Where We Are
After failing to take points at either Colchester or Gillingham last week, we find ourselves in more or less the same position as we were two weeks ago when we were desperate for a win at home to Shrewsbury. Back then, a vital clean sheet which was then followed by a win over Walsall led many to believe that the team had finally turned the corner after a torrid month of February. However after falling behind first in each of our subsequent away fixtures and being unable to turn the momentum soon enough to earn points we’re back at square one, with the team looking for both defensive solidity and some positive momentum.
Tuesday night’s ludicrous affair down at Gillingham which saw both sides twice punished for kamikaze defending in their own area showed that this young team had plenty to learn. What has been worrying though about our performances since the turn of the year has been the seeming lack of leadership from the senior players in the side. Stand-in captain Danny Seaborne may have been unfortunate to have been sent off but his sometimes suicidal defending has been increasingly costing the team goals and points. In addition his colleague in central defence Andy Webster has largely been disappointing this season with his lack of leadership in defence.
On the plus side the Seaborne-Webster partnership will have to be broken up for today’s ‘home’ game against Port Vale. It’s a toss-up between Jordan Clarke and Jordan Willis and hopefully either option will address the lack of pace and ability to play from the back that we’ve lacked since Seaborne’s arrival. Clarke would be the most obvious choice for me, despite his lapses in concentration, his ability to cover for Webster’s lack of pace and his composure in playing the ball under pressure should help restore the rhythm that we’ve been missing recently. Jordan Willis though may come in due to Pressley’s lack of trust for Jordan Clarke’s concentration levels, Willis played well alongside Webster at the turn of the year but he has been in good form at right-back so it could tip the balance in Clarke’s favour. Either way expect Blair Adams to return to left-back.
Elsewhere, we have Chupa Akpom back from Arsenal’s youth team which should allow Pressley to rest Nathan Delfouneso. Petrasso has extended his loan for one more game which is good news and hopefully we can agree to keep for the rest of the season now. Pressley once again has options to choose from and it will be interesting to see whether he changes the attacking line-up drastically, especially given Carl Baker grabbing a goal from the spot on Tuesday night.
Last Time We Met
The last time we played our opponents Port Vale we produced a convincing first-half display only to lose 3-2 after being unable to sustain our performance levels. On that day we lost sloppy goals due to an inability to defend long-balls and set pieces, worryingly those issues haven’t been sorted in time for today’s fixture. Despite Danny Seaborne’s poor performances recently you wonder whether Pressley was waiting until after this game to drop him given Port Vale’s aerial threat. We could potentially see Jordan Clarke and Andy Webster renew their duel with Tom Pope in the Vale attack and it seems likely that today’s game could be settled by Coventry’s ability to learn from the mistakes made in their last game against the Valiants.
How Are They Doing?
For a promoted side who didn’t spend a great deal in the summer or January transfer windows, Port Vale are having a pretty successful season. Although their play-off ambitions have been curtailed by a poor run of form in February, Mickey Adams’s side have recently picked up a couple of all important victories to steer themselves away from the danger zone in the division. Confidence isn’t exactly high at Vale Park but given the way that Port Vale managed to win in our last league fixture against them I imagine that Mickey Adams will fancy his chances of completing a double against the club he both played for and managed.
The key player for Port Vale this afternoon looks to be Tom Pope. After spending most of his career as a hard-working target-man who rarely scored, he hit 30 last season to fire Port Vale into League One. This season he has hit a respectable 12 to show that he wasn’t a one season wonder and is starting to attract glances from bigger clubs in League One and the Championship. He will be the man that Vale will seek to build their attacks around.
In midfield Vale have Jennison Myrie-Williams who has scored 9 league goals this season and seems to be one of those pacey wingers that Coventry often struggle to defend against. In the centre of midfield Doug Loft has raised his game from being a steady League Two player and has chipped in with 7 in the league, including one he scored in the reverse fixture. Loft will be partnered with Chris Lines who has impressed since joining from Sheffield Wednesday in the summer, Lines is a creative midfield player who has a fearsome set-piece delivery.
Vale will also be able to call upon former Sky Blues players in Richard Duffy, Carl Dickinson and Chris Birchall. Given our form against former players this season they’ll be a decent bet to get on the scoresheet this afternoon.
Hopefully the last two defeats were nothing more than a blip. However it’s getting increasingly tough to describe what’s happened since the end of January as anything other than a bona fide drop in form. The team’s really struggling in both attack and defence and it seems that several key performers in the first half of the season have completely lost form. The hope is that a ‘home’ game against a mid-table side with little to play for will provide a good opportunity to take three points and restore some confidence.
It’s been tough recently to predict Coventry City results but I’m going for a 2-1 victory for the Sky Blues.