How We Are Doing
Sunday’s result is still taking some time to digest but we remain unbeaten since the end of September. Though we lie in 12th place in the league it’s customary to point out that we would be in 4th were it not for the events of the summer. After our rapid rise in recent weeks it seems somewhat disappointing to see our phenomenal form rewarded with merely a humdrum mid-table position but with two thirds of the season still to play there’s plenty of opportunity to make amends.
It will be interesting to see how the team react to the high emotions of Sunday’s game, both in trying to replicate the searing potency with which we attacked as well as trying to avoid the emotional distress of yet again conceding soft goals to surrender a seemingly unassailable dominance. Prior to our trip to Valley Parade there was a sense that our defensive brittleness of the opening months of the season had become a thing of the past, however a lack of cohesion as well as a couple of notable individual errors cost us what should have been a straightforward win against a Bradford side who were playing with hope more than guile.
Furthermore some of our mistakes against Bradford could be attributed to fatigue, Franck Moussa, Blair Adams and Conor Thomas showed signs of lethargy in particular and didn’t play at their best. Although we’ve been spared two game weeks for the most part this season it still appeared that a few players needed a rest to freshen things up. Unfortunately our limited squad options don’t afford us this luxury meaning that only the suspended Conor Thomas will be able to recharge his batteries for the weekend. Admittedly part of our strength has been a consistent line-up but it seems that the side is reaching a come down both physically and mentally.
Of course tomorrow’s match will help to define this narrative and will change may fans’ opinions on what our season’s expectations should be. A win and we’re unbeaten in 9 games, lose and we haven’t won in 2, a draw against a lowly Tranmere side will be viewed as a disappointment.
The squad news is that it’s Barton in for Thomas, otherwise the starting line-up is unchanged from Sunday. In addition Pressley appears keen to pursue loan signings before next Thursday see the ’emergency’ loan window close until January. The target seems to be for a new centre-back and striker but Pressley has also been keen in the past for a left winger so don’t rule that out if any loan signings are to be made.
Last Time We Met
Our opponents Tranmere were the surprise package for the first half of last season only to collapse spectacularly in the final couple of months of 2012-13. They visited the Ricoh last January hoping to maintain their promotion challenge but came up against an equally hopeful Coventry side. In a scrappy affair on a cold night Leon Clarke scored his first league goal after a scramble in the penalty box. There is little else to say about this match.
How Are They Doing?
Tranmere are probably happy right now that league seasons aren’t decided over calendar years. If they were they would be struggling at the bottom half with 9 wins in 36 games since the turn of the year. This season’s table is even worse with the club residing in the relegation zone after starting with 3 wins in 15 games. The transformation from promotion challengers to relegation candidates has been swift and largely down to the club’s reliance of loan players such as Ben Gibson, Liam Palmer and Jake Cassidy who both left the club after impressing during loan spells.
The replacements have been of the more experienced variety, Ryan Lowe and Akpo Sodje have replaced Cassidy up front. The pair have a combined age of 75 and only Lowe has been on the score-sheet, with 7 in 20 games this season. In defence Tranmere have experienced serious issues attempting to replace their departed loanees, Stephen Foster was tried and released just a month after playing his first games, numerous loanees have been brought in as well as 41 year old Ian Goodison. At the moment Jimmy McNulty from Barnsley has been impressing in defence but as another loan signing doesn’t offer a long-term solution.
Tranmere were also obliterated in midfield during the summer, in addition to Liam Palmer returning to Sheffield Wednesday, the tough-tackling James Wallace has only recently returned from a serious injury and may not be risked tomorrow afternoon. Once again Ronnie Moore has been chopping and changing to fill the void and this has included bringing in ex-Coventry player Steve Jennings on a short-term deal although he is struggling for fitness as well.
Some of the stars of last season have remained at the club, including Owain fon Williams in goal who seemed almost certain to depart over the summer. The Welshman is probably the league’s best keeper, up there with Wes Foderingham, but a goalkeeper has little impact on a team in decline. The deceptively skillful Andy Robinson is class act out wide and provides creativity to a side that often lacks spark.
For all of this down-talking of Tranmere (if down-talking is even a word, it’s been a long day), they are unbeaten in 5 games in all competitions and are showing signs of turning things round. Ryan Lowe has started to score again and the recent return of James Wallace, if he plays, will be a welcome boost. They’re only in the relegation zone on goal difference and they might just be feeling that their season’s about to turn around.
This game may be coming at the perfect juncture for Tranmere, their players are beginning to display some form and confidence, whilst ours are beginning to look weary after a remarkable run of form in recent weeks. However looking at it on paper I would argue that Coventry remain a better side than Tranmere.
Furthermore we’ve usually been fairly consistent in our performance levels this season, so although the pessimist in me says that this Coventry side are losing some steam, the fact is we haven’t lost in 8 games and we’re up against a side near the bottom of the table. This is a game we not only should be winning but one that we shouldn’t really be doubting ourselves over, unfortunately that is the mentality of many Coventry fans.
I predict that Coventry will win this game 2-0.