The Sky Blues were left to settle for a point at Huddersfield Town despite an improved second-half performance that should have resulted in a win.
Huddersfield dominated much of the first-half, with Coventry City adopting a cautious approach. However, the closest Huddersfield came to scoring was via an air-kick from Richard Keogh at a set-piece – with the former Sky Blues man fortunate not to concede a penalty at the other end during the opening 45 minutes.
Switching to one in attack in the second-half, Coventry City moved in control of the game. With Viktor Gyokeres in impressive form, the Swedish striker carved out some excellent openings for himself but couldn’t quite finish them off. Instead, Jordan Shipley stepped up with a deflected effort to reward an enterprising display from the Sky Blues.
With the game wearing down, a fumble from Ben Wilson from a corner-kick and a poor clearance from rookie defender, Jack Burroughs, saw Huddersfield level. It was a reminder that, despite some impressive elements to the performance, the Sky Blues have key areas to improve upon for next season.
Viktor Gyokeres Impresses
With nothing left to play for this season, thoughts have inevitably turned to the summer transfer window. With his loan spell up in a week’s time, it was a good time for Viktor Gyokeres to put in his best performance in a Coventry City shirt.
The Swede has endured a difficult time at the club, clearly lacking confidence after a bad loan spell earlier in the season with Swansea City and not getting the run of starts that it has looked like he has needed to build it back up. The three goals Gyokeres has scored for the team thus far have been impressive efforts but his overall impact on games has been inconsistent.
Gyokeres has all the attributes to be a really good striker at Championship level. Not only is he strong and mobile, but he has strong technical ability and is also a very hard worker. However, he has often seemed to have lacked an element of conviction in his game, often taking an extra touch or two when in promising positions.
Although that was still in evidence in this game, there were signs here of what a Viktor Gyokeres at his very best might be capable of. He was a reliable outlet for the team due to both his physical attributes and willingness to run the channels to get on the end of long balls. Gyokeres was almost a constant menace to the opposition defence in the second-half due to that combination of talents, while also linking the play well – leading to the opening goal.
Just how much more of that there is to come remains to be seen. However, there is the promise there that Gyokeres could be the all-round presence in attack that this team has missed for large parts of the season. The club could do a lot worse than bring him back for another year.
Wing-Backs Makes A Difference
One of the key differences between the first and second-half performances from Coventry City in this game was the positioning of the wing-backs.
In the first-half, both Fankaty Dabo and Sam McCallum were positioned alongside the back three for long spells. This made it difficult for the midfield to put pressure on the ball as Huddersfield always had the option to playing it out wide to a man in space, allowing them to control possession and force the Sky Blues into putting in some hard running without the ball.
Furthermore, the wing-backs being so deep made it difficult for the team to sustain any pressure of their own. It was often a choice between slow, static passing that allowed Huddersfield to regroup or hopeful long balls forward to the two isolated front-men – with Callum O’Hare having also dropped into a deep position during the first-half.
Perhaps the reason for the wing-backs sitting so deep had been to limit the threat of Huddersfield’s wide-forward, Josh Koroma. With one of Huddersfield’s best attacks in the first-half resulting from Koroma exploiting the space left behind by Fankaty Dabo and Michael Rose on a rare attacking foray, it was a bold, positive decision from Mark Robins to ask the wing-backs to push up in the second-half,.
Alongside the tactical change to bring an extra man into midfield, the wing-backs getting forward enabled the team to turn the tables on Huddersfield. With extra attacking options in possession, the Sky Blues were now on the front-foot, leading to some slick sequences of play that threatened the opposing goal.
The quality in the final product from McCallum and Dabo could have been better, but it was notable just how much of a difference simply being 20 yards further up the pitch made.
One Up Front: Not Always Bad
With Coventry City fans, myself included, bemoaning Mark Robins’ persistence for much of the campaign with a lone striker that often left the team both lacking an attacking threat and under pressure due to not being able to get the ball out from defence quickly, this game was a demonstration of how having two strikers on the pitch doesn’t always rectify those issues.
The strategy that had worked so well recently of playing the ball quickly into a strike pairing – this time, Viktor Gyokeres and Tyler Walker – resulted in Huddersfield Town controlling the first-half. This was partially because the strikers struggled to hold the ball up – not aided by the rest of the team sitting so deep – and also because there was huge space in the middle third of the pitch, between the Sky Blues’ midfield and attack, that gave Huddersfield the time and space in possession to hold onto the ball.
In introducing Jordan Shipley for the second-half, it made the team more compact out of possession and offered an extra option when with it. Shipley made some good runs around and beyond Gyokeres to provide the Swede with some much-needed support when attempting to hold the ball up, demonstrating that quality of movement is perhaps more important than simply having attacking players on the pitch.
The rest of the team seemed emboldened by now having an ability to hold onto the ball in the opposition half. It allowed the wing-backs and midfielders to get forward and into dangerous positions. With a little more quality in the final third, it could have been a pretty comfortable win that may give Mark Robins something to think about over the summer.