If the aspiration this season is to challenge for the play-offs, then Coventry City need to quickly put this recent run of two wins in twelve in the league behind them. An upcoming game against a team in the bottom three, in Peterborough United, is, theoretically, as good an opportunity as could be hoped for to kick-start the campaign.
However, the Sky Blues have repeatedly shown this season that points, especially wins, on the road cannot be taken for granted. At a stage of the season where the importance of individual games increasingly matters, a fixture against a side battling for survival could be especially difficult if there is an absence of intensity to the performance. The next few games are going to provide a strong indication of which Coventry City’s will head in.
Just which players are available at the moment remains a guessing game due to potential Omicron absentees. After Gustavo Hamer, Fankaty Dabo and Simon Moore returned to selection consideration last time out, Liam Kelly, Kyle McFadzean and Ian Maatsen were notable absentees for Mark Robins to deal with. That aside, Mark Robins appears to be able to pick from a fully-fit squad.
After a two-game stint between the sticks, Ben Wilson will surely drop out of the side in favour of the first-choice Simon Moore. The more interesting selection decisions lay further ahead in defence, where the likely availability of Kyle McFadzean and Ian Maatsen will mean that Mark Robins will have to make a couple of big calls.
Kyle McFadzean’s form this season is strong enough that he should start if available and at a good standard of fitness. That means that one of Dominic Hyam, Michael Rose or Jake Clarke-Salter will drop out of the side after solid showings last week against Derby County in the FA Cup. Of the three, Clarke-Salter is probably the most likely, given that he is only recently back from an extended injury absence.
At wing-back, it is hard to justify Fankaty Dabo retaining his place in the team, unless Ian Maatsen is unavailable for this game. While last week’s nightmare can be mitigated by the quality of the opponent Dabo was up against, the fact he was playing out of position and a seeming lack of fitness, he looks like someone who would benefit from a spell out of the side, and the team would be better-off with a left-footed player at left wing-back.
Elsewhere, the 3-4-2-1 shape looks to be what Mark Robins is pinning his hopes on engendering a turnaround. With Gustavo Hamer returning to fitness in one of the deeper midfield roles, that should offer the team even greater control than simply having another midfielder in the mix. Ahead of Hamer and Sheaf is likely to be a duo of Jamie Allen and Callum O’Hare, with Matt Godden left with the responsibility of leading the line – which is something he can struggle with doing.
Last Time We Met
Fans showed up at the CBS Arena on a balmy Friday night back in September in expectant mood as high-flying Coventry City took on a struggling Peterborough United. After the away team put in a determined showing to keep the scores level in the first-half, the Posh were blown away by a display of thunderous Sky Blue fury shortly after the resumption of play.
Gustavo Hamer set the tone for an explosion of goals, starting and finishing a move to put Coventry City ahead. From that point onward, it was the Viktor Gyokeres show. First, he turned in a Todd Kane cross to double the lead, before a swift break not long after saw Gyokeres beat the Peterborough United goalkeeper with the kind of hopeful finish that strikers in red-hot form tend to score.
For a brief moment, Coventry City were top of the early Championship table. While a late goal for West Bromwich Albion meant that position was short-lived, that feeling that something special really was brewing at the CBS Arena permeated the late summer air.
The Manager – Darren Ferguson
Following promotion from League One last season, progress in the second-tier hasn’t been as serene as either Darren Ferguson or Peterborough United would have hoped. Injuries, a lack of squad depth and, perhaps, just a general lack of quality for the level, Peterborough have struggled to string together any kind of form as they currently sit in the bottom three of the Championship table.
Darren Ferguson will hoping that the January signings made thus far – Steven Benda in goal, Bali Mumba at full-back and Callum Morton in attack – will help him settle on a starting formation that could aid Peterborough in their quest for consistency. With the team’s form at London Road being at, more or less, mid-table standard, Posh will be looking to attack this game as they seek to drag the teams above them into the relegation scrap.
Who To Look Out For?
Having built their promotion campaign last season on the form of their three stand-out attacking players – Sammie Szmodics, Siriki Dembele and Jonson Clarke-Harris – only the lightening dribbler, Dembele, has made an impression in the Championship thus far. Injuries and inconsistent tactics haven’t aided either Szmodics or Clarke-Harris, with the latter looking ready to improve over the second half of the campaign.
Clarke-Harris’ bullying and aggressive style as a centre-forward will be aided by the addition of the prodigiously hard-working Callum Morton as his likely strike partner. Morton burst onto the scene two years ago as the man who single-handedly dragged Northampton Town to victory in the League Two play-odds, after an injury-hit subsequent campaign on loan at Lincoln City, Morton scored four and assisted four in 18 appearances with Fleetwood Town, going some way to demonstrate his qualities as an all-round presence in attack, which could help Clarke-Harris, as well as Siriki Dembele get into dangerous areas more consistently.
That front three will be where Peterborough United will look to get the best out of, providing the creativity is likely to be the box-to-box Jack Taylor and the deft Jorge Grant in the wide-midfield roles in a likely 4-4-2 diamond formation. Bali Mumba impressed last week off the bench as an attacking presence from left-back, his combination of skill and two-footedness could make him especially difficult to deal with.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
As mentioned earlier, Peterborough United’s game-plan will be centred around getting the best out of their attacking players. With Callum Morton likely to come into the side, the West Brom loanee’s work-rate could be particularly destructive in freeing up Jonson-Clarke-Harris and Siriki Dembele to get into dangerous, one-against-one, situations against the Coventry City back-line. Peterborough are likely to be energetic and industrious in their approach in an attempt to kick-start their season.
While the Posh have a much better defensive record at home than away – where they have been positively porous at the back – the Sky Blues should be looking to target their back-line. Without a genuinely natural defensive midfielder and – right-back, Nathan Thompson, aside – lacking experience at the back as well, Callum O’Hare should have the opportunity to get into space in dangerous areas here, while Gustavo Hamer could have a big influence pushing forward from central midfield.
The centre of the pitch will be an interesting, four against four, battle. However, if Siriki Dembele plays at the nominal tip of Peterborough United’s diamond, that may end up providing Coventry City with the numerical superiority to force Posh’s wider central midfielders into defensive duties, helping create space out wide for the wing-backs, likely Todd Kane and Ian Maatsen, to get into attacking areas. If Matt Godden can be provided adequate support in attack, Coventry City’s threat in this game is likely to rest on the quality of deliveries, and approach play, from wide areas.