Coventry City eventually came away from a home encounter with a rock-bottom Barnsley side with the win thanks to a late goal from Dominic Hyam.
In a game of little quality between one team, in Coventry City, that couldn’t score, and another, in Barnsley, that had little ambition to, it appeared that the dynamic would suit the away side. The Sky Blues plugged away throughout the 90 minutes with little conviction that they would actually find an eventual breakthrough.
Yet, a late spell of pressure eventually saw the ball to fall to centre-back, Dominic Hyam, who fired past the opposing goalkeeper with a level of composure that was far beyond what had been witnessed from Coventry City’s attacking players.
That One Extra Pass
This was a performance from Coventry City that epitomised the issues that the team has faced in front of goal for much of the season. Racking up 19 shots over the 90 minutes would suggest it was a dominant, free-flowing performance, but it was only until Dominic Hyam’s late goal that the Sky Blues genuinely looked like scoring.
The issues began at the back for Coventry City. Too often, the centre-backs exchanged passes between one another when they could have played the ball into midfield or the wing-backs. That meant Barnsley could stay compact in their defensive shape and close the Sky Blues down when that forward pass was finally played.
In midfield, an uncharacteristically sloppy performance from Ben Sheaf robbed the team of the ability to open up the pitch and stretch the opposition. As much as Gustavo Hamer was a key miss for the team in this regard, Sheaf has shown he has the technical quality in order to play the conductor role in midfield. With the former Arsenal youngster enduring an off-day, which it meant that Coventry City had to add another pass or two in their build-up to get up the pitch.
That slow process of turning defence into attack meant that Barnsley were rarely moved out of their defensive shape. When Coventry City players were looking to play crosses into the box, their targets were well-marshalled by opposing white shirts, meaning that chances to cross were passed up in favour or extra moments of interchange around the penalty area, waiting for that perfect chance.
Confidence, tiredness and the pitch can all be pointed towards as excuses for the manner of the performance in this game, and it wouldn’t be entirely unfair to do so. However, if Coventry City are to launch an assault on the top six off the back of this result, playing quicker, more decisive football is a must.
A Bad Day For The Front Two
Exacerbating the issue of creating clear-cut chances in this game was the simple fact that both Viktor Gyokeres and Martyn Waghorn fluffed all of the big opportunities that fell their way. Gyokeres was played clean through on goal three times and failed to score, while Waghorn had two decent openings where he failed to connect cleanly with the ball.
For Viktor Gyokeres, while fatigue has to be considered a key factor in this performance, his decision-making when it comes to shooting remains an area of improvement. The Swede’s goal tally this season should not be sniffed at, but his record probably reflects his ability to get into scoring positions, rather than his finishing technique. For each of the occasions in this game when he was clean through on goal, the timing and power in his shot was lacking, failing to give Brad Collins in the Barnsley goal much trouble in making the save.
For Martyn Waghorn, it is now just one goal in 16 appearances since he has joined the club. While the majority of those appearances have come from the bench and he wasn’t someone who was necessarily brought in as an out-and-out goalscorer, more was expected from a striker who was a very expensive signing just a few years ago at his previous club. Waghorn is going to need to produce much better soon, otherwise considerations will have to be made as to his value as a member of the squad.
In a game like this, where the rest of the team is struggling to get going, this is where good, or even reasonable, strikers can be invaluable. Just one of the five big chances that either player had going in could have set up a much more comfortable win for Coventry City. With the team struggling with the congested fixture list, that would have provided the opportunity to expend less energy over the course of the 90 minutes in order to keep something in store for next week’s games.
The New Golden Kid
Given those issues in attack, it is little wonder that under-23 striker, Fabio Tavares, has been much talked about among the Coventry City fanbase as a potential solution. It is something that seems to happen every two or three years at this football club, that a youth-team striker becomes seen as a catch-all solution to the team’s problems, with the hysteria around that player growing until they actually get that opportunity.
From Shaun Jeffers, to Bassala Sambou, to Jordan Ponticelli, to David Bremang, Fabio Tavares is the latest in this grand tradition of building a young striker up until the point that they get on the pitch. It is no coincidence that it is almost always a striker that comes in for this treatment. The vast majority of Coventry City fans don’t watch under-23 games, thus they only really have knowledge of which players score the goals. If there was a bang in-form defensive midfielder in the under-23 team, almost no-one would know.
That is why Fabio Tavares entered the pitch in this game to a standing ovation, which is a pretty strange situation for a young player making their debut. As for how he played, he had little time to really form an impression of, other than he’s fast and skinny, but it might prove to be a positive for both Tavares and the team that he has made it onto the pitch.
Now, fans have some impression as to what kind of Fabio Tavares can play and maybe why it has taken until this point for him to make his debut. Tavares’ next appearance is unlikely to come with the same fanfare, and the player can focus on properly adapting to Championship football.
If anyone can keep in mind the ultimate career trajectory of Tavares’ predecessors, it may be best to wait until he has had a run in the team before deciding what he is capable of at Coventry City. Placing high expectations on young shoulders is rarely helpful.