Coventry City sunk to a tame 1-0 defeat against Swansea City in a game of few chances, but in which the Sky Blues didn’t enough quality in order to score.
The game felt fairly even until Swansea scored from a corner-kick early in the second-half. From that point onwards, there seemed little threat of the Sky Blues making Swansea sweat over the final result. While it wasn’t a terrible performance from Coventry City, it was frustrating to see the team do so little to affect the result from a losing position.
Not Bad, But Not Good
Compared to some of our recent defeats, there was a lot less to be angry about the manner in which we lost this game. We didn’t make mistakes, we were fairly diligent without the ball and occasionally looked tidy with it. However, Swansea City didn’t have to produce much quality to get ahead, and once they did, it was clear that we didn’t have enough about us to get back into the game.
That is perhaps just where we are as a Championship club right now. It would have been brilliant to follow up the win over Brentford at the weekend with another positive result in this game, but we just don’t have enough about us to consistently force the issue against the better teams in this division. With Swansea resolute at the back, it was a question of whether they would get the goal to win them the game.
It was frustrating that the goal that we conceded came from a set-piece that could have defended better, but the overriding feeling coming out of this game is that if Swansea hadn’t scored then, they would have found another to win the game. That is the difference between a team that is used to winning and one that is used to losing, that belief that, if you’re patient, things will eventually fall your way. As the game wore on following the goal, we seemed to lose belief and become frustrated, while Swansea calmly maintained their quiet control over proceedings.
These are the kind of defeats that are hard to get frustrated about but can be dispiriting when they stack up over the course of a season. Our relative resources and the congested fixtures schedule are mitigating factors, but Mark Robins has to find a way to pep the team up for the next game to avoid the team getting back into the habit of losing.
The Search For Quality In Attack Continues
The key reason we couldn’t get back into this game was the lack of quality and craft in attack. With Swansea avoiding making the kind of mistakes that allowed us to score twice against Brentford last time out, this was the kind of game where we needed to fashion chances of our own and we came up wanting.
Whether it was down to tiredness or the quality of opposition, Tyler Walker and Maxime Biamou weren’t nearly as effective in this game as they were against Brentford. Swansea, particularly the impressive Marc Guehi, seemed to have the number of our strike duo both physically and technically, meaning that they just couldn’t get a foothold for the Sky Blues in the opposition half.
It meant that it was down to the midfield and wing-backs to produce the quality to break through Swansea’s defence, which didn’t come. Gustavo Hamer had another quiet game, Callum O’Hare constantly ran himself into dead-ends, Sam McCallum at left wing-back never seemed to believe that he could beat his opposing defender, Connor Roberts, while neither Julien Dacosta nor Fankaty Dabo offered much on the right.
With the starting XI failing to get things going, Mark Robins had little on the bench with which to change things up. There were just 11 Championship goals among the substitutes – most coming from Matty James, over a decade ago – and no-one who really seemed to be an improvement upon the player that they were replacing. It added to the sense of inevitability about the result and highlights how important it is that we get ourselves ahead in games, as well as how much we need to ensure that we keep our handful of key players fresh.
Gustavo Hamer, In A Rut?
For the fourth game in five, Gustavo Hamer was replaced before the final whistle. While this may partially be driven by the need to keep players fresh amid the congested fixture list that we are dealing with, it also felt down to Gustavo Hamer once again not being as influential on proceedings as he has been at his best this season.
However, just because he isn’t as influential as he is at his top level doesn’t mean that Hamer isn’t still an essential player to this team. The manner in which we struggled to conjure anything in midfield following his substitution highlights why it’s such a tough decision to rest Hamer – if, in fact, he does need a rest. Hamer is the type of player when, even if he’s not at his best, he is still more likely than most to provide a moment of brilliance that can get a team back into a tight game, such as this one.
Although we have players that can replicate some of the things that Gustavo Hamer can do, there isn’t anyone who can do all those things at once. It means that the midfield is missing at least one thing when he’s not on the pitch, whether that’s the ability to open play up with his range of passing, receive the ball under pressure, get forward or impose themselves in the challenge. More than any of those things, it is that force of character to attempt to will a game in favour of the team that we miss without Gustavo Hamer.
That’s why his substitution in this game – as it did against Cardiff City – felt more like an admission of defeat than a comment on his recent performances. While Gustavo Hamer isn’t playing at his best, we are still a worse team without him.