We have become accustomed to Coventry City games being decided by the team that scores the first goal, making this come-from-behind win at Charlton Athletic a moment to savour. That the two late goals came from a player in Amadou Bakayoko who had started his Coventry City career so underwhelmingly made the circumstances of the victory even more unlikely.
The most notable element of the game was just how much in control Charlton were for at least 80 minutes of it. Not only did they see a lot of the ball, but their movement and ability to quickly switch the play gave them a purpose in possession that only the top sides at this level have.
Charlton’s dominance of the game was such that we appeared almost punch-drunk whenever we managed to get on the ball. Opportunities to hit our hosts on the counter were spurned from a lack of movement and lack of purpose when we got on the ball, allowing Charlton to get the ball back and build further sustained spells of attacking pressure.
Mark Robins’ main team selection decision was to bring Liam Kelly into the central midfield and play Tom Bayliss out on the right. In theory, it made us tougher through the centre of the pitch, in practice, it made it difficult to string together attacks due to a lack of a ball-playing central midfielder and a shortage of players ahead of the ball.
Ultimately, Charlton’s dominance only led to one goal – via an avoidable penalty – which is a credit to the back four and Lee Burge in making it difficult for our hosts to convert dominance into clear-cut chances. However, Charlton’s inability to add a killer second goal could also be put down to a level of complacency, a belief that one goal was going to be enough to win the game.
It was little surprise to see Amadou Bakayoko and Jordy Hiwula thrown on in this game. Mark Robins’ regularly throws on his attacking substitutions when we’re behind, in the hope that it makes us more attacking, but rarely in a considered move intended to ratchet up the pressure on the opposition.
Bakayoko was brought on to replace Jonson Clarke-Harris’ role in the side as the attacking focal point. Hiwula came on to play out of position on the left of midfield, allowing Tom Bayliss to move into the centre, which was the more attack-minded of the two changes.
To say the changes turned the game on its head is over-egging the analysis of this move. Charlton continued to dominate the proceedings for much of the second-half, Amadou Bakayoko struggled to hold the ball up, Hiwula toiled on the left-wing in much the same way as he has done for much of this season.
The most important element of the substitutions was that it gave us another attacking player to put Charlton under the cosh once their control of the game waned. The moves that led to both goals were well-constructed to open up the space for a cross, with Bakayoko showing good anticipation to bundle his two goals in from around the six-yard area.
That being said, it would be a stretch to say the goals had been coming. Not much can be learned from this game other than that if you can keep an opponent’s lead down to one goal, you might just get lucky at the other end and take something from the game.
As we saw against Portsmouth in the previous game, sometimes it doesn’t happen. Against Charlton, it did, twice.
Faith In The Chaplin
Amadou Bakayoko now has two goals from open play and Conor Chaplin is still on zero. Why then does it seem likelier that Chaplin will start the next league game while Bakayoko could well find himself out of the side?
While Chaplin’s transfer fee and the saga that brought him to the club may play a role in Mark Robins’ keenness for him to come good, more generally, Chaplin is getting a run in the side that Bakayoko and Hiwula haven’t because he looks a more likely goalscorer than the two.
Take Chaplin’s miss in the first-half of this game. While it was a guilt-edged chance that he should have put away, take a step back and consider how it was even a chance for him in the first place. The ball fell to him from a deflection from a shot, which isn’t easy to anticipate, then required good enough technique to trap the ball and get a shot away.
More generally, Chaplin’s movement and technique is getting him into good goalscoring positions. I’m a firm believer that the strikers who regularly get into good positions will eventually score. In contrast, Bakayoko and Hiwula struggled to get into similar positions when given a run in the side earlier in the season.
This isn’t to criticise what our other striker options offer the side – they have different skill-sets to Chaplin, which came to the fore in this game – however, it’s not exactly mystifying that the manager currently has him above the others. Chaplin is in need of a goal, but he simultaneously looks to be our most consistent goal-threat.