Preview: Accrington Stanley

According to club historian, Jim Brown, 1907-08 was the last time Coventry City won six league games in a row in the same season.

Let that sink in. This team is on the verge of equalling a record that has been in place for over a century. Before the Premier League, the internet, man landing on the moon, England winning the World Cup, Elizabeth II becoming Queen, two World Wars and before this club had even entered the Football League. This is genuine history that we are on the verge of.

Of all the Coventry City sides over the past 111 seasons, this is the one now on the verge of matching that record. James Maddison, Callum Wilson, Keiren Westwood, Scott Dann, Gary McSheffrey, Dennis Wise, Gary McAllister, Robbie Keane, Dion Dublin, Darren Huckerby, Micky Quinn, Keith Houchen, Cyrille Regis, George Hudson, Jimmy Hill, Clarrie Bourton none of them could do what Mark Robins and this set of players could be about to achieve. It is truly remarkable and slightly surreal that this side could be set to better such vaunted predecessors but it is simultaneously something of an indicator of just how consistently mediocre this club has been over the majority of its history.

Possible Line-Up

Whether pulling off that mythical sixth league win in a row is an incentive that truly matters for Mark Robins and the players is debatable. Regardless, this is a game where victory takes us into the play-offs and if we can beat an Accrington Stanley side that were so comfortably better than us last season in League Two, it goes some way to demonstrating that a side few had big expectations of heading into the season might actually be able to stay around the top six over the course of the campaign.

If there is any speculation on the line-up for this game, it can only be in attempting to predict any mysterious last-minute injuries that Mark Robins chooses not to report to the press. Even if there are still question marks against Junior Brown’s performances at left-back in this run, needlessly throwing in players to a settled, winning line-up would do more harm than good.

Last Time We Met

In front of the club’s first ever Community Day, where thousands of free tickets were handed out to local schoolchildren to get them hooked on to all things Coventry City, our last meeting against Accrington Stanley was heavily influenced by an illness that had swept the squad, that had left us with a makeshift and half-fit team to take on the eventual champions of the division.

Stanley were in a ruthless mood as they exposed a ring-rusty Dion Kelly-Evans at right-back for a first goal, before making sure of the win in the second-half via a counter-attack, having already sealed-off any possibility of ourselves getting back into the game.

How Are They Doing?

That Accrington have settled so comfortably into life in League One should be of little surprise to anyone who has been following them with any degree of interest over the past three or four years. This is a club with a manager who knows exactly what he wants out of his players and a set of players who know exactly what they are doing on the pitch, it renders their huge financial disparity with much of the rest of the division almost immaterial.

Although they lost three key players over the summer in keeper Aaron Chapman – to Peterborough United – alongside full-back Janoi Donacien and the pacey Kayden Jackson up front – both to Ipswich. The core of this Accrington side – Mark Hughes leading the defence, Scott Brown patrolling the midfield, Sean McConville and Jordan Clark swapping between creating and getting on the end of chances out wide, with Billy Kee the pivot point of it all up front – remains firmly in place, meaning John Coleman has only had to tweak minor details over the course of this season.

While McConville, who has been in particularly good form this season, is suspended for this match, John Coleman can call upon Piero Mingoia to take his place, an industrious winger who enjoyed a successful previous spell at the club under Coleman’s management a few years ago.

Accrington’s best piece of summer business was in bringing in Middlesbrough loanee Connor Ripley in goal. Ripley has been consistently imperious at League One level during a number of loan spells in recent years and really should be playing at Championship level, as he’s shown this season. Accrington’s most recent defeat – 4-1 away at Luton – came during a suspension to Ripley, underlining his importance to the side.

Possible Line-Up

Additionally, former Derby County youngster Offrande Zanzala has also added something to this Accrington side. Last season, Accrington paired Kayden Jackson’s pace with Billy Kee’s hold-up play to great effect, Zanzala, at six foot one and powerfully built, offers another attacking bludgeon for Accrington to use alongside Kee, making this set to be a stern physical inspection of our defence.

While Accrington Stanley are renowned for being a well-organised and street-smart side that can be tough to break down and will strangle the game once they take the lead, they also play some very good football. They are a very slick side in possession, tending to work the ball out to one flank where they build an overlap, before quickly switching the play to exploit the space that has been opened up. In addition, they are a big threat from set-pieces, underlining the need for us to maintain defensive organisation and concentration while also trying to figure out how to crack a stern defence with an excellent goalkeeper.

Prediction

Probably more than any other game during this run, this is going to be a big test of whether we are a genuinely good side or a solid one that has benefited from small margins falling in our favour. This feels like the kind of game that could be settled by who scores first and thus has the opportunity to sit back, stay organised and look to hit the other on the counter-attack – but isn’t that the case with most games anyway?

It’s hard to envision this run continuing for much longer, I can see this ending as a 1-1 draw.

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