Coventry City returned to winning ways in the league with what proved to be a convincing away victory at London Road over a struggling Peterborough United side.
The Sky Blues raced to a commanding early lead, set on their way by an excellent Gustavo Hamer strike from well outside the area. Setting about their opponent with energy, Ben Sheaf forced a turnover high up the pitch to send Matt Godden through for a second goal against a shell-shocked Peterborough United side.
A key moment in the game looked to be a miss from Jamie Allen that saw Peterborough United quickly go up the other end of the pitch and score via a well-struck effort from Jorge Grant. With the home side threatening to turn the screw just before and after half-time, Coventry City gradually wrested control of the game during the final half hour.
Just when it looked set to be a performance defined by some glorious misses, an own goal from Peterborough’s Nathan Thompson completely ended the game as a contest. From that point on, there was no question as to the final result, with Matt Godden wrapping up the win in injury-time, assisted by a powerful run and cut-back from Viktor Gyokeres.
The Pressing Menace
For the second game in a row (following on from last week’s FA Cup tie against Derby County), Coventry City’s primary threat has come from their energy and organisation in the press. Particularly in the first-half, the Sky Blues were constantly on the heels of Peterborough United as they looked to build from the back, forcing a number of turnovers in dangerous areas, two of which led to goals.
This is where the recent break in the fixtures may prove to be of benefit to Coventry City. In a team that arguably has more in the way of energy than quality, the opportunity to restore those reserves could well be a boon for this team. In many ways, recent showings have been lacking in quality (likely a result of a lack of match sharpness) but the Sky Blues have tipped the odds in their favour by forcing the game to be played predominantly in areas that hurt the opposition more than themselves.
This was a game where Coventry City created a number of excellent, gilt-edged opportunities, failed to take the majority of them but still ended up with a comfortable victory. It would have been easy to attach a sense of fatalism to some of those misses – particularly the one from Jamie Allen that ultimately led to Peterborough united pulling a goal back – but it speaks to the determination of this set of players that they maintained focus on what they were doing well, pressing, rather than what they were not, taking chances.
In a match that featured a wonder-goal from Gustavo Hamer and a brace from Matt Godden, it was a display that was best epitomised by Callum O’Hare and Jamie Allen in attacking midfield. The duo were excellent without the ball, allowing the team to turn the heat on Peterborough United throughout much of the game, but were sloppy when the ball came to them in dangerous areas. If the Sky Blues had failed to win, O’Hare and Allen’s wastefulness would have been a key reason for it. However, it was a victory that wouldn’t have been possible without their efforts.
While these two recent victories may not represent a team ready to push back up into the play-offs, Coventry City had found themselves in a situation where they simply needed to win games in order to begin that process of reversal. The hope is that the quality that has been lacking will gradually return as confidence, as well as match fitness, returns in the coming weeks. Even if it doesn’t, these recent displays show that work-rate and a level of organisation can often be enough to win games.
The one player who can be exempted from the lack of quality in recent performances is Ben Sheaf. The former Arsenal loanee has gradually stepped things up since signing a permanent deal over the summer, reaching a level here where he looked comfortably a step ahead of everyone else on the London Road pitch.
Ben Sheaf may well feel particularly satisfied with his assist for the second goal, preying on the kind of mistake in a dangerous area that he made on more than a few occasions last season. It really underlines his transformation from a fairly meek, often safety-first player last year into a genuinely domineering presence that he had the aggression and self-belief to push up the pitch and force such an error. However, that was probably the least remarkable element of his display.
In a game that was quite chaotic, with both teams leaving themselves open at the back in order to force things at the other end, Ben Sheaf was the calm head who tipped the balance in Coventry City’s favour. Where others played with fluster, Ben Sheaf was in control. Whether it was through reading the game to snuff out Peterborough United attacks or picking out team-mates in space, Ben Sheaf was master of his domain.
Being picky, Ben Sheaf may still need to demonstrate that this kind of performance is the norm, rather than the product of confidence, however, he really couldn’t be doing anything more at this moment in time to suggest that he is the real deal. This is the benefit of placing faith in and building a team around young players, they can higher than expected levels and drag the team forward along with them.
The One Game Jordan Shipley Left Wing-Back Experiment
Finding a back-up left wing-back has proven to be quite the conundrum for Mark Robins this season. Having decided that Josh Reid wasn’t of the required standard, the search has involved Pape Souare (a pre-season trialist), Todd Kane, Jodi Jones and Fankaty Dabo, without a satisfactory solution having been found. The situation will soon be resolved by the impending arrival of the experienced Championship left-back, Jake Bidwell, but Jordan Shipley put in a more than serviceable showing in the position in this game.
Initially, the academy graduate benefitted from Peterborough United’s diamond formation, which meant that he was under little pressure defensively. Shipley effectively played more as a left-sided midfielder (which he has done before) rather than as an out-and-out defensive player, providing the team with another option in possession, helping to force Peterborough back in the early stages of the game.
While there was occasionally danger from Jordan Shipley pushing too far forward, thus dragging Jake Clarke-Salter, from left centre-back, up the pitch to cover and leaving space for Peterborough United to exploit, it was a formation change from the home side that truly asked Shipley questions of his ability as a defensive player. Switching to a 3-4-1-2, Posh looked to exploit a battle between Shipley and Bali Mumba down Coventry City’s left, threatening to swing the momentum of the game.
Norwich City loanee, Mumba, beat Shipley on a few occasions in the opening exchanges of that particular duel, as his side set about reversing a two-goal deficit. However, Shipley appeared to recognise that following the half-time break and began to engage Mumba in the challenge further up the pitch, robbing Peterborough of a key outlet in their build-up play in the second-half, swinging the game back in Coventry City’s favour.
Maybe Jordan Shipley’s story at Coventry City isn’t over, but the fact that he was effectively the fifth player tried out for a back-up role (with a player for that position set to arrive) in a season where he hadn’t previously played a minute in the league tells a different narrative. He is certainly someone capable that has been capable of contributing when called upon, with this showing in an unfamiliar position further underlining that quality. If his time is up at his hometown club, this was a nice note to go out on.
Shipley is a player who has never really had a run in the team in his preferred position. Shipley is a player who has always had a habit of stepping up with key contributions when questions have been asked of his ability. Shipley is a player who has played a big role in two promotion-winning campaigns. Having rarely been a central figure at Coventry City Shipley has had a habit of making himself useful, with this performance underlining that quality for, perhaps, one final moment.