Coventry City’s play-off hopes are not completely over, but, by the time this upcoming game kicks off, the Sky Blues could have little but pride to play for this season. While these final two games could provide Mark Robins with an opportunity to take stock of his squad ahead of the summer, there is a danger that too lax an attitude could see the team finish as low as 16th.
After what has been such a positive campaign, to end it in the same position as last year just wouldn’t feel right. This team has proven on numerous occasions that it possesses the quality to mix it with the best in this division, a vast improvement on a previous campaign where the Sky Blues often looked out of their depth. What better way to make one last statement about this team’s quality than beating a Huddersfield Town side that still has a chance to win automatic promotion?
Although, a win on Friday night for Sheffield United could render this game a dead rubber from a Coventry City perspective, the chances of Mark Robins wildly experimenting with his team is unlikely. The manager has shown that he doesn’t like to hand out appearances to players before they have earned it, and it may well be a point of pride to ensure a higher league finish than last season.
The recent returns of Jake Clarke-Salter, Josh Eccles and Liam Kelly to fitness provide the manager with options he hasn’t had over the past few months. Whether any of that trio come into the side remains to be seen, but it means that Mark Robins has decisions to make in defence and midfield.
After the decision to replace Simon Moore in goal with Ben Wilson last week saw the latter save a last-minute penalty, it looks likely that there will be no change between the sticks until the end of the season. Even if it doesn’t ultimately change the sense that Moore is clearly the better goalkeeper, a run in the side for Wilson may prove useful in keeping the number one in goal on his toes next year.
The most likely change to the starting line-up for this game looks set to be Martyn Waghorn coming into the team. After struggling for form and fitness for much of the campaign, Waghorn has made some useful cameos over the past few games, earning a chance to start one of these final matches. That could be as a swap for Callum O’Hare, who he came on for in the last game, but Jamie Allen is probably the odd one out at the moment when it comes to attacking threat and may be replaced by Waghorn, a striker, in order to address that.
Elsewhere, it will be a case of players coming in or out based on whether there are injuries that have yet to be disclosed, at the time of writing.
Last Time We Met
Coventry City’s trip to Huddersfield Town in December was an example of just why there should be a level of disappointment in the, probable, inability of this team to make the play-offs this season. Against a team that will finish, at worst, in the top six this season, the Sky Blues dominated much of the contest at their home, the John Smith’s Stadium.
However, that familiar issue of not converting dominance into clear-cut chances and goals reared its head, meaning that the one fluent piece of play that Huddersfield Town produced, in working the ball into the path of Danny Ward to finish, saw them take the lead. Coventry City were undeterred by that set-back but found themselves up against a well-drilled defence as the clock ran down in the second-half.
Just when the breakthrough didn’t look likely, a Jodi Jones cross found its way to Matt Godden, who scored a stoppage-time equaliser. It was the least that Coventry City deserved.
The Manager – Carlos Corberan
Looking set for the sack around this time last year, Carlos Corberan has turned things around impressively at Huddersfield Town over the past 12 months. Brought in to enact a stylistic revolution at the John Smith’s Stadium, Corberan’s success this season has been centred around a much more pragmatic approach, with the Terriers attaining the second-highest amount of clean sheets this season and the highest number of goals from set-pieces.
It hasn’t just been a completely defensive approach from Huddersfield Town, Corberan has been willing to mix his game-plan up to suit the opposition, seeing the Terriers play aggressively and attractively when they need to. Blending a squad together out of experienced Football League stagers, academy products and non-league gems, the set of players Huddersfield Town have shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the Championship table, but are because of the brilliance of their manager.
Who To Look Out For?
In what has been an immense team effort for Huddersfield Town, left-back, Harry Toffolo, Levi Colwill at centre-back and Lewis O’Brien in midfield stand-out slightly above the rest as class acts. Toffolo is a really well-rounded full-back in both his defensive and attacking duties, and has stepped up of late with some key goalscoring and creative contributions. Colwill (likely to miss this game though injury) is a teenager on loan from Chelsea that looks set for a long career at the highest level due to the absurd level of composure he plays with in defence. O’Brien combines great energy with a level of class on the ball to make him particularly effective for Huddersfield between both boxes.
Huddersfield Town’s defence, as a unit, has been the cornerstone for them this season. The experienced, Tom Lees, has helped marshal the inexperienced Levi Colwill and Matty Pearson – a player who isn’t really top-end Championship quality – through the campaign. In goal, Lee Nicholls, a player who was second-choice in League One at Milton Keynes Dons last season, has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship this season, with his excellent shot-stopping reflexes a useful last line of defence on the rare occasions the back-line is breached.
In attack, Carlos Corberan has mixed up his options based on the nature of the opposition, making Huddersfield a tough team to pin down. Players like Sorba Thomas, Duane Holmes, Danny Ward , Danel Sinani and, most recently, Jordan Rhodes have enjoyed spells of being the go-to man in attack for the Terriers, which has seen the goals and creativity apportioned nicely across the forward line.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
With Coventry City having conceded the first goal in five of their past six home games, Huddersfield Town are a team that will be more than happy for that trend to continue. An excellent defensive unit, they will be content to invite the Sky Blues on, in the belief that they only need one moment of quality, or a set-piece, at the other end to win the game. With their goalkeeper, Lee Nicholls, the player with the most bookings for timewasting in the Championship, this game has the potential to be incredibly frustrating for Coventry City.
It will be imperative that the Sky Blues’ attacking players play with a level of decisiveness that was missing against West Bromwich Albion. A concern is that Viktor Gyokeres and Callum O’Hare are players who tend to thrive with the space ahead of them that Huddersfield Town’s defence will not present to them. It may be up that Coventry City themselves will have to find a moment of quality or set-piece to edge the game in their favour.
While Mark Robins will have felt justified in his decision to hand Ben Wilson the start in goal last time out, this game is likely to be a bigger test of Wilson’s ability to keep hold of the starting jersey. Huddersfield Town are likely to test Wilson’s command of the area from crosses and set-pieces (something which looked a little wobbly from the Sky Blues keeper last week), in their quest for the goal or two that could decide the contest.