After an unexpectedly fun and uplifting game in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night, it’s back to reality with a relegation six-pointer at Chesterfield. While we’re nowhere the stage of do-or-die games yet, winning this game and moving out of the relegation zone would be a massive shot in the arm following a decent run of performances over the last three games.
The most positive change that Russell Slade has already made to the team has been the addition of Stuart Beavon. The signing of a five foot seven striker with a scoring record just under one every five games didn’t seem like such a great signing on paper. However, Beavon’s work-rate and nous in the final third has seemingly raised the level of intensity of everyone else in the side, which has transformed our mentality and approach to games.
Aside from Beavon, there some decent enough performances on Tuesday night to possibly affect Russell Slade’s thinking heading into this game. George Thomas and Jodi Jones were particularly impressive in making use of the space Beavon created for them. Ryan Haynes looks to gaining more and more confidence at left-back, while Dion Kelly-Evans on the right of defence played with an authority that belied his height. Cian Harries showed his class once again, aside from a few wobbly moments, and may have done enough to step ahead of Jordan Turnbull in the pecking order. Oh, and Chris Stokes was solid in the 45 minutes he managed on his return from injury.
Those performances from some of our fringe players have presented Slade with plenty of options, but it would be dangerous to read too much into a win over a weakened Championship reserve team. Nathan Clarke should slot straight into the centre of defence, with Jordan Willis likely to join him, if fit. I would also expect Kevin Foley to come in for his debut at right-back, with Dion Kelly-Evans dropping out. With Kyel Reid another certainty to return to the team, it’s probably a case of picking from Jodi Jones or George Thomas for the vacant spot on the right flank.
Last Time We Met
The last time we played Chesterfield, back in early November, they were in the midst of an extended losing streak and we were on a decent run, which for most sane Coventry City fans spelled certain defeat. We certainly looked like we were trying to give Chesterfield the best possible opportunity to return to winning ways as we gifted them several golden opportunities in a poor first-half display.
However, Chesterfield simply weren’t willing to grab hold of the low-hanging fruit, and we eventually stepped things up a gear in the second-half. Jordan Willis scored his first league goal for the club from a poorly-defended corner-kick. The win was wrapped up following an excellent break involving Marvin Sordell and Lewis Page, which Andy ‘Frank Lampard’ Rose finished off after a well-timed run into the box.
How Are They Doing?
Chesterfield have improved slightly from when we last played them, but not by enough to save manager Danny Wilson from the sack last week. It’s been a turbulent season at the Proact Stadium, which began with the signing of Ched Evans, involved a farcical summer tour of Hungary, a good run to start the season, a terrible losing run to follow that and the resignation of the board of directors at the club’s AGM.
It felt at times over the past few months though, that the off-field distractions at Chesterfield were obscuring just how poorly Danny Wilson was doing with a fairly talented squad. He wasn’t helped by a horrendous injury list, but the formations and team selections this season from Wilson have been as inconsistent as they have been baffling, which is why the team’s performances have oscillated between inconsistent and capricious.
Ched Evans is this team’s primary attacking threat, despite a poor recent run in front of goal. Evans has played like someone with a point to prove, chasing down every ball, urgently pushing his way past defenders and smashing the ball as hard as he can at every opportunity. Without the adequate support to back him up, Evans’ energy and desire has consistently gone unrewarded this season, but he’s not someone you’d feel comfortable writing-off.
Attacking midfielders Jon Nolan and Jay O’Shea have impressed despite the Spireites’ own poor campaign. Nolan almost single-handedly won Grimsby promotion to the Football League last season and has offered drive, energy and quality from set-pieces this season, when picked by Danny Wilson. O’Shea is the club’s top-scorer and provider of assists this season and has consistently been near the top of those charts for the past few seasons at the Proact.
Elsewhere, Gboly Ariyibi’s pace makes him massive threat down the wings. He has been deployed as a wing-back at times by Danny Wilson, which doesn’t suit his attacking instincts, but is a real danger when played in his proper position as an out-and-out winger. In addition, the experience of Gary Liddle, Sam Hird and Ian Evatt in defence should give whoever eventually takes over at Chesterfield a platform to build their survival bid on.
Chesterfield’s recent sacking of Danny Wilson has thrown a spanner into the works somewhat in predicting this game. Although Chesterfield haven’t been great this season, a change in manager tends to raise the performance levels, especially for home games. However, our own change of manager appears to have raised our performance levels and we look well-equipped to battle for a result away from home under Slade.
If we can build on recent performances, we should win this game comfortably. However, this is Coventry City and it doesn’t do to be overly confident – so, I’m predicting a 2-1 win.