The winless run continues and it is getting harder and harder to identify where the next win is coming from. Whilst Saturday’s defeat to Bristol City was no great surprise, it would have been a massive boost to our rock-bottom confidence had we taken anything from that game.
Another tough luck story then for the Sky Blues where individual errors belied a fairly decent display against the league leaders. Whilst one or two defeats in this manner can be put down to a lack of fortune, consistently doing so poses questions over the desire of the team to force difficult situations to fall in their favour.
Things do not get any easier heading into this week. Our next opponents are an Oldham side who are improving as the season progresses and are currently unbeaten in 11. After that we host the second placed team in the division at the Ricoh Arena. It is possible that we could be in the bottom four and winless in seven league games this time next week.
There are a few reasons to be cheerful for Coventry City fans, both Reda Johnson and Frank Nouble are closing in on full fitness. Whilst Reda Johnson will be unable to make the squad for this visit to Boundary Park, Nouble will at least be on the bench.
Danny Pugh will be out for around a month after limping off against Bristol City. Whilst he hasn’t exactly been poor in recent weeks, he isn’t good enough in one-on-one situations going forward to be effective at wing-back. As long as he isn’t paid too close attention by Oldham, Ryan Haynes will provide directness on the left-side of the pitch as Pugh’s replacement. In other injury news Seb Hines and John Fleck remain on the treatment table which will at least Adam Barton continue his run at a revival in the Sky Blues first-team.
Our goal against Bristol City perhaps pointed the way forward for this team. The impressive James Maddison played a perfectly weighted through-ball to Shaun Miller. The duo appear to possess a level of directness and purpose which we have been badly lacking in recent weeks. Both are yet to start for Coventry City but surely their respective performances on Saturday should make the case for at least one to earn a starting place.
Bright spots aside, the 3-4-3 formation on Saturday did not have the desired effect, the two wing-backs and central midfielders were far too deep. This left three in attack on their own whose movement was not intelligent enough to cause Bristol City problems. It is getting to the stage where if Pressley’s next couple for tactical and personnel changes do not come good, the wheels could really fall off this season.
Possible Line-Up: (3-4-3) Allsop; Willis, Webster, Clarke; Phillips, Barton, O’Brien, Haynes; Maddison, McQuoid, Jackson.
Last Time We Met
Two draws last season at frustrating times for the Sky Blues were what came when we met Oldham Athletic. Back over the festive period last year a Coventry City side off the back of an impressive victory over Peterborough were held frustratingly by Oldham in a 1-1 draw featuring a goal from former Sky Blue youth-teamer Jonson Clarke-Harris. In the third from final game last season, a drab 0-0 draw lacking in any kind of quality from either side helped Steven Pressley’s Sky Blues to lurch over the finishing line.
How Are They Doing?
Last year’s brush with danger was a real learning experience for Lee Johnson’s Oldham Athletic. Despite playing some enterprising and thoroughly entertaining football at the beginning of last year, a lack of resoluteness saw the Latics fall in all too close to a relegation battle that they did not deserve to be in. The sale of the immensely talented defender James Tarkowski allowed Johnson to re-shuffle his pack a little bit and add some all-important experienced heads to provide the team with the steel to grind out results.
This season Oldham Athletic are flying in under the radar in the race for the play-offs. What has been remarkable about this season has been that Oldham lost their star striker from last year, Jonson Clarke-Harris, and replaced him with free transfers and loanees, presenting an uncomfortable parallel for Steven Pressley to ponder.
A revelation this season has been the form of former Scunthorpe and Southampton striker Jonathan Forte. Having spent most of his career as a largely forgettable and technically limited quick lower league striker, Forte has been an explosive presence in attack for Lee Johnson’s side, already notching eight goals. Forte is an important source of goals for this team, the next highest scorer is ex-Sky Blue reserve team forward Danny Philliskirk with two.
Possibly even more important than Forte for Oldham though is James Wilson in central defence. During a long spell as a reserve team player at Bristol City, Wilson was always regarded as a potentially top draw centre-back. However he never seemed to have been given any sort of chance at Ashton Gate. Not that they’ll mind too much this season but their loss has been Oldham’s gain. Dominant in the air, forceful in the tackle and not lacking with skill on the ball either, Wilson has excelled this season at Boundary Park despite not having a regular central-defensive partner.
In midfield the two to keep an eye out for are Carl Winchester and Mike Jones. Winchester has long been viewed as an excellent prospect at Oldham but had struggled to live up to expectations until this year. Jones, formerly of Crawley and Sheffield Wednesday, is a winger that has been converted into a central midfielder and offers dynamism and creativity to Oldham’s central area.
Possible Line-Up: (4-3-3) Rachubka; B Wilson, J Wilson, Dieng, Mills; Winchester, Jones, Kelly; Philliskirk, Forte, Poleon.
Whilst league form does not always dictate the results of games, it can be a fairly useful indicator. Perhaps more so should be the fact that Coventry City have not won a league game away from home all season and it is starting to become a serious mental block, alongside our overall form. Oldham are a team with confidence and view this game as an excellent opportunity to jump into a play-off spot.
Something has to change soon if Steven Pressley really is the manager that I and many other Coventry City fans hope he is. There can be no excuses for not approaching this game with the desire to set the record straight after our recent poor form. Will that be enough to stop Oldham? It’s hard to tell so more in hope than expectation I am predicting a 2-1 win for the Sky Blues.