Taking a point away at Millwall in a game most were expected a heavy defeat in has to count for something, even if we’re still winless after seven league games. Depending on how we do in this forthcoming fixture against Oldham, it was either a creditable point or a missed opportunity to take all three.
The performances of Gael Bigirimana and Marvin Sordell in particular last week have offered something to cling onto. Both players arrived in the summer with low expectations despite having once been a combined £4 million worth of talent, but showed last week that some of the talent is still there. It says something about our summer transfer activity that two players who weren’t expected to be first-choice are now looking like our leading lights, but a lot now rests on a pair of players who’ve struggled for consistency since big-money early career moves.
In so many different ways, this upcoming game against Oldham is must-win. Oldham are one of the few teams who, on paper, look like we really should be beating. The home fans at the Ricoh Arena are restless – as evidenced by the increasingly vocal ‘SISU out’ chants. We’re also getting to the point where we’ll have to consider changing managers again, eight games without a win at this level for Coventry City is just unacceptable under any circumstance.
Tony Mowbray not only has to get his team selection right for this game, but he has to get the luck that he claims has deserted us over the first seven games of the season. Having had another week to work with the team on the training pitch as well as the returns from injury of Chris McCann and Jodi Jones, there aren’t any excuses to be had for not winning a game we should be winning.
In terms of who he actually picks, it seems likely that Sam Ricketts will once again get the nod over Cian Harries for such a high-pressure game. If McCann is fully fit, I would expect him to come in ahead of Gadzhev to play alongside Gael Bigirimana. Jodi Jones could start this game, but he might be better used as an impact sub to stretch a tired opposing defence if he’s not 100% fit.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Oldham was just four months ago but seems a lifetime away. A game in which we could afford to have Jacob Murphy and Jodi Jones on the bench with James Maddison not even in the squad. In a meaningless final-day encounter, Adam Armstrong marked his final appearance for the club with his 20th league goal to secure an eighth-place finish. Oh for those golden days where we could convince ourselves that this season would be anything other than a long, hard slog, made even worse by what we had just witnessed.
How Are They Doing?
When Oldham finished last season having survived another season in League One, their fans weren’t kidding themselves that this coming season would be much better. Even those more realistic hopes were dashed in the summer though when John Sheridan unexpectedly left to take the job at League Two Notts County, leaving the club managerless and with just four players on their books for the start of pre-season.
To be heading into this coming fixture not only with a competitive squad but currently outside of the relegation zone has to count as some achievement for Steve Robinson, in his first ever managerial role. The former Northern Ireland assistant manager has scrambled a squad together out of freebies, loanees and general mis-fits and is attempting to build a team that resembles something functional.
Oldham’s performances thus far have been full of energy with the teams being set out in a formation somewhere between 4-5-1 and a 4-4-2 diamond with most being expected to contribute in both defence and attack. What is likely to be notable about Oldham in this game though will be their eye-catching set-piece routines which have contributed most of their goals this season – either via Josh Law’s direct free-kicks or the swinging deliveries of Marc Klok.
Steve Robinson’s side have had to rely on set-pieces thus far due to their two key attacking signings – Lee Erwin and Billy McKay – failing to convince in front of goal. McKay has been a prolific scorer in Scotland but seems uncomfortable with being asked to track back as much as his manager is asking him to do. Erwin has been used as more of a focal point in attack, although he struggles to win aerial challenges, and looks more of a threat due to his shoot on sight policy – albeit, to little avail thus far. The lack of goals from those two may convince Robinson to hand a start to Crystal Palace loanee Freddie Ladapo who, at six foot two and lightening quick, could be a real menace.
Oldham’s energy and work-rate on and off-the-ball does seem to result in gaps at the back, despite conceding relatively few goals thus far. Experienced midfielder Paul Green nominally occupies that holding spot in central midfield but is given the brief of pushing forward and closing players down rather than screening the defence. With players such as the athletic but error-prone Charles Dunne playing in defence, there will be opportunities to exploit Oldham’s chaotic defensive organisation.
Oldham are potentially tricky opponents and, in particular, I’m worried about the threat they pose from set-pieces. However, they are an eminently beatable team that we should be looking to dominate and finally get that first win of the season from. It’s one of those games where the manner of the win is not particularly important – if it goes in off someone’s backside in the 1st minute and we spend the rest of the game camped on our own line, I’ll take that right now.
We have to win this game and we really should, I’m going to predict a 2-1 victory for the Sky Blues.
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