It’s fair to say that this was a victory that I didn’t see coming. Heading into the game, it looked a mismatch between a Barnsley side packed with players who had made a recent impact in the Championship and had started the season in a free-scoring manner against a Sky Blues side that had looked disjointed and lacking in character for the early weeks of the season. Over the course of the 90 minutes, however, it was a win that was just about deserved in what was an enthralling contest.
Energy Over Quality
Barnsley had more possession, corners, shots, and shots on target than ourselves, but there will be few who were in attendance who could argue that the Sky Blues weren’t good value for the win. Although Barnsley looked a more composed side on the ball and one that could create chances at the flick of a wrist, there was a commitment from the team all over the pitch to make Barnsley work to create chances and cause them problems with quick transitions on the counter-attack.
What the headline stats don’t quite tell are the number of occasions we got ourselves into promising positions but chose the wrong option, or were caught offside. There was a level of inconsistency in individual performances in this game – Luke Thomas was a constant threat but often over-ran with the ball, Tom Bayliss broke through Barnsley’s midfield well but very often delayed his final pass for too long, Conor Chaplin looked sharp again but missed a big chance in the first-half – but the intention and commitment in the actions of those in a Sky Blue shirt couldn’t be doubted.
It looked set to be another occasion where the decision-making in the final third was going to let us down, until a Michael Doyle set-piece was headed across goal by Dominic Hyam and then Junior Brown, for Jordan Willis to bundle in. It was a reward for having the right intent and application even though a goal from open play wasn’t forthcoming and Barnsley continuously came close to scoring.
This perhaps leads to the conclusion that we are better suited to playing more open, attacking sides who will look to dominate possession where we can concentrate on a defensive shape while looking to interrupt their momentum and catch them out on the counter-attack, but it’s too early in the season to definitively say what this side can and cannot do.
With more time on the training pitch, we could well become a more fluent and clinical side, over the past two games we’ve seen a level of application and effort that is required to eke out results while we’re still finding ourselves out as a team.
There was possibly a similar lack of quality, despite the effort, in defence as there was in attack. Most notably, Junior Brown woefully under-hit a back-pass in the first-half to send Barnsley’s Jacob Brown clean through on goal. Fortunately, Lee Burge timed his run off his line well enough to put himself in a position to pull off a save that denied what looked a certain goal.
For much of his time as the number one goalkeeper at the club, there has been talk over whether we need to seek an upgrade in order to progress as a team. This game was another occasion where Burge justified why successive managers have placed their trust in the academy product.
It wasn’t just the handful of important saves that Lee Burge pulled out of the bag, but the authority he demonstrated in commanding his area from crosses and set-piece scenarios. This is an underrated quality that Lee Burge, at his very best, exudes and is particularly important in a side that currently doesn’t possess a dominant presence in central defence.
A Statement Result
Anyone who’s had to walk past the back of the away stand at the Ricoh Arena following a home defeat will know how galling it is to hear a large away following celebrating a victory against us is.
Barnsley, having started the season so well and brought around 2,000 fans, had come to the Ricoh Arena in anticipation of a fun away day for their fans and players to celebrate. With Sunderland and Portsmouth on the immediate horizon for us at home, it felt especially important to send a message to the clubs with the bigger away followings in this division that Coventry City away isn’t going to be an easy three points nor a nice day-out.
Moreover, we have been inconsistent thus far this season, in addition to the number of new signings we’ve made over the summer, there is a danger that this year becomes seen as a dreaded ‘transitional’ season from very early on. When there is that feeling that the team isn’t expected to achieve anything much above avoiding relegation, there can be a slide in the level of commitment and application that the players put in.
What we saw in this game was a positive application of a game-plan from the players as well as a belief that we could win a difficult home game. Even if there was a lack of quality overall, this was a performance that the fans could get behind and, against one of the best teams in the division, sends the message to those bigger clubs that a game at the Ricoh Arena won’t just be a jaunt along with their fans to victory.