We’re top of the league!
A delirious cold winter’s afternoon saw this Sky Blues team emphatically assert its claim as one of the division’s best sides. So often we’ve seen Coventry City sides get stage fright whenever they look like possibly challenging for things, this team is rising to the challenge with a real zeal and relentlessness. That Saturday’s win was our fourth in a row has barely been remarked upon is a real indication of the level of focus on the real task at hand at this football club, winning promotion.
With the revelation that has been Jacob Murphy‘s move into a central position and Ben Turner‘s typically assured performance upon his return to the club, we now have players all over the pitch now who look far too good for this division. It’s a far cry from the several points this season where we have relied probably too heavily on Adam Armstrong to deliver the goods. In particular, the nous Mowbray demonstrated in a moment of scarcity to play Murphy more centrally is an encouraging sign that this team can actually last the course.
Not to get too carried away though, and if there was one particular game to pick out that could send us back down to earth with a bump it would be a defensively tight Bradford, away from home, on a cold Tuesday night. Getting results from these kind of games can really make or break a season rather than winning the games you’re massively pumped up to win.
You would imagine that Tony Mowbray will be considering rotating the squad slightly to keep players fresh whilst we’re in the middle of a Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday cycle. This is perhaps a game that someone like Tudgay or Fortuné would be best suited to but the introduction of either would result in having to move Adam Armstrong or Jacob Murphy from their preferred positions.
Ryan Kent is the most likely to make way from Saturday’s starting line-up given the nature of the challenge we’re facing here but the alternative is the equally fleet-footed Ruben Lameiras. With Ben Turner available to play 90 minutes in this game, it would seem that the manager is very likely to stick with the 11 who eviscerated Gillingham in the first half on Saturday.
Last Time We Met
Since Bradford’s return to League One just over two seasons ago, trips to Valley Parade haven’t been the happiest for us. Last season saw us lose 3-2 on the opening day despite twice levelling the scores via Reda Johnson, our inability to defend against James Hanson cost us that day. Still resonating in our memories will be the 3-3 draw we contrived during that mad Sixfields season, a late penalty secured Bradford a point and from that point onwards, things were never really the same for Steven Pressley at Coventry City.
Our most recent meeting with Bradford came on a cold Tuesday night in March this year in Tony Mowbray’s second game in charge. After a scrappy first-half which we just about edged, Frank Nouble tapped home an Aaron Phillips cross to give us the lead. Tony Mowbray made the injury-enforced decision in the second-half to go with four strikers, Bradford levelled via an excellent Mark Yeates free-kick, but Nick Proschwitz had an excellent chance late-on to secure Mowbray his first win as Coventry City manager.
How Are They Doing?
Back then, Bradford were playing catch-up due to the fixture congestion their excellent FA Cup run last year brought them. This season Bradford are playing catch-up of a different kind, having started the season surprisingly slowly having raised expectancy levels with record season ticket sales and having improved a squad that narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season.
Of late, Bradford have picked up and now sit just outside of the play-offs, recording a league unbeaten run of seven. That improvement in form has been due to a strong defence, conceding the second fewest in the league and just three since the start of that seven game unbeaten run at the beginning of October. West Ham loan defender Reece Burke has been credited with a large part of that defensive improvement but despite him missing recent games due to injury and reportedly set to return to his parent club to recuperate, Bradford have still managed to keep it tight.
That defensive security has been preserved in recent weeks thanks to the core of experienced campaigners that make up much of this Bradford team. Nathan Clarke and Rory McArdle are both no-nonsense, uncomplicated League One centre-backs. Gary Liddle protecting the back four has been a top-class League One player for absolute eons. That Tony McMahon, nominally a right-back, has been playing on the right-side of midfield epitomises the nature of this current Bradford side.
The attacking play in the team is provided by a combination of Billy Clarke in the hole and one of either Mark Marshall and Kyel Reid out wide. Most Sky Blues fans will be familiar with the classic, tricky, pacey wing play that Marshall and Reid pose, although the two have been sparingly deployed in tandem by Phil Parkinson this season. Clarke is a skilfull forward player, in the ilk of Jose Baxter of Sheffield United but more mobile and with much more end-product.
Most Coventry City fans will be breathing a sigh of relief that James Hanson, a consistent thorn in our sides with his throwback target-man playing-style, is unavailable for this game due to injury. His fellow joint top-scorer Devante Cole may not start as well due to a lack of form despite starting his time at the club so well. In their stead, former Villa striker Jordan Bowery has joined the club on loan. Bowery was a bright prospect at Chesterfield, prompting Villa to sign him at a probably premature time, he has since only showed that old mojo in patches but has the ability to put us to the sword here.
All things considered, this is probably our biggest test of the season. It’s a classic case of immoveable object against irresistible force which makes this contest incredibly tough to call. Bradford will have a sizeable home support to throw into the mix but you would hope that this Coventry City side will take Saturday’s win as a boost rather than a burden.
I’m not going to be bold with my prediction here, a 1-1 draw.