Where We Are
Saturday saw the first postponed fixture for Coventry City for a long while. With the team struggling for form perhaps this came at a good time for us but it has meant that we’ve dropped to 12th in the division. It has also given time for new loan signings Nathan Delfouneso and Dylan McGeouch to bed in along with new permanent signing Mark Marshall. Our other new signing in the January window has since returned to his parent club due to personal reasons, and from the sounds of things we’ll probably not be seeing him back.
With Callum Wilson a continued absentee with the injury he picked up against Rotherham on New Year’s Day it’s likely that Nathan Delfouneso will replace George Thomas in attack for tonight’s fixture. This would mean that Billy Daniels would continue on the left wing and with Daniels’s pointed celebrations against Bristol City in the previous fixture between the two clubs, expect him to come in for some stick from the home fans.
The main concern is over both John Fleck and Dylan McGeouch’s fitness for tonight’s game. Both sat out training on Monday with an illness and may not be fit enough to feature. The consequence of that would most likely be Adam Barton being handed a rare chance to start in his preferred central midfield role. The alternative would be Billy Daniels being shuffled into midfield and Mark Marshall being handed his first start in a league fixture for nearly 2 years.
Last Time We Met
It was a balmy summer’s day all the way back in August. Coventry were fresh from back-to-back 3-2 defeats at Crawley and Leyton Orient. Bristol City were free-scoring with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas in red-hot form as the Robins looked to bounce back from relegation. To make things worse for Coventry fans the club had recently suffered a 10 point deduction, lost 17 players in the summer and signing only 2 replacements and were preparing for a new reality at Sixfields in Northampton. Arriving at the game to find the Bristol City fans outnumbering the ‘home’ fans only added to the sense of dread for Coventry fans who may have still been remembering the numerous thumpings that Bristol City meted out to Coventry during the two clubs’ most recent stays in the second-tier.
To say that Coventry’s 3-0 half-time lead in that game was unprecedented was something of an understatement. The depleted ranks of Sky Blues fans in the stands in Northampton could barely muster a word to surmise their disbelief at what they had just witnessed. As if to send the Coventry faithful back to reality the second half appeared to follow normal service for ‘typical City’ as the 3 goal advantage was wiped out within half an hour of the play resuming. Maybe it was the new environs or the youthful exuberance of the side but something shocking happened, Coventry reacted positively to adversity. Within seconds of the restart Callum Wilson scored his second of the day from a long-ball forward. Bristol City equalised from a penalty-area scrap with 5 minutes to go. Yet when Billy Daniels eventually won the game with 3 minutes left on the clock, the surprise and disbelief was no longer there, it felt like a new dawn for a new Coventry City.
How Are They Doing?
As magnificently as things improved for Coventry following that win back in August, defeat for Bristol City extended a winless win which stretched back to March of 2013. It took the Robins until the end of October to record a first league victory. Their manager Sean O’Driscoll was eventually replaced by Steve Cotterill in early December despite signs of improvement. Since Cotterill has taken charge of Bristol City they’ve won 3, drawn 3 and lost 3. However despite a modest improvement, Bristol City are only outside of the relegation zone on goal difference and fixture postponements.
Characteristically Steve Cotterill had set about trying to make Bristol City harder to beat, however thus far he has only reduced their goals conceded per game ratio by a fifth of a goal. However looking back at the statistics, they are losing less and winning more games which is going to have a far bigger impact on confidence than simply reducing the goals conceded. The talk pre-match is that Cotterill will continue with a 3-5-2 formation despite beating Carlisle on Saturday with a 4-4-2.
That means that Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Sam Baldock will continue their lethal striker partnership for tonight’s fixture. The duo have scored 25 goals this season between them which compares with the 30 that Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson have scored. This is especially impressive given that they’ve played in a demoralised side battling relegation for this campaign.
As far as bona fide ‘dangermen’ go that’s about it for Bristol City. They have a number of useful squad players and players who can have an impact from the bench such as Tyrone Barnett and the pacey youngster Wes Burns. This might sound dismissive of Bristol City but it’s well worth pointing out how massively they’ve under-performed this season which means they’ll have players who can pull off performances that may have gone under the radar due to their poor showing this season.
The talk pre-game from both sides is focused on how different both sides are from the 5-4 earlier in the season. This time Coventry go into the match as slight favourites due to the way we’ve performed this campaign whilst it’s Bristol City who are the ones looking for an upset. It’s worth pointing out that since Steve Cotterill has taken over they’ve taken slightly more points per game than we have over the same period (albeit they’ve played 1 more game). This is a team fighting desperately for survival and against a Coventry team missing a number of key players and currently struggling for form and momentum. For me this makes Bristol City slight favourites especially as my thinking is clouded by the number of thrashings we’ve suffered both home and away against them.
As things currently stand I’d be happy for a 1-1 draw, so that’ll be my prediction.