What a week it has been. 7 days ago we were wondering where our next win was going to come from, whether our manager was about to leave (for Huddersfield, again), whether we wanted him to stay and where the judicial review would leave the club.
Now we’ve take four points from two of the pre-season promotion favourites, our manager seems to be staying around but more importantly we’re back in Coventry!
The coming fixture against Milton Keynes is feeling like something of a side-show prior to the first home game back at the Ricoh Arena. It almost feels akin to when the team is handed a big cup tie, the fixtures prior always feel to be of lesser importance. You would imagine that Steven Pressley will be able to keep concentration up and sustain what appears to be the start of a decent run of form.
Whilst the win over Sheffield United was down to pure hard-work, the point in the final game of exile against Barnsley was as a result of a more convincing display. Whilst our keeper Ryan Allsop dropped us two points on Tuesday night, literally, the team should take the confidence from a more controlling display than the one that had preceded it.
The balance of the team is coming into place with players appearing to have a better understanding of the roles that they are being asked to perform in the new 5-3-2 system. Ryan Haynes’ forward drive from left wing-back has been a major factor, Reda Johnson in defence provides the platform, Danny Swanson creates overloads out wide with the two Jordans on the right defending well as a duo.
In terms of team selection you would imagine that Pressley would stick with the same team again. McQuoid’s first goal should add confidence to his work-rate for the team with Shaun Miller and Simeon Jackson great options to have from the bench. Additionally it would be a risk dropping Ryan Allsop despite his errors on Tuesday and could risk ruining his confidence whilst throwing in the largely untested Lee Burge too soon.
Possible Line-Up (5-3-2): Allsop; Clarke, Willis, Webster, Johnson, Haynes; O’Brien, Fleck, Swanson; Tudgay, McQuoid.
Last Time We Met
When we last played each other it was in our difficult phase towards the end of last season. On okay performance overall but we were second best to a Milton Keynes side still chasing the play-offs.
However most Coventry City fans will not forget the past two times we’ve travelled to Milton Keynes. Our last away game against them memorably featured two carbon-copy free-kicks from loanee Chris Maguire to seal a dramatic win in front of a record travelling crowd. The season before, a depleted team (featuring Roy O’Donovan no less) managed a wonderful Franck Moussa inspired comeback to leave Milton Keynes boss Karl Robinson fuming in a gloriously petty post-match interview (summary: why can’t other teams be worse than mine?).
How Are They Doing?
Milton Keynes are undoubtedly ‘going for it’ this year, having had to cut their budget for the two seasons prior, they have added a number of high calibre players for this level of football. Having started the season strongly with two wins from three league games and a draw with Manchester United in the League Cup, this is a club also enjoying life at the moment.
Karl Robinson, despite some petulant remarks in the media, has a lot to like about him. In particular his team play a very pretty passing style of football, sometimes at the cost of penetration in attack but generally it has garnered good results. Expect Milton Keynes to line-up in a formation somewhere between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. They like to score goals from midfield and will use their wide players as additional strikers, something which generally causes problems for five-man defences.
The two men which really make the team sparkle are Dele Alli and Ben Reeves. Alli has progressed remarkably quickly from promising youngster to key player over the course of the past 12 months, not only is he talented as a play-maker but he offers a goal threat with his intelligent late runs into the area. Ben Reeves is another goal-scoring midfielder who is talented with the ball at his feet, he also progressed rapidly over the course of last season. Reeves is shorter and seems to be playing deeper than Alli but both will be fairly interchangeable which could generate confusion within our defensive ranks.
In attack Robinson will be able to pick from Benik Afobe, Tom Hitchcock and Will Grigg. Both Hitchcock and Grigg are fairly standard poachers, although Grigg can do more off-the-ball whilst Hitchcock is slightly quicker. Benik Afobe started and scored on Tuesday night and is a more physical proposition and can hold the ball up but also cause damage with a decent turn of pace. In addition, Daniel Powell who plays from the right has been chipping in with a few goals already and has caused us problems in the past.
Their defensive unit may offer us some joy, the signing of Kyle McFadzean at centre-back adds some important physicality into what has often been a powder-puff Milton Keynes defence. However they are still learning to play together, goalkeeper David Martin was substituted on Tuesday with right-back Lee Hodson struggling so far this season. The recent signing of former West Ham player Jordan Spence just adds yet more physicality to their defence.
Possible Line-Up (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Spence, Kay, McFadzean, Lewington; Potter, Reeves; Powell, Alli, Bowditch; Afobe.
In many ways Milton Keynes present a far different challenge to what we have faced before this season. They know how they want to play, they know that they can win playing that way and they have the confidence of two victories under their belt already. Furthermore their style of play and formation is specifically suited to being effective against a 5-3-2 system. With midfield runners and attacking full-backs, they will really stretch us across the pitch which will test our organisation.
You cannot underplay the importance that the return to the Ricoh has had around the club, if feels like a lot of anxiety and neurosis has been lifted. That should help elevate our potential performance in front of a buoyant and large away following. What impact that really will have on the team is hard to tell at this time and being able to utilise the optimism whilst sticking to a plan which is starting work well will be the challenge for Steven Pressley.
Hard game to call, I’m going to say that this will be a 2-2 draw.