The Wrap – Queens Park Rangers – 1-2

Coventry City can count themselves as highly unfortunate not to have come out with a defeat against automatic promotion-chasing Queens Park Rangers. In a dominant home showing by the Sky Blues, the game came down to quality finishing. With the majority of the game’s chances, Coventry City continually fluffed their lines, while QPR were clinical with the few they had.

An excellent finish by Andre Gray early on set up what would be a frustrating 90 minutes for Coventry City. Good chances came and went for the Sky Blues, with QPR nearly going two up with their next chance just before half-time as Lee Wallace missed an open goal from a swift counter-attack.

A fantastic Jordan Shipley strike from a short corner routine just after half-time threatened to reverse the game’s narrative, however, a lengthy delay after a steward was injured in the goal’s celebrations may have quieted Coventry City’s momentum. Nonetheless, the Sky Blues continued to have most of the ball and the chances, only for QPR to produce another moment of quality, this time a deftly accurate Chris Willock cross for Albert Adomah, to take home all three points.

An Early Season Performance

The first Saturday 3pm home game since that 3-2 win over Bristol City in early November, perhaps it was simply the novelty of being back in the familiar time slot, but this was a performance that felt more akin with Coventry City’s displays in the opening months of the campaign. In the interim period since that come-from-behind win, the quality of the performance had largely been on the wane, but this was a game that showed that this is a Sky Blues side that can compete with the best in this division.

Energetic in the press and swift in possession, Coventry City made it difficult for a good Queens Park Rangers side to build any kind of momentum in this game. From the move that played Jamie Allen clean through early on, to some of the one-touch passing sequences throughout the game, this was a Sky Blues side playing with verve, belief and quality, just like they did earlier in the campaign.

It is frustrating to have dominated a game in just about every area and to have lost, but this was a performance that showed that Coventry City are on the right tracks, that the early season form wasn’t a flash in the pan, that this team can make progress over time. Especially when compared to recent defeats at the CBS Arena – e.g. against Millwall and West Bromwich Albion – this was a display from a team that looked to be over a mid-season bump in the road and ready to look up the table again.

Nonetheless, translating performances into points tends to maintain those strong performances, rather than playing well in and of itself. With further tough games on the horizon, the risk is that the Sky Blues will drift into a position from where there will be little left to play for by the time that more presentable fixtures arise. Winning this game would have been a significant shot in the arm to the team’s hopes this season, that they haven’t makes it especially important in upcoming games to win points as well as replicate this standard of performance.

Jordan Shipley Back In Vogue

With Matt Godden injured for the next few weeks, it has put the spotlight on how goal-shy the rest of this Coventry City is currently. The front three deployed here of Jamie Allen, Callum O’Hare and Viktor Gyokeres have not registered a goal between them in nine games now, while no-one else in midfield or defence has more than one goal to their name over that period.

Having looked all-but certain to leave last week, those issues with goalscoring may put Jordan Shipley back in vogue – lasting longer than the current need to fill a void in the team at left wing-back. The academy player’s goal was a fantastic strike, but it was the willingness to take on such an effort that goes some way to underlining Shipley’s potential usefulness as an option to help address the lack of goals throughout this team.

While last season showed that there are technical limitations to Jordan Shipley’s game that made it difficult for him to make much of an impact on games at this level, he has retained an ability to step up with important contributions regardless of his overall performance level. It goes some way to explaining why Shipley has filled in at left wing-back relatively well over these past two games, he is someone who can brush-off moments of imperfection and focuses on making an impact.

Jamie Allen’s re-emergence this season has blocked Jordan Shipley’s opportunities, but it also demonstrates how the player can play a role over the remainder of the campaign. The overall technical level, and confidence, of this team has improved, meaning that less able, but hard-working, players are in better positions to make impacts in games. Ideally, the club would be able to bring in players of a better calibre than Jamie Allen and Jordan Shipley, but the financial reality is such that getting the best out of them is a better use of resources than leaving them on the side.

Whether it’s at left wing-back or a more natural position for Jordan Shipley, his desire to get shots away and impact games could prove to be invaluable for this Coventry City side at this moment in time.

The Ball In Behind

As was seen in the defeat against West Bromwich Albion in December, it was again apparent here that this Coventry City team has an Achilles’ Heel against balls played in behind the back three. From early on, Queens Park Rangers continually looked to utilise the pacey Andre Gray as the spring in that particular trap, resulting in the first goal, as well as a few other chances that the away side mustered in the first-half.

With a rather slow collection of central defenders, with the slowest, Kyle McFadzean, one of the team’s most important players, it is a difficult issue to resolve without completely hampering the rest of the side. One of this Coventry City side’s greatest strength is its energy and organisation in the press, which would not be possible if the defensive line dropped deeper to avoid being caught out for pace.

Furthermore, this isn’t really a team that can sit deep and soak up pressure. Only Kyle McFadzean looks comfortable defending crosses, the wing-backs aren’t the strongest in defensive situations, while the two in central midfield can be dragged out of position when the team attempts to defend deep. On both an attacking and defensive level, it would be a foolish idea to solve the issue with balls in behind by dropping deep to limit the space that could be exploited.

What is the solution? The answer is to continue doing what the team is doing, but better. The more intense the press, the more difficult it is for opponents to get to that back-line, let alone get in behind it. There were multiple examples in this game of Coventry City forcing Queens Park Rangers to aimlessly boot the ball out of play because the pressing had left them with no options and little time on the ball. It was when that intensity dropped that allowed a good QPR team the two openings that they required to win the game.

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