A game that we had all been looking forward to, although mostly in dread, and the Sky Blues delivered just the performance required of them on the big occasion.
After a fast start, it felt as if this Coventry City side had allowed some big chances to go amiss, with Callum O’Hare, Matt Godden and Tyler Walker all missing gilt-edged opportunities that could have put the team ahead.
The second-half felt a flatter performance from the Sky Blues, but the key moment of the game proved to be the referee’s decision to blow for a soft free-kick right by Rotherham United’s penalty area. From the resulting set-piece, Leo Ostigard powerfully headed from for the game’s winning goal.
Despite the nerviness, there was only really going to be one team that would the game from that point, with the Sky Blues putting in a fantastic effort to shut down a Rotherham United side that threw everything at us to salvage the game.
Fighting For Every Last Milimetre
This game won’t go down as a classic. Both sides looked nervous and created little from open-play in a game that was needlessly stop-start due to a referee giving free-kicks almost every time any player went down.
However, that doesn’t make this any less of an impressive performance from the Sky Blues. In a season where too often this side has struggled to impose itself on games, we almost completely prevented Rotherham United getting into the match due to sheer effort that everyone in a Coventry City shirt put in to chasing every loose ball and turning the game into a series of small battles that we were determined to win.
From players like Callum O’Hare, Kyle McFadzean and Liam Kelly that we know are willing to put their bodies on the line for this team to someone like Julien Dacosta, who has had question marks raised over his levels of effort and application. From those that started the game and allowed us to get on the front foot early on, to the substitutes that closed down Rotherham’s defenders and prevented them building attacking momentum late on. Everyone involved had their role to play in this important victory.
Once again, a Coventry City side managed by Mark Robins pulled out a result and performance when it was most needed.
Replicating the formula from our win over Rotherham earlier in the season, there was a clear game-plan of getting the ball into the strikers quickly in order to prevent the Millers getting on top of us with their pressing game. However, it’s a game-plan that wouldn’t have worked had the players not applied themselves with the maximum effort.
If the forwards hadn’t chased down every hopeful ball forward, we would have simply handed Rotherham the ball with which to attack us with. If the midfield and wing-backs didn’t put pressure on Rotherham in the middle-third of the pitch, they could have built pressure once they got past our forward line. Had the back three not stood up to Rotherham’s physicality, they could have forced opportunities on goal.
It was truly a fantastic collective effort.
Set-Pieces Saving Our Season?
For all the effort put into this performance, we posed little threat to Rotherham United’s goal from open-play. However, we had our growing proficiency from set-pieces to thank for the attacking threat that we posed and, ultimately, the three points in this game.
As welcome as the returns of Tyler Walker and Matt Godden have been, they have done little to improve our goalscoring threat from open-play. While the duo are more than willing to run the hard metres without the ball, it still feels that they are not a natural strike partnership due to each of them wanting to play too similar roles to each other.
With Callum O’Hare demonstrating in this game why he is such a frustrating player – missing a point-blank chance and releasing the ball at the wrong time too often – it was hard to see how we were going to score from open-play.
This is why set-pieces can be so important. It wasn’t just the towering header from Leo Ostigard for his goal, but the constant threat that every free-kick and long throw seemed to pose. Even if the initial delivery wasn’t quite right, our organisation seemed to be such that we could threaten from the second or third ball.
The six points that we have won over the past four games have completely transformed our season. The first goal in both of those wins has come from a set-piece. It’s not only nice to see a Coventry City side threaten from set-pieces but it may well be the difference between League One next season and the Championship.
Matty James Shows His Worth
While it is difficult to single out stand-out individuals in what was a truly a team effort in this win, Matty James really stood-out in this game, supplying that touch of quality in the middle of the park that helped get the team on the front foot.
It’s taken a while for the rationale behind the signing of Matty James to come to fruition. The questions around him have been less about his quality but whether we truly needed him. As a defensive midfielder, he seems to lack physicality, as a creative midfielder, he doesn’t seem quite penetrative enough with his passing, as a goalscoring midfielder, he doesn’t seem to get forward enough.
In this game – as he has shown in our past few – James has demonstrated just how much of an impact his composure, quick thinking and technical ability can make. He constantly seemed to be a step or two ahead of his opponents in the Rotherham United midfield, nipping ahead to steal the ball away and already picking out a threatening pass before he can be caught up to.
It seems Matty James has provided another classic example of how a good player can improve a team, regardless of just how much it is felt that they are needed. Signing him on a permanent deal this summer looks like it would be one of the best pieces of business this club do to.