Whilst the defeat, and even the performance, against Scunthorpe last weekend can be brushed off as one bad game, having come after three less than convincing performances beforehand (which we took four points from), it is important to produce a win and a performance in this forthcoming meeting with Chesterfield to avoid a spate of negativity sweeping the club.
Having started the season so well, there is the danger now that this team is getting ‘found out’ somewhat by opposition who are making sure to prepare thoroughly for their games against us. That incisive attacking play that was the hallmark of our first three games has proven difficult to get back to in the face of pressure higher up the pitch from the opposition and the inability to switch it up when Plan A comes unstuck.
Failing to register a shot on target against Scunthorpe last weekend was poor regardless of the standards we have set ourselves and the way the opposition set up. It was such an extremely poor performance though that I think we are unlikely to see another such 90 minutes from this team this season. That we came out of it with only a 1-0 defeat could be read as a positive sign, although that may have been more of a reflection of the state our opponents were in.
There is almost certainly going to be a reaction from both players and the manager for this meeting with Chesterfield, it’s all about how that will be channelled. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see Tony Mowbray take a step away from the 4-2-3-1 formation that he has used for most of this season in order to stick two up front.
The impact on team selection is unlikely to be too extreme given that the difference between 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 can be almost imperceptible based on the personnel utilised. It’s possible that no changes could be made to last week’s line-up with Marcus Tudgay given more of a brief to stay up front rather than drop in behind Adam Armstrong. The return of Jim O’Brien though is likely to force Mowbray to drop one of either Jacob Murphy or Ruben Lameiras.
Last Time We Met
Tony Mowbray will have fond memories of our last meeting with Chesterfield, providing as it did his first win as Coventry City manager. It came at just the right time too after a couple of disappointing results against Port Vale and Bradford where the team faded badly after taking the lead. It was a real rollercoaster of a game as Marcus Tudgay headed the Sky Blues into the lead only for Chesterfield to equalise via a deflected goal just before half-time.
Sanmi Odelusi and Frank Nouble though demonstrated the top-draw quality that they both intermittently offered during their time at Coventry City by helping the team recapture a seemingly unassailable lead. Despite conceding a sloppy late goal, Tony Mowbray’s Sky Blues held on for a vital win that re-galvanised our season.
How Are They Doing?
After going on to make the play-offs last season under Paul Cook, things seemingly fell apart from the final whistle after their semi-final defeat to Preston. Cook was quickly on his way down to Portsmouth, taking key player Gary Roberts in tow. Those departures were compounded by the further losses of Jimmy Ryan, Tendayi Darikwa and Sam Clucas who were all instrumental in their sixth placed finish last season.
Chesterfield were seemingly acknowledging that all hope of going one step further this time round by appointing Dean Saunders as manager, a man who had endured relegation in each of his three previous managerial postings. This was compounded by a quiet summer in the transfer market, where it appeared that the club were refusing to spend money raised by the summer’s player sales.
Thus far though, Saunders has given greater credence to the argument that he is a manager who has chosen his previous roles poorly rather than being a bad manager with the Spireites currently 7th in the division. Although they have squandered two-goal leads late on in their past two games.
Of those who have stuck around from last season, midfielders Jay O’Shea and Sam Morsy provide the team with quality in the centre of the park. Morsy is a deep-lying midfielder with a wonderful range of passing and has chipped in with three goals already this season. O’Shea, joint top-scorer with Morsy, is a winger who can play centrally and possesses wonderful delivery from set-pieces and in open play.
Saunders has boosted the squad at Chesterfield with the loan signing of Lee Novak from Birmingham who provides a focal point in attack. Think of Novak as a more experienced and intelligent version of Crewe’s Marcus Haber who has caused us no end of problems the last few times we’ve been faced with. The concern is that whilst Reda Johnson is off trying to contend with Novak, pacey players like Jay O’Shea and the American winger Gboly Ariyibi can exploit the spaces left in behind even if Novak fails to win the first ball.
This looks to be a tough game given the nature of the opposition and our recent performances. For myself, I am off on holiday to the South of France so I will be missing what could be a difficult and frustrating afternoon of football. As annoying as it is that somehow I have timed a week-long holiday to miss our only home game of the month, part of me feels that I may be dodging a bullet.
Chesterfield have the appearance of one of those teams that tend to do well at the Ricoh Arena, niggly, frustrating and well-drilled on the counter, we’ll have to raise our performance levels in order to come away with a win here. Sitting on the fence here, I’m predicting a 1-1 draw.
*Just a note that this preview was written on Wednesday, September 16th 2015 which may have an impact on the accuracy of possible team line-ups beyond my usual guess-work.