In a surprise move considering the lengths to which he had previously defended players, the talk around Coventry City this week has been around Steven Pressley’s impassioned rant against the integrity of his players. It is either the move of a man who trusts that his methods will turn things round or an attempt to deflect responsibility away from his own shortcomings as a manager.
From watching the game on Sunday against Worcester City, it was hard to deign which players in particular he may have been referring to. The players seem to fall into three categories; 1 – young players who still have plenty to learn about ‘the dark arts’ of the game, 2 – experienced players who have played below their reputations, 3 – players who look good but are unable to make an impact at the right end of the pitch. It still seems like there is a combination of players from this squad who will make a great team, if there are problems, they are hard to pinpoint from the stands.
Pressley has promised that ‘certain players will be banished from this club’ which will make tonight’s team selection against Plymouth Argyle in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy very interesting. With Reda Johnson out of contention due to international duty, we will have to wait to see whether Pressley blames our captain for both missing a crucial penalty and then dallying on the ball on the lead up to Worcester City’s second goal.
With Aaron Martin injured and Lee Burge now suspended for three games, there is potential weakness in defence but also the opportunity for individuals to step in and prove themselves. It is a selection battle between Ryan Allsop, who looked better than the nervous Burge on Sunday, and the recalled Reice Charles-Cook (more on his recall here) who will both believe they are worthy of a starting spot. The Kelly-Evans twins have both been handed squad numbers and with Jordan Willis likely to be shifted into a centre-back slot and questions over Aaron Phillips’s fitness, the right-sided Dion could be given his first start.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Allsop; Di Kelly-Evans, Willis, Finch, Haynes; O’Brien, C Thomas, Fleck, Maddison; Madine, Jackson
Last Time We Met
In Plymouth Argyle, we are facing a club that has been through a similar level of financial turmoil, ownership abuse and stadium uncertainty as we have been through. When we last played the Pilgrims they were second bottom in the Championship and at the start of a run of two consecutive relegations to League Two where they now sit.
Jamie Mackie opened the scoring at the Ricoh Arena for Plymouth before Michael McIndoe latched onto Carl Baker’s through-ball to make it 1-1. Despite Chris Coleman’s (and Sammy Clingan’s) best efforts, the Sky Blues were unable to secure a win that would have put them level on points with Cardiff City in 6th place in the Championship league table. Coventry City would then lose the following league game to Cardiff and failed to win any of their remaining league fixtures, ending the season 19th in the division.
How Are They Doing?
Plymouth Argyle are a great example of a club that has struggled to turn around a long-term losing mentality and decline. Despite consistently attracting some of the biggest crowds in the fourth-tier, Plymouth have struggled to punch their weight in recent times. Ex-player Carl Fletcher struggled to turn the Pilgrims around in his first managerial spell and he was replaced by former Chesterfield and Oldham boss John Sheridan at around about the same time that Pressley was appointed manager of the Sky Blues.
Not unlike Pressley, Sheridan has attempted to blend some proven experience with the pick of the talent that Argyle produce from their academy. The first season and a half has seen inconsistent performances at Home Park, a 10th place finish was a disappointment considering that the team had been challenging for the play-offs until a run of one win in six in April saw the Pilgrims’ hopes of a return to the third-tier fade away.
This season has seen a greater deal of consistency find its way into the set-up at Plymouth and the club now sit in 6th position in League Two. John Sheridan’s side are also unbeaten in all competitions since the beginning of March, having navigated a sixth-tier opposition in the FA Cup at the weekend.
The main man for Plymouth is undoubtedly Reuben Reid. The journeyman striker has found a home back at the club he started his career at and has scored 24 league goals in 61 appearances over the past two seasons. Reid leads the scoring this time round with nine in all competitions with the next highest scorers at Plymouth on merely three. To stop Reuben Reid, is to stop Plymouth’s most assured source of goals.
Another Reid to look out for is Bobby, no relation to Reuben, who has been a creative force since joining on loan from Bristol City. The attacking midfielder has been ruled eligible by his parent club and his pace and timing of the pace could help Plymouth catch us out on the counter-attack.
In defence, academy graduate Curtis Nelson who has slowly matured into a top quality centre-back under the past two seasons with Sheridan in charge at Home Park. Strong, quick and with a good long throw-in, Nelson looks set for an imminent leap into a higher division if not with Plymouth then with whichever club fortunate enough to acquire his talents.
A controversial figure in goal is Luke McCormick, Coventry-born and once convicted of causing death by drink driving. His sullied reputation will hold him back from ever having the career that he looked set to have before his spell in prison, but he has been excellent in goal for Argyle since returning to the club around 12 months ago.
Possible Line-Up: (3-5-2) McCormick; Nelson, Hartley, McHugh; Mellor, Cox, O’Connor, B Reid, Kellett; Alessandra, R Reid.
This game against now takes on much greater significance than simply a tie in a trophy designed for the third and fourth-tier teams in this country. It is an approval poll for Steven Pressley from his players. They have been called out by their manager, are they now going to get behind him and try and prove him wrong are will they now hang him out to dry? This game could decide the course of the rest Steven Pressley’s career at Coventry City.
Plymouth themselves are no mugs and will be looking to exploit what could be an edgy atmosphere for the Sky Blues by frustrating and attempting to catch us out on the counter-attack. John Sheridan is adept at both organising a team defensively and slowly building fluidity going forward, he is experienced and will relish turning up to this game with nothing to lose and everything to win.
With so many variables, team selection, player motivation, the nuisance factor of the opposition, this is an especially difficult game to call. I am choosing to back Pressley and go for a 2-0 Coventry City win.