After the high of back-to-back wins, Coventry City hit the low of a resounding home defeat at the hands of Bournemouth.
On top for much of the opening exchanges, a failure to convert that into a lead allowed Bournemouth to punish Coventry City with their first attack of the game. Despite a decent response to falling behind, the away side scored with their next attack to go into the half-time break with a two-goal lead.
A difficult situation became an impossible one shortly after the second-half began, when Bournemouth scored from their third attack of the game. From then on, both teams went through the motions, knowing that there was little danger of the final result being changed.
Too Big A Mountain To Climb
In what has been a season of great comebacks for Coventry City, this was an occasion where the team simply left themselves with too much work to do against a good side. The overarching message from this game from a Sky Blues perspective is that, as great as come-from-behind wins are, teams that score first are generally in the best position to win the game.
The first-half was as close a demonstration as was possible without scoring of what is so good about this Coventry City side. Energetic and inventive, they threatened to overwhelm their vastly more expensive Bournemouth counterparts. This is a team that makes life very difficult for their opponents, while also being capable of moments of genuine quality. This team is still in the play-off hunt for the reason.
Not that there isn’t anything to analyse about the way this game played out, but it is incredibly unlucky to concede from the first attack the opposition had, for that to then happen for the next two is absurdly bad luck. The xG for this game is a 0.76 for Coventry City and 0.88 for Bournemouth, while that doesn’t preclude what happened from happening, it underlines that it was unfortunate that it did.
It also has to be noted that Bournemouth did a pretty good job in managing the game from a leading position. Patient on the ball, maintaining a good shape without it to make it difficult for Coventry City to play through them, they provided the Sky Blues with little hope of turning the game around – especially, after they had added to their lead.
That is always the danger of falling behind in games, it allows the opposition the chance to dictate how the remainder plays out. That is why it Coventry City’s record this season from losing positions is so remarkable. It is not the norm to be able to turn games around so consistently, the aspiration going forward needs to be to not require such comebacks in the first place.
The Defence Buckles, Again
While this game came down to Bournemouth scoring from the handful of chances that they had, the defence has to come in for scrutiny for how they handled the situations that gave the Cherries the win. It is certainly not the first instance this season of the back-line folding when questions have been asked of it.
For the first goal, Todd Kane got skinned by his opponent and then Jamal Lowe was put under little pressure when heading the cross in. For the second, Jake Bidwell overcommitted himself in a challenge, allowing Dominic Solanke in behind, with Dominic Hyam and Michael Rose not reacting quickly enough to close the forward down.
Both were instances of an individual mistake being compounded by further mistakes. It seems to reflect a frail attitude at the back for Coventry City. There is a lack of aggression that can often lead to gaps opening up due to opposition brute force. There is then a lack of composure to then close those gaps.
This was further epitomised for the third and final goal, where Dominic Hyam didn’t challenge strongly enough with Dominic Solanke, which left the defence on the back-foot and unable to react to the Bournemouth forward getting in on goal. This seemed to irk Mark Robins enough to use up a potential attacking substitution to bring on Kyle McFadzean, to restore some order to the defence.
Having recently praised the qualities of Michael Rose, Dominic Hyam and Jake Bidwell as a back three, they have conceded six goals over the past three games. For a team chasing the play-offs, that is way too sloppy. What’s worse is that there doesn’t seem to be a combination of Coventry City’s defenders that can address these defensive issues. While part of that may be down to injury-enforced chopping and changing, it seems to reflect a lost sense of pride to the team’s defending.
To get this far into the season without a preferred defensive line-up suggests this may have to be something that can be addressed with a bigger shake-up over the summer. This is a team that has only been outscored by three others in this division, only seven teams have conceded more. It should be clear where the area for improvement is.
Lacking On The Bench
It has become apparent over the course of the season that Mark Robins only really has 14-15 players whom he trusts to play regular football. The second-half of this game demonstrated the issues that can cause when there are a few injuries and the manager is seeking a change of emphasis from the bench.
The introductions of Martyn Waghorn, Kyle McFadzean and Liam Kelly in the second-half did little to change the course of this game, if anything, they had a detrimental impact on the performance – although, that is hard to separate from the sense that the team knew they were beaten at three goals down. On the face of it, Waghorn was the only outright attacking substitution, with McFadzean brought on as a defensive sticking plaster and Kelly there to get minutes after returning from injury, with none of the players able to get up to the speed of the game.
That is not to blame any of those players for playing particularly poorly, but it reflected the paucity of options available to Mark Robins that he couldn’t source anyone from among the substitutes to add urgency or threat to the Sky Blues’ performance. It speaks to the quality of that core group of 14-15 that they have been able to carry this team this far without genuine strength in depth, but this was an occasion where this was an issue.
It is not a situation that will change between now and the end of the season. If Coventry City are to, somehow, make the play-offs, it will be because the core group will have found the quality within themselves to get into the top six. If not, it is the other key area that should be addressed in the summer.