The Wrap: Nottingham Forest – 0-2

Coventry City slipped to a defeat at Nottingham Forest to effectively end the Sky Blues’ hopes of making the play-offs this season.

In what was largely a promising and competitive performance against a strong side, it was Coventry City’s failure to take their chances that saw them come out with a defeat. The period of play leading to the game’s opening goal epitomised this, with Callum O’Hare spurning an opportunity when passed the ball by Forest’s keeper, which then led to a break from which the opposition scored.

The rest of the game played out in a similar manner, with the Sky Blues carving out some decent openings but lacking the belief to convert them into goals. Nottingham Forest eventually took the opportunity to wrap up the victory when their excellent centre-forward, Keinan Davis, played in James Garner mid-way through the second-half.

What Else Is There To Write About This Team?

I begin yet another edition of The Wrap reflecting on what was really quite a good Coventry City performance, where the team failed to get the result that they deserved. Once again, excellent chances passed the Sky Blues by, along with a number of promising openings and half-openings that went awry due to that final ball. At the other end, a lapse in concentration led to a goal conceded and that was the game gone for Coventry City.

It’s at this point that I would like to thank anyone who has had the patience to read each and every one of these articles throughout the campaign because I understand that it has become rather repetitive as the same issues have continued to plague Coventry City. It is nothing new that Callum O’Hare, Jamie Allen and Viktor Gyokeres aren’t the most clinical in front of goal, it is nothing new that the defence has the occasional mistake in them, and it is nothing new that Mark Robins hasn’t really had the ability to try anything different.

That is why the rest of this article will be less about what happened in this game, because we have seen this same thing happen so often this season, and more about what needs to be done differently to improve, but also what is worth sticking with heading into the next campaign,

What Needs To Change?

The most honest answer to this question is that Coventry City need upgrades in just about every key position to take that next step. Realistically, the club will do well to add one or two who raise the bar of this squad, which puts the onus on the majority of the players already here to find levels of ability that they have yet to show in their time with the Sky Blues.

The core of this team has largely been in place now since the start of the League One promotion-winning season three years ago. There’s been a handful of additions on top of that which have pushed this team to Championship standard, but largely, it is quite clear what this set of players is and isn’t capable of becoming.

If there is one player that epitomises where this Coventry City team is at, it’s Callum O’Hare. He is an excellent footballer with so much going for him, but he has now played over 115 league games for the club and it seems pretty unlikely at this point that he has much improvement left in him. As was apparent in this game, Callum O’Hare’s biggest weakness is not just an inability to score goals but also a lack of composure in the final third, in general.

This is not to single out Callum O’Hare for criticism but he, like the majority this squad, have shown exactly what they are capable of at this level and it seems likely that it will require additions from outside this group to take that next step, whether that’s to replace them or simply to help them out. The issue in this game was less that Callum O’Hare didn’t take his chances, and more that neither Jamie Allen nor Viktor Gyokeres did either. While Matt Godden may have been missed here, he is also a player with his own limitations. That is why something else is needed to support and freshen up that dynamic in attack.

Similar things could be written about the defence. Simon Moore, Dominic Hyam, Kyle McFadzean, Michael Rose and Jake Clarke-Salter have shown they are perfectly reliable performers at Championship level, but there continues to be a hint of sloppiness at the back. Maybe it won’t take a load of new players to improve that, but, as in attack, maybe a fresh voice or two in that area would help add a level of focus that appears to be missing.

What Should Be Kept The Same?

For all the talk about how this team is overachieving relative to its budget, this game showed that this Coventry City side isn’t a million miles away from genuinely being capable of challenging for the top six. Maybe taking that next step will take greater resources than are available to Mark Robins, but the start to this season was no fluke and it may not take a great deal of improvement to parlay that good start into a good campaign.

What is so impressive about this Coventry City team is its energy and determination. Despite going behind and missing some big chances in this game, the players never let their level of effort drop below 100%. That is not something that should be taken for granted and speaks well to the manner in which Mark Robins and his staff have assembled and coached this set of players.

That’s why it isn’t a simple case of trying to replace as many of the current players with better ones. There is a reason why Mark Robins has stuck with the majority of this squad for so long (financial imperative aside) and that’s because so many of these players believe in what he is telling them to do and will persevere with it even when their efforts go unrewarded.

Onto the goalscoring issue, it would be remiss not to mention that Coventry City have had the rarest of things this season, two strikers achieving double-figures for goals. While it would be nice to see players from the rest of the squad, beyond, step up more reliably with their own contributions, building around Viktor Gyokeres and Matt Godden’s goals is a great place to start next season from.

While there has to be caution – given financial forces, as well as the vagaries of how football works – in believing that a decent showing this season can precede something better next year, what this campaign has showed is that good work is being done at Coventry City by Mark Robins and it may not take much more to turn that into something more memorable. With a good signing here and there, a few current players taking steps forward in their development, and maybe even a tactical tweak or two, disappointing results like this one could well be replaced by those of the ilk of that recent win over Sheffield United.

What happens between now and the end of the season does not really matter. What happens between the end of the season and the start of the next one could well be the start of something special.

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