A 0-0 draw away at Burton Albion maintained two records. On the plus side, we are unbeaten for eight games to start the season with, on the downside we are yet to win away.
It was a game either side could have won.
The Midfield Dynamic
Mark Robins has understandably not wanted to change a team that is now unbeaten through the opening eight league games of the season, yet, the injury to Liam Kelly ahead of the Blackpool game has undeniably changed the dynamic of the midfield and it may be worth changing things to come in the games to come.
Liam Walsh coming into the base of the midfield offers us more control in possession, particularly in the ability to switch the play quicker – this saw Sam McCallum in a lot of space on the left during the first-half.
The obvious downside with Walsh is that he is a much less imposing presence in front of the back four. The bigger issue is that lack of presence from Walsh isn’t made up for by either Shipley or Westbrooke. This meant that were overrun at times without the ball, without being particularly threatening thorough the middle with possession.
With Walsh the main set-piece taker now too, just what Shipley and Westbrooke are adding to the team is more of a question than when Kelly was in the team. This is where there becomes a bigger case to add that directness that O’Hare has added to the side beyond his current role as an impact substitute.
It was quite surprising to see Mark Robins make a double, attack-minded, change relatively early in the second-half in bringing on Callum O’Hare and Gervane Kastaneer with the score still at 0-0.
The benefit was that the duo each added a level of directness to our play that we had lacked beforehand – despite some smart spells of possession. It not only saw Kastaneer and O’Hare get into good positions, but allowed Godden and Hiwula to threaten the Burton goal in a way they hadn’t when we were slower and more deliberate with the ball in the opening 60 minutes.
The change came at the cost of defensive stability. With Liam Walsh on a yellow and Shipley struggling to impose himself on the game, O’Hare pushing forward and a front three doing little tracking back, the back four were left very exposed.
It was the kind of risky change not normally associated with Mark Robins. It very nearly won the game when Kastaneer and Hiwyla were sent clean through by a Matt Godden flick-on. It alarm allowed Burton to overload our back four on several occasions and nearly lost us the game.
We are top of League One, for the first time since November 2015. It may still be early days, but eight games is a meaningful enough period to take seriously.
This is still a team coming together, but it is one that has won (most) of the games where it’s been favourite, it’s taken points from the better teams, it’s won games from behind. These are all things that good teams do.
Perhaps it is because it’s early days, but there still feels something, almost intangible about this side that the better Coventry City sides of recent memory had. There are goals in this team, but it still doesn’t feel quite to a set plan. We have kept clean sheets, but there still feels a certain fragility waiting to be exposed.
In short, and to be boring and indecisive, we’ll need to see more. At the very least, this has been a good start, to especially for what is a side that has a lot of new players bedding in.