock in Friday’s win while he also expects to have Robbie Benson back in contention soon, although Friday will come too quickly for the midfielder.
The head coach also defended the decision to allow Chris Shields take the 76th minute penalty which was saved by James Talbot.
“He was practicing them all week. He’s a really good penalty taker but he just changed his mind. These things happen.
“It’s disappointing but the second goal came just after it really. The athleticism Sean Hoare showed for that was superb. He was outstanding tonight. Himself and Brian is a really formidable partnership but so is Dan Cleary. We’ve real headaches in that position but it’s a credit to the club and the board that we’ve got these headaches but we’ve needed them.
“We’ve had no Benson, no Shields, no McEleney, no Murray and no Jamie McGrath for long periods of around six weeks at a time at different stages. To be where we are points-wise, I’m disappointed because I think there’s more points in this group because the board have given us a fantastic squad.
“You’re starting to see the real JordanFlores at the moment and the difference is that he’s playing in a team that’s confident now and full of energy. Cameron Dummigan is an outstanding footballer too.”
Meanwhile, Perth said he is unlikely to look at strengthening his midfield area further following the early conclusion of Joe McKee’s six month loan to the club last week.
“Joe is too good a player to sit on our bench so we felt it was right for both parties to let him go,” said Perth.