Where We Are
After another defeat caused by a lethargic performance, Coventry City are 5 points above the relegation zone, a gap that could go down to 3 were Carlisle to beat Sheffield United in their game in hand. This afternoon’s game against Oldham has taken on the importance of a must-win fixture. Not only could defeat leave City just 2 points above the relegation zone but with two tough final fixtures ahead, there would be little of the Sky Blues winning again this season.
Putting a more positive spin on today’s meeting with Oldham, we could find ourselves just one point away from securing survival mathematically, and that would be assuming Carlisle would beat Sheffield United in their game in hand which seems unlikely. Being even more positive, our recent performances haven’t been a million miles away from taking points off teams challenging for the play-offs. If we can learn the lessons that we were taught in our last three games, then surely against opponents of lesser quality then surely we can win some vital points.
With little team news available at this point in time, I’ll assume that we’ll continue to be without the services of Franck Moussa who missed the past two games. This leaves Steven Pressley with largely tactical team decisions to make, he may decide that he saw enough on Friday that his Andy Thorn style diamond formation can be tweaked and will stick with largely the same team as on Good Friday. An alternative would be to go back to the 4-4-2 formation that brought the team such success in the opening months of the season but has proven to be unstable defensively. Or he could revert to playing a back 5 which won the team back-to-back victories at the end of March to keep the team out of the relegation zone.
Last Time We Met
In a similarly congested period of fixtures we faced Oldham back in the festive period on the back of a glorious 4-2 victory over Peterborough United. Back then Steven Pressley could call upon a front two of Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson. Despite dominating the game for long spells, the Sky Blues struggled for fluency in the final third and fell behind to yet another former City striker in Jonson Clarke-Haris. A Carl Baker goal in the 73rd minute spared Coventry dropping all three points but did little to fire the team back towards the play-off positions.
How Are They Doing?
Following a narrow 1-0 win over Colchester on Good Friday, Lee Johnson’s Oldham team sit one point ahead of the Sky Blues. The Latics’ last defeat came on March 11th, they are unbeaten now in their 6 games so will be full of confidence of pulling off that final victory to seal their League One status. At the start of the season Oldham won plaudits for an entertaining and attacking style of football, however for the most part plaudits were all that they won. From November onwards Lee Johnson has tried to instill a defensive steel into his side and they have been picking up points as a sacrifice for playing less entertaining football.
The key men for Oldham this afternoon looks to be Jonson Clarke-Harris and Gary Harkins. Clarke-Harris, after being unceremoniously ejected from the Coventry youth-team, has found his place in professional football and looks to be living up to the promise looked to have had whilst scoring regularly for City’s youth-team. Over the course of the season, Clarke-Harris has emerged as a key player for Lee Johnson’s side having started off as a bit-part player. Harkins, on loan from St Mirren, has been sensational since moving to Boundary Park in January. The balding Scot mainly operates on the left but has a keen eye for a pass and has a bag of tricks that has caught out many League One defences thus far.
Similar to Coventry, Oldham have a soft-spot in a defence that is largely made up of youth-team players or younger players signed from other clubs. In recent weeks though, Oldham have been able to shut out sides more often so the Sky Blues may not be able to rely upon our opponents making mistakes.
Finally another man to watch could be former Leicester youth-team player James Wesolowski. The Australian who has been beset by injury for most of his career has always been a key performer at Oldham since signing from Peterborough three seasons ago. On his day he can play a box-to-box role in midfield and may fancy his chances against an out-of-sorts Coventry midfield of John Fleck, Conor Thomas and David Prutton.
The hope is that Pressley approaches this game with the same mentality that he did at the end of last month. Even more important is this sense of urgency and importance is transmitted onto the players. Recent performances haven’t been bad but they have lacked some killer instinct in attack and some defensive steel. At the very least we should be targeting a point from this game which may be enough considering the form of teams below us in the league.
I am optimistic ahead of this game, I feel that players who were part of the team relegated under Andy Thorn will have a point to prove that they aren’t losers, after Pressley laid down that gauntlet in his post-match interview on Friday. I’m going for a 2-1 Coventry City victory.