Coventry City dropped points at home for the first time this season as they drew 1-1 with Derby County after taking a first-half lead.
Well on top in the opening 45 minutes, Coventry City only had a Matt Godden penalty to show for their dominance, squandering numerous opportunities to create chances due to indecision. That allowed a patient Derby County side to gradually gain control of the game and level late-on via Graeme Shinnie.
Spent on energy, Coventry City struggled to conjure a response to that gut-punch and were left to reflect on a missed opportunity to regain momentum after a difficult week.
Pull The Trigger!
The Sky Blues were well on top in the first-half but were guilty of getting into some really good positions, allowing chances to shoot or pick a final ball pass them by and thus not converting a dominant early display into a commanding lead. Coventry City were bright and energetic in the opening 45, with Callum O’Hare, Fankaty Dabo and Matt Godden, in particular, pressing well and leaving Derby County’s defence often at sixes and sevens.
However, the team created very few clear cut chances to show for all the positive play. While there was maybe an element of bad luck in the ball not falling quite right for a Sky Blues shirt on a few occasions – Viktor Gyokeres, notably, was inches away from stabbing home at an open goal after a Matt Godden effort – but it was a performance plagued by an overall reticence to put crosses into the box or shoot from outside the area. Whether it was a lack of confidence in individuals’ abilities or a strive for perfection, the Sky Blues let the opportunity to put the game out of reach of a torporous Derby County side in the first-half.
In this instance, the quest to create the perfect chance meant that the Sky Blues failed to take advantage of a promising first-half performance but there are further issues it creates going forward. That refusal to take on early crosses or shots means teams can focus on defending their penalty area rather than the space around it, making it harder to create those perfect chances being searched for. It can be frustrating to watch an attack peter out due to a mishit cross or potshot, but it creates a notional threat in that the opposition have to be minded to close the space o it side their penalty area or risk getting punished.
Maybe there was an element of complacency from Coventry City here. Having won every home game up to this point there may have been a belief that the Sky Blues would remain on top and there would be further chances to kill the contest off to come. Instead, the early dominance couldn’t be sustained and it gave the opposition the chance to get back in the contest.
An Unhelpful Tweak
A lot of Coventry City’s best play in the first-half came via Callum O’Hare joining the front two, pressing Derby County high up the pitch and getting the opposition on the turn. While this had a downside of leaving the midfield two behind him outnumbered against the opposition, the balance of play was largely in Coventry City’s favour, which meant that the midfield dynamic was a clear net positive.
That balance tipped away from the Sky Blues in the second-half and it was a tweak to that dynamic in midfield that caused it. O’Hare began to drop alongside Gustavo Hamer and Ben Sheaf when out of possession, which notably reduced Coventry City’s ability to press Derby County, who were able to get into a rhythm with the slow, deliberate passing game out of defence that they wanted to play. This was compounded by the wing-backs dropping deep and then the introduction of Liam Kelly to proceedings later on, Derby County gained control of the game, which gave them the confidence to work their way to an equaliser.
What had been an attempt to disrupt the opposition proved to be more harmful to the Sky Blues than Derby County. Mark Robins may well have been concerned as to the team’s level of fitness after a three-game week, but this, just as against Preston North End last time out, was a case of why a more defensive outlook can often be detrimental to holding onto a lead.
Unsuited To Managing Games?
Coventry City have, for the second game in a row, failed to take maximum points from a winning position. In a season where the Sky Blues have picked up plenty of points from losing positions, and scored late goals on other occasions too, there is a question now as to whether this team is capable of holding on when scoring earlier in games.
This is an enthusiastic Coventry City side, one that seems to relish getting on top of teams and pinning them in through pressing and passing. There have been some excellent performances from losing or level positions where this team has really turned the screw and the opposition have eventually buckled. However, the Sky Blues have kept relatively few clean sheets, which points towards the concern that maybe this team isn’t comfortable soaking up pressure.
Part of it seems to be a result of the set-up of the team. The combination of two in midfield and two up top means that the team can be stretched in the middle when out of possession. In this game, Derby often dropped midfielders into full-back positions, giving them overloads out wide. This is compounded by having wing-backs that are much better going forward than defensively, which means that the team can become scrambled when without the ball. Once that intense initial pressure is bypassed or turned off, the opposition can gain a lot of control of proceedings. Maybe a change in personnel or a slight tweak to the team’s shape out of possession could address this.
A recent issue that has made things harder is that Viktor Gyokeres hasn’t been at his best over the past three games. This has lessened the team’s threat on the counter-attack, with Gyokeres’ ability to carry the ball and take opposing defenders out of the game when at hus scintillating best. Matt Godden and Callum O’Hare endeavoured in this game, but were more easily contained while also being guilty of poor decision-making on a few occasions.
With a week on the training pitch ahead of the next game, there should be time now to work on some deficiencies that have cropped up over the past three game. A rest will help in and of itself, but being able to build strategies to see games out from early leading position is a key area of improvement over the remainder of the campaign.