An important first league win of the season on Saturday which not only offered something to cheer about after a difficult few weeks to be a Coventry City fan but takes a degree of pressure and haste off the search for a new manager. We’re off the bottom of the table and just three points off 17th place, the focus doesn’t have to be so much on getting someone who can get instant results and maybe more on someone who offers more continuity from Tony Mowbray.
That continuity could even come in the form of Mark Venus if he can replicate the type of performance we saw on Saturday. It’s interesting that both goals came from midfielders getting into the penalty area, which was a rare sight during Mowbray’s time at the club It perhaps suggests that Venus may be looking to stamp his mark on the team, rather than simply keep things ticking over before a new manager can be appointed.
Mark Venus has applied for manager’s jobs in the past, coming close to getting the Hibs job before Alan Stubbs was appointed, and could have a diminished role at the club should a new manager decide they want more control over transfers. If he can get some performances out of this side over the next few weeks, he may well feel that this is finally his chance to become a manager in his own right. This otherwise fairly unimportant EFL Trophy game against Northampton Town may take on a little bit more importance for our caretaker manager.
There are options to change the line-up a little bit for this game, although the postponement of the Chesterfield game on Saturday should encourage Venus to name as strong a team as possible. Jodi Jones and Ruben Lameiras could come into the side to offer more guile on the wings than Andre Wright and Marvin Sordell. The main decision could well be in goal after Lee Burge’s clean sheet on Saturday following an injury to Reice Charles-Cook, which came a year after the roles were reversed to hand the latter his opportunity to assert himself as first-choice.
Last Time We Met?
For those of you with particularly short memories, our last game against Northampton Town came at the Ricoh Arena back in August when we were still hopeful that Tony Mowbray could make those final few signings to give this team the lift it so desperately needed. After a positive start to the game, a sloppy goal was conceded to the visitors involving a poor pass from Vladimir Gadzhev, Chris McCann completely missing a tackle and two defenders missing an interception to allow Harry Beautyman to score.
The Sky Blues spent the rest of the game working crossing situations which Northampton deal with fairly comfortably. That was until Jodi Jones produced a sublime piece of skill to wrong-foot his full-back and send in a swinging delivery that grazed Marcus Tudgay’s forehead to level the scores. Jones then had a great chance to win the game after being sent through one-on-one with the keeper but lacked the composure to finish.
How Are They Doing?
Northampton were in the midst of a long unbeaten run that stretched back to the start of the year and across the management of Chris Wilder and his replacement Robert Page. Although that unbeaten finally ended at 31 games after a 3-1 defeat to Chesterfield three weeks ago. Page though has managed to maintain some sense of momentum from that unbeaten run to ensure they remain in the play-offs.
As we learned back in August, Northampton’s main attacking threats are the deliveries of former Portsmouth and West Ham man Matthew Taylor and the aerial prowess of striker Alex Revell. Taylor has three goals and four assists to his name this season, while Revell is League One’s second top-scorer with six. Swansea loanee Kenji Gorre offers pace and trickery in wide areas, although has lacked an end product at times. While Northampton’s threat from crosses and set-pieces has been further supplemented via the signing of former Bradford winger Paul Anderson, who has scored twice and grabbed one assist since arriving on transfer deadline day.
Page has looked to keep things tight in the centre of the park with Jak McCourt and John-Joe O’Toole in the team for their work-rate rather than guile, although O’Toole has popped up with a few goals in recent weeks. Northampton’s scorer at the Ricoh five weeks ago, Harry Beautyman, is another energetic presence in the middle of the park who has found some form this season after struggling to carve himself a niche at Peterborough.
Northampton’s defence is made up of experienced, competitive pros with Brendan Moloney and David Buchanan offering energy and bite at full-back. However, it’s worth pointing out that Northampton have conceded as many goals as we have this season in the league with Robert Page struggling to find a consistent partner for Zander Diamond in the centre of defence. Although Northampton are at their best on the counter, there should be rewards for taking a pro-active approach in looking to force errors.
It’s hard to read too much into the Port Vale result, especially as they are one of the few teams at this level who don’t really look to physically intimidate their opponents. Northampton very much will and it would offer more hope that we can turn our season around if we can win this kind of game, particularly if we can also keep another clean sheet.
The nature of this competition though makes this game hard to predict, Northampton lost 3-0 at home to a Wycombe side who brought their 43 year-old manager on as a substitute in the first game of this group phase, so they may decide not to approach this game too seriously. It either improves our chances of winning to come up against half-hearted opponents or it makes it harder because we’re playing against a team who aren’t feeling any pressure. My feeling though is that we’ll get the win here, 2-1.