Coventry City drew with Blackburn Rovers in an exciting, incident-packed game at the Coventry Building Society Arena that didn’t really do much for either side’s hopes of reaching the play-offs this season.
On top for much of the first-half, Coventry City only had the one goal to show for it, and a somewhat fortunate own goal at that. It provided the opportunity for Tony Mowbray in the Blackburn Rovers dug-out to change up what looked to be an out-of-sorts side, leading to an instant response from the second-half kick-off, with Bradley Dack levelling the scores.
Blackburn Rovers’ quality and intensity looked to be too much for the Sky Blues during that period following half-time, but the home side seemed to have eventually weathered the storm. That was until Blackburn managed to score from a corner-kick – which is something they haven’t done much of this season – to seemingly win them the game.
With Blackburn doing all they could to run the clock down, it provided enough of an opening post the allotted six minutes of second-half stoppage time for Coventry City to summon yet another late, late goal. It came from the rarest of sights, a Sky Blues cross in open play, with Fankaty Dabo picking out Viktor Gyokeres to secure what was probably a deserved share of the spoils.
That’s Why You Don’t Timewaste
The overriding emotion following this game was a sense of justice from a Coventry City perspective, following what looked to be pretty egregious timewasting from Blackburn Rovers. Almost as soon as the six minutes of second-half stoppage time had been announced, the away side had a player linger on the floor for around about a minute due to an apparent injury, which continued throughout the remainder of the time added on and had been a consistent theme throughout the preceding 90 minutes.
It is important to note that Blackburn were carry several injuries and knocks heading into the game, with at least some of the stoppages in play down to their players simply cramping up, rather than as an attempt to kill the game. However, there were clearly a few occasions where Blackburn players stayed down in order to gain an advantage – notably, in the first-half, when goalkeeper, Thomas Kaminski, stayed down after being caught on the ball outside his penalty area with Coventry City ready to take a throw-in – which blurred the lines between injury and gamesmanship.
Sky Blues fans shouldn’t be blind to the fact that their own team will partake in timewasting when the need arises. When, as studies show, there is a dissonant relationship between the amount of time the ball is out of play and how much stoppage time is added on, there is clearly an advantage to be gained by maximising the amount of time the ball is not on the pitch.
Despite the fact that timewasting will, in almost all circumstances, reduce the amount of time an opponent has to score, the drawback is that it can take the focus away from actually playing football. Contrast just how threatening Blackburn Rovers were when they were chasing the game early in the second-half with the final minutes of the game. Camped in their own half, praying for the final whistle to blow, there was little pressure on Fankaty Dabo as he picked out Viktor Gyokeres to level the scores.
The Good Coventry City
The first-half was Coventry City home performance close to a par with some of the better displays witnessed by the Sky Blues at the CBS Arena this season. Energetic, front-foot, forcing errors and looking dangerous with every attack, it was excellent to watch and suggested that there would only be one winner of this game..
At the heart of affairs were the front three of Matt Godden, Viktor Gyokeres and Callum O’Hare. The trio made things happen by getting into the faces of their opponents and combining quickly to open up space. While a criticism of this attacking combination is that Matt Godden’s presence in the side can end up requiring a lot from the other two to create his opportunities, Godden’s work and movement off-the-ball meant that Coventry City had a very mobile front-line that was difficult for Blackburn Rovers to contain.
Adding to that danger was the brilliance of Gustavo Hamer, who made himself first to a lot of balls that he looked second-favourite to, before producing some wonderful passes and runs to get his team-mates in dangerous areas. With Jamie Allen playing energetically alongside Hamer, and a dynamic wing-back pairing of Ian Maatsen and Fankaty Dabo, Blackburn didn’t just have to worry about containing the Sky Blues’ attack, there was another line of danger following that up.
There looked to be genuine panic among the Blackburn Rovers’ ranks during the first-half. From hooking long passes out of play, to attempting to grab onto and foul Coventry City players, to, at one point, arguing among themselves, it really looked like they were closing to breaking point. Importantly, it wasn’t a fluke, this is something the Sky Blues have done to a number of teams at the CBS Arena this season.
When this Coventry City side is good, they are capable of breaking their opponents.
Blackburn Rovers deserve credit for turning the game around so quickly after half-time. Not only did the introductions of the dangerous Bradley Dack and Ben Brereton Diaz provide a presence and threat in the final third, but moving the pacey Ryan Nyambe from centre-back to right-back added a directness to their play that proved to be such a sudden move up through the gears as to be almost unstoppable.
The fact, however, that Blackburn Rovers were in a position to turn the game around was because Coventry City did not match the threat they generated – both in the first-half and later on – with clinical, incisive attacking play. For all the energy and ideas, it was, yet again, a case of that final ball being missing. There were so many attacking opportunities for the Sky Blues that fell apart from passes being made with the right intention but just lacking the correct weight to generate a clear-cut chance.
Unable to add to the lead in this game, it exposed an inability to soak up pressure, which has been another issue for the Sky Blues. It is probably because this team chases games more often than they have to manage leads, but that Blackburn could score from their first attack in the second-half, then from a corner later on, once that momentum had fizzled out, reflects a lack of defensive resolve that has seen more than a few leads slip away from Coventry City.
Those issues in both defence and attack are not only why Coventry City did not win a game that they could, and maybe should, have here, but are why this team’s play-off hopes look to have slipped away. There’s an overriding sense of naivety, or a lack of a killer, clinical touch. Too often, this team gets less than it deserves. Top six sides don’t have that quality about them.