Another game, another late winner, there are few better feelings in football. In a game that could so easily have been defined by a ghost goal in the opening ten minutes, the Sky Blues kept plugging away to a deserved half-time lead, then they overcame a second-half equaliser from Southend United and forced a late winner. Heady days!
The Advantages Of Lacking A Star Player
Our 13 league goals this season have arrived via eight different goalscorers – including, Own Goal, our joint-second top scorer – while this highlights that we lack a reliable goalscorer, the spread of goals, and match-winning contributions, is becoming something of an asset for us in its own right.
Last season was defined by two periods, the first was when we were reliant on Jodi Jones and Duckens Nazon to produce moments of magic to open up tight games, the second was when Marc McNulty started scoring and Tom Bayliss broke into the first team. This season, it’s hard to identify which, if any, of our players that we are particularly reliant upon.
Aside from Lee Burge’s form in goal and the central midfield balance that Michael Doyle and Tom Bayliss provide, you could replace most of the rest of the starting XI against Southend with their immediate back-ups without too much, if any, drop in quality.
Importantly, it’s not just that players can come in and out of the side, but there are multiple players capable of producing game-winning moments. At the start of the season we were looking towards Tony Andreu and Tom Bayliss to light games up for us, that quickly changed when Conor Chaplin was signed, but even though Chaplin hasn’t hit the ground running in front of goal, players like Amadou Bakayoko, Jordy Hiwula and Dujon Sterling, who stepped up at key moments in recent weeks to win us games.
The downside of not having an identifiable star player capable of consistently producing game-winning moments is that there will be days when no-one is on form and those moments don’t arrive. The plus side is that it gives us an element of unpredictability in how we score goals and win games.
While Jodi Jones came on to force the own goal that decided the game, it has to be said that Mark Robins’ substitutions were slightly odd if he was intending to ramp up the pressure on Southend to win the game.
The first change, Jordan Shipley on for Jordy Hiwula, came when the game was at 1-1 with around 15 minutes to go. While Shipley put in a couple of decent crosses, it seemed a signal that Mark Robins was happy with hanging onto a point in a game we had comfortably been leading for large periods.
The red card should have provided Robins with the impetus to make an attacking change to pin Southend back in search for a winner. Instead, he took off a striker in Conor Chaplin for a winger in Jodi Jones. The change saw Luke Thomas move centrally, but the Derby loanee didn’t make quite the same runs a striker would and left us with one target, Jonson Clarke-Harris – who was replaced later on by Amadou Bakayoko – in the Southend penalty area.
The winning goal came from a decent spell of pressure, but was a possibly more a result of a side playing with 10 men hanging on for a point rather than as a direct correlation to Mark Robins’ changes. He still deserves some credit for bringing on a player in Jones who won the game for us, but on another day under similar circumstances, those changes would have been perplexing.
This Thing Called Momentum
The momentum from last year’s promotion looked to have been killed around the time of the Blackpool defeat back in August. It was a lifeless performance from a team that looked like it had barely played together before, the result of a few too many summer signings.
Cut forward to late October, we have seen this team pull off three late winners in succession and that bond between fans and players that came to the fore at the end of last year feels very much still in place.
While our upturn in form has partially been the result of several of our summer signings starting to get up to speed, it has been helped by the consistency of players who make up what could be termed the core of the team. Lee Burge in goal, all three centre-backs, along with Michael Doyle and Tom Bayliss in midfield have been in place for the best part of a season, providing a reference point for the rest of the team to base their performances around.
This was something that took a while to establish last season, the result of Mark Robins having signed essentially an entirely new team over the previous summer. It is perhaps little surprise that we are now capable of sustaining performances over 90 minutes and getting late winners when players know what to expect from their team-mates, compared to 12 months ago when players were still getting to know each other.
Momentum is an ephemeral concept in football, often applied after the fact to describe why a team has been able to sustain good form over a longer period with a different array of players and against different opponents. However, the defensive solidity and ability to keep going regardless of in-game set-backs is more in keeping of what we saw last year rather than the settle-for-mediocrity Coventry City sides of years prior.
Is this three-game winning streak something of a fluke happenstance or can it be sustained? Who knows? But it has to be appreciated that this is an enjoyable period of time to support Coventry City, stretching back from that Checkatrade Trophy final victory around 18 months ago – something directly correlated with Mark Robins’ return as manager.