It was a truly miserable last week at Coventry City, capped off by a loss to a Notts County team who took a ‘pragmatic’ approach to the game. It was the week in which the main source of hope for Coventry City fans, ownership of the Ricoh Arena, was seemingly put out for good thanks to a betrayal from our local council, and some staggeringly brazen negotiation tactics from SISU.
Not only are we now mired in what is starting to look like a relegation battle in League One but also the possibility that SISU might be here for a lot longer and that the club’s potential has been capped. It’s a stark contrast to just over two months ago where 27,000 fans filled the Ricoh Arena to watch Coventry City beat Gillingham and a tilt at promotion seemed possible.
Looking toward this game against Colchester United, the pressure is now on Steven Pressley to get the results to back up his big gambit of last week. The next four league games; Colchester, Walsall, Port Vale and Fleetwood, could not only define the rest of the season but also Pressley’s long-term future at the club. The squad itself should surely be too good for a battle against the drop and if our manager is capable of doing nothing more with the resources he has, you have to seriously wonder whether he has been vastly overrated for much of his time here.
Football is a game of extremes though, pick up a couple of wins and people will be thinking less about the miserable future ahead and more about being ‘one of those teams’ that gets into the top six after improving later on in the season. Getting a first away win of the campaign would help Pressley’s cause and re-galvanise the energy around a club that is starting to look like it is heading nowhere.
Simeon Jackson and Shaun Miller have both been made available for loan and are unlikely to be a part of the squad for this trip down to Essex. Both have looked useful in intermittent spells but clearly have fallen out of favour under Pressley. It could be a case of letting find form elsewhere and bringing them back into the fold later but in the wake of Pressley’s big speech last week, may be set to be ‘banished from the club’. Our back-up strikers are now the deadly duo of Marcus Tudgay and Josh McQuoid.
Reda Johnson is back from international duty and despite rumours of a fall-out between Pressley and the captain, looks set to return to the first-team. With Jordan Willis out injured and Andy Webster having made a shocking error to allow Notts County to score last week, it will be a simple case of those two out and Phillips and Johnson in.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Allsop; Phillips, Martin, Johnson, Haynes; O’Brien, Finch, Barton, Fleck; Madine, Nouble.
Last Time We Met
Let’s just forget about last March’s 2-1 defeat in Colchester and skip back to September last year. Colchester United, depleted and barely able to play a fit first 11, travelled to Sixfields to face a Coventry City side looking to move into positive points. In one of the most dominant displays that any Sky Blues team has ever produced, the ‘home’ side ran out 2-0 winners thanks to a Callum Wilson brace.
Although 2-0 sounds like a fairly close game, it was anything but. Sympathy was perhaps the only thing holding Steven Pressley’s back as they played the entire 90 minutes in first gear. As the final whistle blew and Coventry City moved off the bottom of the table, anything seemed possible for that season.
How Are They Doing?
Former youth-team coach Joe Dunne was sacked by Colchester United this September having largely looked out of his depth in the role. For years, Colchester have looked a handy team on paper but have struggled to survive in the division. It was thought a more experienced manager would be able to utilise the potential of the U’s squad but in a surprise move another former youth-team coach, Tony Humes, was given the job hours after Dunne’s exit.
Humes has impressed early on in his managerial career, making Colchester look like a more cohesive and threatening team unit. With a mixture of former Premier League academy players and youngsters of their own vintage, Humes is looks like he is starting to get Colchester to deliver on the promise they have shown in flashes over recent years.
Players like Sanchez Watt, Craig Eastmond and Freddie Sears will always draw the eye due to their youth-team careers at the likes of Arsenal and West Ham. Watt, a rapid-paced winger who has been plagued by injuries in recent years has started to put a run of games together and will have to be deal with. Sears leads Colchester’s scoring charts this season and is starting to look ready for a step up. Eastmond, a technically adept midfielder and a physical presence, has been out of favour of late.
Cardiff loanee Rhys Healey, who can operate as a striker or in a slightly more withdrawn role, has impressed during a loan spell thus far. He has four goals in eight appearances thus far and his record thus far is scored in two, not scored in two, scored in two, not scored in two. Someone looking for patterns in the random world of football might suggest he is due a goal for this game.
In central midfield, George Moncur and Alex Gilbey have displayed some strong form this season. Gilbey, a product of Colchester’s academy, is a box-to-box midfielder and is finally adding some consistency to his football this season and has been linked with a move to Wolves. Moncur, who has recently penned a permanent deal at Colchester after impressing on loan, is decent in possession and has a few goals to his game. They are now supported by David Fox, who has returned to the club this autumn after some good years with Norwich, he is a metronomic presence at the base of a midfield three.
Where Colchester struggle is in defence, which has been their Achilles heel thus far. Right-back Sean Clohessy is currently playing in central defence and isn’t particularly showing talent in his new position, something for Madine and Nouble to look forward to. They do have Tom Eastman, a towering centre-back, who is often a stand-out performer with Sam Walker, also ex of Chelsea, looking useful in goal.
Possible Line-Up: (4-3-3) Walker; Hewitt, Clohessy, Eastman, O’Donoghue; Fox, Moncur, Gilbey; Watt, Sears, Healey.
Are away form makes for depressing reading and nothing has really changed in the past few weeks to make me think that anything is different about this fixture. If we fail to win this game, the team could be in the relegation zone awkwardly close to Christmas which won’t help morale in such a capricious Coventry City team as this one.
Colchester are strong in attack and given our toothlessness and defensive sloppiness, this could be another depressing chapter in the great Sky Blue decline. It’s worse knowing that this squad of players is good enough to be doing much better but I am predicting a 2-1 defeat.