A win over a top six side in Barnsley at St Andrew’s leaves the Sky Blues on the verge of safety. Off the back of a vital win over Rotherham United just three days prior, this Coventry City side replicated the levels of effort and fortitude to pull off a solid and convincing win.
Aided by an incredible strike within the first ten minutes from centre-back, Dominic Hyam, the Sky Blues looked like they had the bit between their teeth to pull-off an impressive result. Barnsley attempted to get back into the game, but there was no route through to the Coventry City goal due to a diligent effort from the team without the ball.
The win was eventually capped off via an excellent Matt Godden finish in second-half stoppage time, but it was a result that had never looked in question from the moment the Sky Blues had taken the lead in the ninth minute.
Against a difficult opponent with a very specific style of play, Mark Robins adapted the team’s game-plan in a bid to both combat and exploit Barnsley. Most notably, there was a clear instruction of playing balls behind Barnsley’s high defensive line at almost every opportunity.
Due to the approach of both teams, the game became a fractured contest. There wasn’t a single player that looked to have much time in possession because of both the frequency of forward passes and the intensity each team put into pressuring the ball.
There wasn’t much in the game, but the Sky Blues edged the overall contest. The energy and application levels that the team put in without the ball meant that Barnsley created few chances of genuine quality. While similar could be said of our opposition, our forward players offered a little more guile on the end of our forward passes and we looked the more threatening side from set-pieces.
Where we have struggled this season has been in attempting a style of play that invites pressure on the defence and offers little service to the forwards. What we have seen over the past two games is almost the exact opposite. It appears as if Mark Robins has finally recognised the limitations of this team and been able to build a game-plan around it.
The next step is to add a level of quality to the energy and application of our recent performances, but the most important thing has been the results these recent performances have earned. Whether it’s over the remaining games of this season, or over the summer and the start of next season, this team has found something that works and we can begin to build around that.
Back-To-Back Clean Sheets
Two quality finishes from Dominic Hyam and Matt Godden put this team in a winning position, however, the defensive effort was the foundation from which this victory was built. For that, Ben Wilson in goal and the back five deserve immense credit for their individual and collective performances.
It began with a fantastic performance from the back three, who not only won just about every aerial challenge but were intelligent and disciplined in their positioning to shut out Barnsley’s front three. Leo Ostigard is looking increasingly like a player who is a cut above Coventry City’s current standing in the game. Quietly, Dominic Hyam has recovered the composure that had characterised his performances for the club until a rocky patch mid-way into this season. Meanwhile, Kyle McFadzean was well-suited to defending deep (but not too deep) and aggressively and not being asked to take time on the ball, setting the tone for the rest of the defence.
In goal, Ben Wilson made one or two good saves but this was a performance characterised by a level of intelligence and composure in tidying things up behind his defence when needed to. Wilson came off his line on a few occasions to sweep up potentially dangerous passes which meant the defence, and the rest of the team, could put a little more pressure when Barnsley were on the ball. Along with a couple of decent claims from crosses, this was a more than solid performance from the nominal stand-in keeper.
The wing-back duo of Sam McCallum and Julien Dacosta were also a vital part of the defensive effort. Both were diligent in their defensive duties, making a number of well-timed challenges or else just standing up well when being ran at, to prevent Barnsley finding joy in wide areas. When needed to, both were willing to push up the pitch to help apply pressure on the ball, with Dacosta, at last, finding a balance between being positive and defensively secure in his positioning. Meanwhile, Sam McCallum’s long throws were a key part of our attacking threat.
Aided by a midfield trio of Liam Kelly, Matty James and Gustavo Hamer that balanced aggression and discipline well, and a forward line that chased every half-decent ball forward, this Sky Blues side worked hard to earn a second clean sheet in a row.
Biamou Leads The Line
In what was a great effort all-round, the one player who seemed to work the hardest to make this a successful performance was Maxime Biamou.
The French forward has had a difficult season where he’s had to play through injury and has often been left as the lone striker with very little support behind him. In spite of that, Biamou has continued to put in maximum effort for the team, with this performance epitomising his self-sacrificing qualities.
With the team playing a lot of long balls behind Barnsley’s defence of varying quality, Maxime Biamou worked relentlessly in his 74 minutes on the pitch to turn a lot of fairly hopeful punts into opportunities to cause uncertainty in Barnsley’s defence. Not associated with a great deal of mobility, what was most impressive about Biamou’s performance in this game was how much ground he seemed to cover.
While the quality of Biamou’s link-play wasn’t outstanding, the simple fact that he was chasing and competing for almost every forward pass was enough to get the team consistently up the pitch and prevent Barnsley getting on top of us.
Aided by diligent performances from Tyler Walker and Gustavo Hamer for the opening hour, then Viktor Gyokeres and Callum O’Hare before his substitution, Biamou demonstrated how he can still play an important role for this team despite there now being greater competition for places in attack.