A game that threatened to come to life, but, through the lack of attacking quality from both sides, never did, ended 0-0 between Barnsley and Coventry City.
As the away side and having taken three points last week against QPR, the Sky Blues are likely to be happier with where things stand after this result. Although there is some frustration that we couldn’t find a moment of quality from somewhere to nick all three points, the clean sheet was encouraging after recent defensive lapses.
Playing Through The Press
With memories of last season’s four-goal drubbing at the hands of an energetic Rotherham United side still reasonably fresh in the memory, my biggest worry for this Coventry City side is how we cope with opponents that press with the kind of intensity that Barnsley applied this afternoon.
It shows how much this team has grown over the past 12 months that we overcame the pressing traps that Barnsley set for us without being forced into long balls. We retained a familiar sense of composure when playing out from the back while managing to avoid playing ourselves into danger. While we can be reasonably confident in Leo Ostigard and Dominic Hyam’s ability on the ball, Marko Marosi and Kyle McFadzean showed they had come a long way in terms of composure and decision-making under pressure compared to that afternoon in Rotherham nearly a year ago.
In the first-half in particular, the back three and Marko Marosi in goal coped well when pressed and were able to pick each other out in a reasonable amount of time and space. The second-half saw Barnsley exert a little more pressure when our defensive players were on the ball, having sacrificed a defender for a forward in order to add to their pressing unit. For a period, it threatened to turn the game in Barnsley’s favour but Marko Marosi, Leo Ostigard, Dominic Hyam and Kyle McFadzean retained their composure on the ball.
As positive as it was that there were no obvious errors that resulted from Barnsley’s pressing, those efforts seemed to stymie our attacking threat. By having to be so deliberate and accurate in possession at the back, we struggled to string together extended spells of pressure. This is partially to the credit of the work-rate of Barnsley’s midfield and defence in continuing to put pressure on the ball once we played it into midfield and beyond but also spoke to a slight lack of quality in possession on our part.
As a result, we appeared rushed when presented with openings to catch Barnsley in transition, leaving our main threat to be from set-pieces.
The Search For A Central Midfield Partnership
Already, it looks to be a case of Gustavo Hamer plus one other in the centre of the park for the Sky Blues this season. Having tried out Jordan Shipley to mixed effect last week, Ben Sheaf was thrown into the fray this time out. It’s the earliest of days, but neither appear to be a particularly ideal partner for the fiery Dutch-Brazilian.
There were some promising signs from Ben Sheaf in this game. Having given the ball away sloppily on several occasions in the opening 25 minutes, Sheaf showed some moments of quality on the ball, helping the team move forward efficiently and broke up play quite nicely once or twice. If he is to be a success for the Sky Blues in the Championship, it is crucial he develops an understanding of the pace at which the game is played at this level.
While Shipley seems a little less measured than Sheaf, he could be described in a similar manner to the Arsenal loanee from his performances in the thus far this season in a deeper-role than he was deployed last year.
At this stage, it seems the team will be better off with Liam Kelly to provide a sturdier presence in the middle of the park. In theory, this would allow Hamer the freedom to play a little further up the pitch in order and help link the front three with the wing-backs. However, we do not know yet whether Kelly is of the requisite quality to cope with the speed of Championship football either.
That said, there is no reason to believe yet that either Kelly, Sheaf or Shipley are incapable of getting up to speed with Championship football were they to start the next 10-15 games. Moreover, it may simply be helpful to just settle on one of them for now, figure out whether they can adapt and see how that understanding with Gustavo Hamer develops.
One of the reasons we struggled to create much in open play and looked stretched at times in the centre of the park was because Hamer and Sheaf had yet to develop the understanding with each other in order to know whose turn it is to sit and whose turn it is to push forward. A few months of regular football together will go a long way to solving that issue.
Callum O’Hare: The Embodiment of This Team
Along with Gustavo Hamer and Ryan Giles, Callum O’Hare has really caught the eye in these opening few games of the season. The former Aston Villa youngster players with a tireless energy, puts opponents under pressure and has shown some moments of genuine quality to suggest that he can influence games at Championship level.
At the moment, O’Hare is arguably a better player without the ball than with it. He can consistently get himself into dangerous positions but lacks the composure to consistently punish teams when in those areas of the pitch. This is something that will only develop with greater experience of those situations, which is why he is at Coventry City, rather than a more established side at this level of football.
O’Hare’s prominence in this side epitomises where we are as a club – having to take chances on players who have yet to prove themselves in the Championship. The effort is apparent, the quality should soon come but there are likely to plenty of frustrating afternoons, such as this one, where the decision-making is awry before he develops into the player he could be and this Coventry City side starts to reliably win tight games, such as this one.