Where We Are
A disappointing draw and performance against Crewe sees us treading water in mid-table in the league. Ever since conceding that last minute equaliser to Bradford we’ve been on a downwards spiral which I largely attribute to the small size of our squad starting to bite back at us. The MK Dons win looks more like a false dawn at the moment rather than a sign of things to come but a win tonight will go a long way to restoring the momentum we had seemed to have reclaimed with those two late Chris Maguire freekicks over a fortnight ago.
The bad news is that we’ll be without loanees Maguire and Dagnall once again for tonight’s FA Cup 2nd Round Replay against Hartlepool but the good news is Leon Clarke has returned from injury to bolster our attacking options. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’ve been missing our 2nd top scorer and not just for the goals he has provided us thus far. Clarke’s ability to connect midfield and attack is unparalleled compared to our other options, or to put it more bluntly we cannot link our attack and midfield effectively without him.
The hope is that we’re not going to be rushing Leon Clarke back into the starting line-up before he’s ready because whilst we are in desperate need of him, rushing him into the first-team could limit his effectiveness longer term this season. It’s a tough choice for Pressley but I feel that he’s going to pick Leon for tonight’s match due to the lack of any viable alternatives.
Last Time We Met
If you don’t remember we played Hartlepool the weekend before last and we drew 1-1 after a poor second half display saw us squander a 1 goal lead.
How Are They Doing?
After earning themselves a replay for this evening Hartlepool came back from 2 goals down to draw against Cheltenham in League Two. From watching the highlights they were poor defensively but looked effective in attack. Two goals from their winger/striker Jonathan Franks saw the former Middlesbrough player become their third top scorer with 3 goals.
As we saw in the original fixture in Hartlepool, Colin Cooper’s side are a tidy little team who have some interesting players but are lacking that final bit of quality to make them a genuinely threatening side. Their 14th position in League Two shows that whilst they can be effective at times, they’re an inconsistent team and it will be interesting to see whether they can produce one of their better performances on a cold Tuesday night in Northampton with an away match at Barnsley a potential reward.
Their key players are Scott Flinders in goal, Christian Burgess and Jack Baldwin as centre-backs, Andy Monkhouse and Jack Compton out wide and their young striker Luke James. But we already know that don’t we?
It’s been a fairly flat past couple of weeks for Coventry as results have tailed off from our tremendous form through October and the challenge that season always promised to be has re-emerged. It’s interesting that our recent downturn has largely coincided with Leon Clarke’s absence through injury so hopefully his return will spell an improvement in performance levels.
Personally with us currently sitting in mid-table I would like to see us have a go in the cup. Whilst Pressley has never really sent out reserve teams for the three cup competitions, we have performed pretty poorly thus far in those games. The ‘prize’ of a trip to Barnsley may not be that enticing for some Coventry fans I feel that it presents a great opportunity to both show just how good we are and also to advance to the 4th round and get a really good tie.
My prediction is that we’ll win 3-1.