The Wrap: Stoke City – 0-0

A third game in a row for the Sky Blues without scoring, but it was a creditable point gained against a Stoke City side in the hunt for the play-offs.

In a game of few chances, both sides will have felt they may have done enough to nick the win. The Sky Blues had the better of the first-half but didn’t really create anything clear-cut. Stoke City threatened to take control of the game in the second-half, but their finishing was slightly wayward for the few good chances that they created.

Through The Eye Of The Needle

The most impressive aspect of this performance was the energy and interplay in midfield in the first-half. The return of Gustavo Hamer to the starting line-up helped, but each of Callum O’Hare, Jamie Allen and Ben Sheaf also enjoyed some positive moments in both breaking up Stoke City’s play in the centre of the park and combining for a handful of promising moves.

What let the team down in this game was the lack of options ahead of the ball when in possession. With the wing-backs either unable or unwilling to get into advanced positions, the 3-5-1-1 set-up meant that it was primarily Matt Godden and, if he wasn’t on the ball himself, Callum O’Hare offering an option when players were looking to play forward passes.

There were occasionally some really neat moments of combination play between the midfielders, but it had to be incredibly intricate in order to break down a Stoke City defence who could comfortably contain our most attacking players.

Just seven shots on goal was a meagre return for the amount of effort on show. It’s hard to see this team scoring too many goals at the moment given how unwilling we seemingly are to commit players forward. The concern is that if we start conceding goals, we will drop back down the table.

A New Role For Jamie Allen

One of the key reasons why the midfield set-up in the first-half had its moments of promise was the role that Jamie Allen played as part of the midfield three.

The former Burton Albion man has endured a tough season at Championship level, where he has often looked a little too ponderous on the ball to cause defences problems when played in an attacking midfield role. What Allen has shown in his time at Coventry City is that he brings energy in abundance to the team and the new role played into that strength.

Allen’s role in this game was to sit in with the midfield three when the team were out of possession, put pressure on the ball when Stoke got into our half, then to get forward in support of Callum O’Hare and Matt Godden when the team were in possession. It meant that the focus was on Allen’s work-rate and movement without the ball rather than his use of it.

That final point is perhaps a little harsh on Allen’s use of the ball in this game, where there were one or two moments of quality linking up with his team-mates around the Stoke penalty area that didn’t quite come to fruition.

While our attacking play in this game fell down on our inability to get bodies forward in support of the attack, it wasn’t for a want of trying on the part of Jamie Allen.

Two Up Front As A Defensive Measure

As much as the team were missing another body or two in attack in the first-half to cause Stoke problems, the bigger drawback that we suffered from not providing Matt Godden with support was the way in which it allowed the away side to build a head of steam in the second-half.

With the energy levels of our midfield dipping, Stoke started to enjoy more time in possession. In the moments we were able to get on the ball, it was a choice between playing short passes back into danger or longer passes straight to the opposition. The safer decision allowed Stoke to build momentum.

This is where playing an extra striker becomes as much a defensive measure as it is an attacking one. Having that extra body further forward provides a target for team-mates to look towards to relieve pressure on the team, it also means the opposition’s defenders have a little less time to pick passes to help their team string together attacks.

When Maxime Biamou and Amadou Bakayoko came on in the late stages, not only did it break up Stoke’s momentum but it started to cause them problems as our forward passes became more evenly contested. Had the change been made earlier, perhaps there would have been more opportunities to turn those difficult moments for Stoke’s defenders that Biamou and Bakayoko cause into a winning goal.

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