How We’re Doing
A horror show on Saturday afternoon against Tranmere saw an abrupt end to our unbeaten run that had stretched back to September. Hopefully it can be put down to an off day, everything Tranmere tried went off perfectly whilst the opposite could be said of Coventry’s performance. There were some truly terrible individual performances, notably from Cyrus Christie and Carl Baker, there’s talk that Christie could be dropped for his performance on Saturday and the cull may even stretch to our captain Baker. Fortunately for them the small playing squad means that they may be spared and they’ll be given a chance to prove that they had merely had an off day.
Another element of Saturday’s display was the difference between Conor Thomas and Adam Barton alongside John Fleck in midfield. Thomas’s suspension forced Pressley’s hand in selecting Barton who put in a decent performance but lacked the energy and drive to allow us to play our usual pressing game. There’ll be no sadness to see Thomas immediately restored to his starting berth.
With Leon Clarke an injury doubt we’re seeing yet again how our lack of squad options will impinge upon our play-off hopes. This is the moment where we begin scratching our heads wondering who’s next in line, is it the outcast Manset? Can Billy Daniels deputise? Ben Maund maybe?
Not only do we lack adequate back-up players to replace injured or suspended players when required but we also need players available to give a kick up the backside to underperforming first-teamers who’ve played in the assurance of their starting position for the following game. Perhaps the defeat and performance against Tranmere has come at the perfect time to remind Pressley to utilise the loan market ahead of Thursday’s deadline, a striker, winger and centre-back should be on the wishlist.
Last Time We Met
Tuesday night’s opponents Rotherham last faced Coventry at their former home Millmoor on New Year’s Day in 2005 with City taking all 3 points in what was a Championship fixture. The parallel between Rotherham and Coventry’s respective stadium disputes will be drawn on in the build up to the game. The Millers couldn’t re-negotiate their rent at Millmoor and spent four seasons in exile at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium as they built their new ground back in Rotherham. After spending a long spell in the doldrums, Rotherham hold the Football League record for points lost to administrations, the Millers were promoted from League Two in their first season back in their home town.
How Are They Doing?
Under controversial manager Steve Evans, Rotherham won a laboured promotion from the fourth tier last season after having one of the division’s largest budgets by some distance alongside Fleetwood Town. This season has seen the club freed from the shackles of being one of the promotion favourites and have flirted with the play-offs for much of the campaign. They are currently on a run of 5 games unbeaten in all competitions, including beating our bette-noire for the season in Bradford 3-0.
Steve Evans’s sides are famed for their physical/cynical approach to the game and could offer Coventry a similar threat to Bradford City. However Rotherham have lack a top quality target man for this division and could line-up tomorrow with the pacy but relatively diminutive duo of Kieran Agard and former Coventry target Nouha Dicko. Generally they’ve struggled for goals from their strikers, although Agard has a respectable 7 to his name in all competitions. They do though have a number of goal-scoring midfielders with a penchant for a long-range finish.
Lee Frecklington is chief amongst the aforementioned goal-scoring midfielders and is the club’s second top scorer with 5 goals. The talented Ben Pringle is a class act in midfield and also likes to get forward and chip in with a few goals, he has 3 to his name this campaign. Michael O’Connor may only have one this season but has a reputation as a strong set-piece taker. Kari Arnason can play in defence or midfield, he has a famed long-throw and turned down offers from the Championship to play in League Two for Rotherham last season. In addition they have Robert Milsom who has been reportedly been chased by Championship sides after a strong start to his Millers career, Michael Tidser who was well regarded as Morton fell short of promotion to the SPL and David Worrall who has been a consistently strong player at this level for a few seasons now. Rotherham have so many good central midfielders that they’ve had to find ways to shoe-horn them all into the first-team, Frecklington and Pringle have been used out wide in order to accommodate their strongest on-field XI.
Their defence shouldn’t be regarded as anything too special with stalwarts like Claude Davis and Craig Morgan being regularly called upon in the centre. Both are robust players capable of holding their own in physical duals but Davis in particular could count himself as lucky to be playing as high as League One at this stage in his career.
From the outset November looked an easier month than October, however a surprisingly poor defeat to Tranmere has seen us yet again re-adjusting our ambitions for the season. Instead of moving into the play-offs with style as it seemed 89 minutes into the Bradford match, we now find ourselves wondering whether we are a good side or one that simply was in form. In addition there are concerns about this team being ‘found out’ by opposition unashamed to accept a point against us by playing negative football. Tuesday’s game against Rotherham will tell us how ambitious we should be as fans and whether Pressley is able to formulate a way to win against robust and well organised sides which our opponents should be.
This is a difficult one to call so I’ll sit on the fence with a 1-1 draw.