Where We Are
Tuesday night’s victory over Bristol City came as a shot in the arm for our season. From looking like we were waiting for the season to end in a dismal defeat to Leyton Orient the play-offs suddenly seem reachable again. What’s more is that the win came without the departed Leon Clarke and the injured Callum Wilson in attack which demonstrated something approaching strength in depth in the squad.
Credit must go to Steven Pressley for his recruitment last week. Having had a fairly poor track record in the transfer market thus far at the club, the signings of Nathan Delfouneso and Mark Marshall look to be interesting additions. Delfouneso’s debut showed him to be a player who was a mix between Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson, nippy and playing off the shoulder of the defender but with the ability to make his presence felt and hold the ball up. His fitness isn’t quite there yet but once it does he’ll be a great signing for us. Mark Marshall also put in a strong performance, albeit from the bench, with the team tiring Marshall was sent on for the final 20 minutes and put pressure on the opposing defence with his speed and evasiveness. Marshall did not look like a player who hadn’t been playing for 2 years and whilst he’s unlikely to start many games, his pace will cause the opposition problems in the same way that Manset did with his physicality.
In addition Tuesday night also saw two players step up to the plate whom many considered to be no more than reserve players. Adam Barton put in a strong performance alongside Conor Thomas in the centre of midfield showing that he may still have a Coventry career. Barton’s post-match comments revealed him to be someone prepared to keep on working until he earns a starting berth, whilst he may not be a starter this season he may become an important player should Thomas or Fleck be sold in the summer. In addition Billy Daniels put in a strong display on the left wing and he’s looking like he’s going to be a top player in a season or two, his agility and work-rate was rewarded with an ‘assist’ for Franck Moussa’s opener.
The team news for this afternoon’s game against Notts County is that John Fleck and Dylan McGeouch are both available for selection. Fleck, who come off the bench against Bristol City, is likely to start ahead of the unlucky Adam Barton. Dylan McGeouch though may be ruing the flu that left him out of the squad on Tuesday, in his stead Billy Daniels put in a strong performance with Mark Marshall impressing as a wide option from the bench. It’s unlikely he’ll be selected as a starter and he’ll have to content himself with a place on the bench.
Last Time We Met
In our last game against Notts County we produced one of our most convincing performances of the season in a 3-0 victory. Notts, who had recently removed Chris Kiwomya from the hotseat and who sat bottom of the table, set themselves up to contain Coventry. This tactic worked fairly well until the 44th minuted when Danny Haynes got himself sent off with a reckless high tackle. The second half was one-way traffic to the extent that both Andy Webster and Jordan Clarke in central defence could have watched the proceedings from a deck chair. A Leon Clarke brace and a tidy Callum Wilson finish saw off the Notts County resistance with relative ease.
How Are They Doing?
Notts County eventually appointed their former player Shaun Derry as their manager alongside former Coventry youth-teamer Greg Abbott. After struggling in the first few weeks in his managerial career, Derry had seemed to turn the club around at the beginning of the calendar year. However since losing 4-3 to Peterborough after taking a 2-0 lead, Notts County have struggled to recapture the momentum they had seemed to have built. It’s been a case all season long of key players underperforming and they’re having a season long crisis of confidence that they haven’t been able to shake off.
With Shaun Derry ineligible to play this season due to having played already for two different clubs, the key men for Notts County are in midfield. Callum McGregor, an attacking midfielder on loan from Celtic, is the star player for Notts County having scored 11 goals in 24 appearances. The other dangerman for Notts County comes in the form of Villa loanee Jack Grealish, a left-winger who’s nimble and skilfull.
Elsewhere it’s a case of players with recognised names putting in sub-par performances. Dean Leacock, a former Sky Blue, shouldn’t be the captain of a side struggling to survive in League One but his performances this season haven’t helped Notts County’s efforts. Mark Fotheringham, who played in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, has been especially poor this campaign and struggled to exert an impact on the third-tier. Enoch Showunmi who once could strike fear into lower league defences is a shadow of his former self.
Bartosz Bialkowski the former Southampton goalkeeper is a talented keeper at this level but playing behind one of the worst defences in the division isn’t helping him stand-out. It was understandable then that he sat out last week’s defeat to Preston due to a lack of sleep, in his stead came 39-year-old goalkeeping coach Kevin Pilkington.
This is an important game for us at this stage of the season. If we win we can restore momentum and begin a charge towards the play-offs. This is the type of game that teams who win things win, it’s against struggling opposition who’ll be desperate to save themselves, we most impose ourselves on the game early on in order to take the sting out of the game. If Notts County think they can get a point out of this game they’ll take that chance, this game is about how we play and how we can beat Notts County. Our next few games after this are very winnable and this is our chance to stake a claim for a run at promotion.
The squad right now is looking strong with players who won’t play today who would fit in at most other League One clubs as nailed-on starters. I’m feeling pretty confident that we can complete the double over Notts County and I’m predicting a 2-0 win.