Coventry City salvaged a draw late-on at Bournemouth in an intriguing contest at Dean Court in storm-hit conditions.
Bournemouth dominated possession for much of the game but were unable to create much of any quality against a resolute Sky Blues side. Just when it looked like the away side would be rewarded for a disciplined first-half showing, Bournemouth’s Jaidon Anthony hit a cross that curled into the back of the net, agonisingly beyond the reach of Simon Moore in the Coventry City goal.
With the Sky Blues struggling to create much on the counter-attack, that opening goal looked the killer blow. However, Anthony seemed to make sure of the result by curling in another cross into a dangerous area in the second half, for his team-mate, Philip Billing, to graze into the back of the net.
However, a lunging challenge from Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma, which drew a red card, proved to be the game’s turning point. The home side shrank as much as the away team grew, with Matt Godden’s goal five minutes from time lending an air of inevitability to Todd Kane’s eventual equaliser in the final seconds of the game. An impressive comeback from the Sky Blues and, perhaps, a crucial result in the team’s campaign.
A Disciplined Display
This could have been a very different game had Bournemouth’s Jaidon Anthony not produced something out of nothing on two occasions to hand his side what looked to be a comfortable lead. It was a disciplined and determined performance overall from Coventry City, who limited a Bournemouth side that controlled possession to very little,
It was an especially impressive defensive display by the Sky Blues in light of the absences of Jake Clarke-Salter and Michael Rose, with the latter dropping out of the side very late in the day, meaning Mark Robins had to call in a makeshift centre-back in Fankaty Dabo – the fact that only six substitutes were named underlines just how late in the day that decision had to be made. While Dabo had a difficult afternoon in an unfamiliar position, notably, coughing up possession a little too often, the team’s solid defensive structure made it difficult for Bournemouth to carve out much of any quality.
As is often the case under Mark Robins, the Sky Blues kept the centre of the pitch very tight, forcing their opponents out wide to less threatening areas and challenging them to break the defensive blockade with individual quality. It was unfortunate that Bournemouth eventually found that quality, through Jaidon Anthony, who was the star player on the pitch. Frustratingly, the two goals Bournemouth scored each had a hint of preventability about them – with the defence twice letting Anthony cut inside onto his preferred foot – even if it was somewhat unaccountable what the opposition player did when handed a feint window of opportunity.
Nonetheless, that it took two moments that came almost out of nowhere from the pattern of the game underlines that Coventry City’s defensive approach was just about right on this occasion. It continues a positive trajectory in the Sky Blues’ defensive performances lately, which has become especially important in light of the team’s downward trend as an attacking threat. If this solidity can be sustained, it may not take much at the other end for results to pick up again.
Attacking Decisiveness Still Missing
With the team defending well as a unit, this could well have been a game that got away from Coventry City due to that familiar lack of decisiveness in attack. While Jaidon Anthony’s brilliance for Bournemouth turned the game in his team’s favour, the Sky Blues finding a similar level of quality of their own at 0-0 was another area that could have made for a different contest.
In mitigation for Coventry City’s lack of attacking threat for much of the game, the quality Gustavo Hamer could have offered in possession if he had been available was a big loss. Similarly, a fully-fit and firing Viktor Gyokeres would have provided the Sky Blues with the figurehead in attack to move the ball from defence to attack more efficiently and dangerously.
Instead, Coventry City were pretty sloppy with the little possession they had, either too slow to spot opportunities to counter quickly or over-hitting ambitious balls and allowing Bournemouth to maintain their dominance. The most promising attacks often came through Callum O’Hare, but his tendency to hold onto the ball for slightly too long meant chances to get the team through on goal passed him by. With Jamie Allen and Matt Godden largely peripheral in the opening hour of the game, Mark Robins’ game-plan had come unstuck due to an inability to threaten on the counter-attack.
Whether this is something that can be improved upon in training, or because of players getting fatigued over the course of the campaign, or due to a lack of individual quality, only the manager will be able to address. It has been relatively rare that the Sky Blues have had to deal with having such little possession this season, but it would be useful to be confident in the team’s ability to simultaneously shut up shop and threaten on the counter-attack.
While the team’s newfound defensive fortitude may be helping Coventry City through a rocky period of the campaign, if the team is going to improve from this point and hold onto its current position in the top six, being more decisive in attack is going to be crucial.
Turning The Screw
Onto the incredible comeback that the Coventry City conjured late-on in this game. While Bournemouth’s lose of composure when they fell to ten-men – and may have caused the red card in the first place – played a role here, the players deserve credit for turning up the intensity of their performance and making an equalising goal, more or less, an inevitability.
While the Sky Blues were maybe a little bit too fraught and over-eager in the final third in the closing stages of the game, it was that enthusiasm that caused Bournemouth problems. Moving Fankaty Dabo from right centre-back to right-back gave the team an overload down the right side of the pitch, which created room for Todd Kane to put in some telling deliveries. The midfield pushed forward, with Jodi Jones coming on to aid that effort, providing extra bodies in the box. It led to a frantic game, with Bournemouth largely unable to get out of their own half.
With a little more quality and composure, Coventry City could well have had enough time following the red card to win the game – notably, with Matt Godden having an excellent chance to level the game around the 90th minute. However, it was probably fitting in light of the Sky Blues’ overall attacking performance that the eventual equaliser came with a hint of luck (that’s harsh on Todd Kane, I know) rather than through quality, per se. That said, Todd Kane’s equaliser was neither a bolt from the blue, it came as a result of the pressure the team had been able to build up.
To have put such a big effort into holding a quality opponent at arm’s length for over an hour, it would have taken a lot for the players to alter their mentality and approach in search of a result. It continues a theme of this season of being able to dig out results late-on. In the context of the recent wobble in form, Todd Kane’s equalising goal could well prove a turning-point in this campaign.