From two goals down, Coventry City produced a spirited second-half showing at Blackburn Rovers to salvage a point and, perhaps, kick-start their form away from home.
Having arguably been the better team for much of the first-half, Coventry City found themselves two down at half-time after a moment of quality from Blackburn Rovers’ Joe Rothwell unlocked the Sky Blues defence to allow Sam Gallagher to score. Rothwell was then on the scoresheet himself as poor play out from the back from Coventry City left the defence at sixes and sevens to make it 2-0 to the home side.
The Sky Blues found their composure and intensity in the second-half, with Tyler Walker poking home a Todd Kane cross just past the hour mark to make get the away team back in the game. Without creating a raft chances, an equaliser somehow looked inevitable, with a Liam Kelly shot hitting the post before striking Blackburn Rovers’ goalkeeper, Thomas Kaminski, on the back to underline the sense of fatalism about the direction of the game.
In the closing stages of the game, Coventry City were a little unfortunate not to have been given a penalty for a foul on Viktor Gyokeres, while the defence had to hold firm with Blackburn in the ascendancy in the closing minutes. All in all, a draw was probably the correct result.
The Quest For Intensity
There wasn’t a lot wrong with Coventry City’s first-half performance, apart from the fact that they conceded two goals. Looking largely the better team for much of the opening 45 minutes, the main issue was that there was the team lacked threat in possession, leaving them prone to either Blackburn Rovers finding a moment of quality or mistakes in defence, both of which happened.
Two goals down, it was hard to see the Sky Blues getting back into the game. There were few signs of it happening early in the second-half, with Coventry City once again edging the possession but not really troubling the Blackburn defence. Out of somewhere, the intensity and purpose in possession increased and Blackburn started to look uncomfortable on their lead.
In particular, it made a huge difference that both Viktor Gyokeres and Callum O’Hare found the mojo that they had misplaced earlier in the game. The duo are both excellent at driving at opposing defenders, which generates threat both directly and the indirect threat of forcing the attention of the opposition in one place which creates space elsewhere for other players.
As improved as the second-half performance was, it was fortunate for the Sky Blues that conceding two goals from a first-half performance that was only slightly lacking in intensity wasn’t fatal. This is a team that cannot afford to coast and has been guilty on a few occasions in away games this season of doing so. Just why that is the case must frustrate Mark Robins as there isn’t a tangible reason why there is such an oscillation in intensity from home games.
The task now for the manager is to find a way to manufacture intensity when away from home.
The Back-Up Left Wing-Back Situation
With Ian Maatsen suspended for this game, Mark Robins was left to make do, having been unable to recruit natural cover for the left wing-back. Although the right-footed Todd Kane had been signed for such a scenario, it was apparent in the first-half that he may not be the ideal solution in the absence of Ian Maatsen.
Although far from disastrous, one of the key features of the opening 45 minutes was just how little time Todd Kane spent in the Blackburn Rovers half. This was partially due to the threat that Blackburn’s right wing-back, Ryan Nyambe, posed, but it also seemed to be the case that Todd Kane was uncomfortable driving forward on his left side.
Losing an outlet on one side of the pitch may well have played a role in the team’s lack of threat with the possession they had in the first-half. Once Fankaty Dabo was switched to the left, that outlet was found and the team looked to be more of a threat overall. One of the key differences between Kane and Dabo is that the latter is more dynamic with the ball at his feet, which made him better able to adapt to not being on his preferred side.
The upshot of this was that the team was now able to make full use of the width of the pitch, on either side, making the attacking play more varied and, as a result, more threatening. Fankaty Dabo’s ball-carrying ability on the left also had the benefit of stymying the threat of Ryan Nyambe, while Todd Kane on the right was better able to put crosses in the box, as is his wont. It was a cross from Kane that led to the first goal, while Dabo’s presence on the left helped create the space for Viktor Gyokeres to drag Blackburn’s defence around the pitch, contributing to the equaliser.
It may be a situation that may never come up again this season. If it does, Mark Robins will probably make a different call to the one he made at the start of this game.
Tyler Walker Shows His Worth
Big things were expected of Tyler Walker when he signed last summer but, despite finishing as the team’s top-scorer, he was in danger of becoming surplus to requirements. With Viktor Gyokeres in excellent goalscoring form, while Martyn Waghorn and Matt Godden have been making contributions in attack, it was hard to see where Tyler Walker would be required. This game was a timely reminder from Walker that he can also be a decisive figure in the Sky Blues attacking line-up.
The former Nottingham Forest man was the team’s biggest goal threat in this game, beyond the goal that he plundered for himself. With fractionally better luck, Tyler Walker could have walked away with a hat-trick, having a goal ruled out on the stroke of half-time for a marginal offside call, converting a Todd Kane cross in the second-half and then being in a good position for the equalising goal to turn it into the net had it not bounced off the Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper.
Tyler Walker did in this game exactly what he has often struggled to do in Coventry City shirt, get himself in scoring positions. Walker has often put in the hard yards, but has had a tendency to make runs that put himself in areas from which it would be difficult to score from. It was getting hard to see just how or why Walker would become the prolific goalscorer for Coventry City in the Championship that he had been in Leagues One and Two.
The difference in this game may well have been that he was paired alongside Viktor Gyokeres in attack, who is better able to do the donkey-work away from goal that Walker has often felt compelled to do. With Gyokeres someone who can run the hard yards and also threaten the goal, alongside a Tyler Walker who is freed to focus solely on scoring, it could make for a productive strike partnership.
It is very early days to assess what Viktor Gyokeres and Tyler Walker may be capable of as a strike duo over the long-term, but this was an important demonstration from the latter that he has a contribution to make this season.