Where We Are
Despite taking an early lead against Brentford on Saturday, there was an air of inevitability as the Bees stormed back in to the game and eventually took any sting out of Coventry’s performance for a drab second half. In many ways the game was a ‘no-lose’ situation for the Sky Blues, a win or a point would have been seen as a bonus, a loss was to be expected. However the fall-out from the game which has involved Steven Pressley losing his patience with several first-team players, Chuba Akpom being sent back to Arsenal and the loan signing of midfielder Anton Robinson could have a decisive influence on our season.
It is expected that Robinson, on loan from Huddersfield, will be immediately handed his debut for Coventry in what is your archetypal ‘6 pointer’ tonight against Stevenage. It is also expected that Robinson will be selected at the expense of Nathan Delfouneso who continues to frustrate management and fans alike with his on-field persona. Delfouneso is facing a similar frustration to that directed at Leon Clarke during his first few games for the club, however whilst Leon Clarke appeared lazy on the pitch and scored goals, Delfouneso is rarely finding himself in positions to score despite his clear talent as a footballer and an athlete.
In addition we can read from Pressley’s post-match interview last Saturday that any one or more of Franck Moussa, Cyrus Christie and Carl Baker could be dropped for tonight’s fixture. This could result in a recall to the first-team for Andy Webster as Pressley looks to reduce the amount of sloppy errors occurring in defence. Pressley may even be tempted to go for the back four that played against Shrewsbury (Willis, Webster, Seaborne and Clarke) in an attempt to prevent a robust Stevenage side winning aerial duels too easily.
Last Time We Met
After both sides won the away fixture in our league meetings with Stevenage last season, the trend continued into this campaign when the Sky Blues travelled to Broadhall Way. Similarly to the last league meeting between these two sides, Coventry are looking for a win having recently been defeated by Brentford. Back in October a poor back-pass from Robin Shroot was seized upon by Leon Clarke in what was the game’s only goal despite Coventry having a clear-cut penalty denied to them by the referee.
How Are They Doing?
In October Stevenage looked like a side that was just lacking some belief in and around the penalty area despite producing some very promising build-up play. After being cut adrift at the bottom of the table in January, Graham Westley’s side have rediscovered some of the spirit that twice won them promotion a couple of seasons ago. Their run of form which saw them rise out of the relegation zone briefly was ended last Saturday with a last-gasp defeat to MK Dons at Broadhall Way.
A large factor in Stevenage’s turnaround has been the form of the attacking duo of Luke Freeman and Francois Zoko. Freeman, a former Arsenal youth-teamer, has consistently been Stevenage’s best performer since signing for them 2 seasons ago and has somewhat surprisingly remained at the club. Zoko signed in October after being released following an underwhelming spell at Notts County, the skilfull Ivorian has hit 10 goals in his 25 league appearances for the Hertfordshire side.
Elsewhere Stevenage have a number of decent looking midfielders including Michael Doughty who is on loan from QPR and Filipe Morais who can either play out wide or in the centre of midfield. Characteristically Stevenage have a physically robust set of defenders with a number of them stalwarts from the lower leagues such as Jon Ashton and Darius Charles, who is often used as an emergency centre-forward.
As ever Coventry should be careful not to get frustrated by Graham Westley’s cynical game-plan. Stevenage’s defeat to MK Dons came in the 7th minute of added on time, largely due to their most commonly used tactic of time-wasting at every opportunity. In addition Westley isn’t scared of targeting opposition players with physical intimidation, having targeted Cyrus Christie last time out I would imagine that Callum Wilson will be at the stop of Stevenage’s hit-list.
Ahead of two games against teams in the lower reaches of the table it’s important that we at least take points from these games if we can’t win them. This ‘home’ fixture against Stevenage should be seen as the best opportunity to take 3 points to give the team some breathing space and head towards mid-table. However Stevenage will be difficult opponents to navigate due to their awkward tactics as well as the fact that they’ll see this game as a great opportunity to take 3 points off a team struggling for form.
Everything’s up in the air at the moment it seems, had this game been played last Saturday then I would have gone for a 2 or 3 goal victory. The fall-out from the Brentford looks like it’s made Pressley reconsider a number of his decisions and it could be costly to experiment in a game like this. However I’m going to remain positive and go for a narrow 2-1 victory for Coventry.