Where We Are
We’re riding the crest of a wave at the moment, last Sunday’s win over Colchester continued our unbeaten run which now stands at 5 games, more importantly though the win took us out of negative points and above Notts County in the league table. A win today would see us move out of the relegation zone, remarkable at the expense of Sheffield United. The performance last week was utterly dominant, every player put in a strong performance, were we to maintain this level of performance throughout the season then promotion would not be out of the question.
However with a small squad and our perceived financial weakness it makes us easily susceptible to the twin enemies of injuries and covetous eyes from other clubs, say those about to be in the League 1 relegation zone and having sold a 50% stake to an Arab investor. With the transfer window now closed, and assuming that Sheffield United don’t make a ridiculous loan offer for anyone of the three players they’re supposedly interested in, the main worry right now is injuries. Both Adam Barton and Conor Thomas are said to be injury doubts for today but hopefully one, preferably Thomas, makes the starting line-up otherwise our lack of squad depth would be exposed for all to see.
Last Time We Met
A long, long time ago when both us and Gillingham were teams in the nascent ‘Championship’ in December 2004. Back then Gillingham beat us 3-1 at Priestfield which was not enough to prevent an eventual relegation to the third-tier. For Coventry the result was one of the final nails in the coffin for Peter Reid’s ill-fated reign at the club, eventually we survived for another season in the Championship after Mickey Adams stepped in to the hot-seat.
How Are They Doing
After easing to promotion from League 2 last year, Gillingham are struggling this time out. They are without a win in every single competition they have played in and are a side that we could now leapfrog were we to win today. The pressure is perhaps already beginning to tell as their manager, Martin Allen, this week transfer-listed four players, several of whom had played regularly this campaign. Gillingham’s last spell at this level was notable in that they failed to win a single game away from home and that scar on their recent history could be affecting their confidence for today’s trip to Sixfields.
Last season their promotion centered around being very strong defensively. Their key defensive player was Adam Barrett, their captain, who is your typical big, strong lump of a centre-back that you get at this level, could be exposed by Callum Wilson’s pace should he be so foolish as to push up the pitch. Their other key defender, Leon Legge, is an inury doubt but should he be fit he is another tall, strong guy that would be a problem for a more long-ball side than we.
The most notable member of Gillingham’s squad, as far as we’re concerned, is our former striker Cody McDonald. After struggling for goals, and reportedly fitness, last season with us he had a very good loan spell back at his old haunt, Gillingham, scoring 4 in 7 in League 2. Perhaps the fourth-tier is Cody’s ‘level’ given that he’s only scored 1 in 5 with the Gills this season but still remains a threat given his likely motivation to prove a point at his old club.
His strike partner Ade Akinfenwa is a former Sixfields regular whose last three transfers have been Northampton to Gillingham, Gillingham to Northampton, Northampton to Gillingham. Akinfenwa though has played most of his football at League Two level and it was something of a surprise to see Gillingham plump for their ex-striker following their promotion to League One. The main justifcation by Martin Allen has been that Akinfenwa and Cody McDonald played effectively together a few seasons ago at the club and it was a move to stoke the best out of McDonald. Also he is massive.
Gillingham are the second team in a row that we face probably at the perfect time of the season. You could perhaps say that they are due a win now, or are going to fight desperately for it. But basing it on the evidence of the season so far, this is an excellent opportunity now to move out of the relegation zone and lay down a marker for the season. It would have been typical Coventry last season to lose this match, perhaps conceding one or two on the counter, but with a more positive outlook under Pressley I think some of the ‘typical Coventry’ associations are starting to ebb away.
Although Gillingham will look to provide a physical battle, playing a diamond formation to clog up the centre of the pitch, we have overcome physical sides this season by playing positive attack-minded football. The defensive partnership of Webster and Jordan Clarke is developing nicely but Gillingham’s front two will most likely be attempting to exploit Jordan Clarke’s perceived lack of strength.
I am confident though that we’ll win this one. Prediction: Coventry to win 3-0.