The Wrap: Preston North End – 0-0

Coventry City fought for a 0-0 draw at Preston North End, with the headline of the game for the Sky Blues being the addition of Jamie Allen to the injury list.

it was the in-form goalscoring midfielder, Allen, who came closest to making this better than a point for Coventry City, as he got on the end of three good chances before his exit at the half-time break. The first was an audacious volley attempt after a sumptuous cross-field pass from Callum Doyle, the second came from a one-on-one that Allen sent straight at the opposing goalkeeper, the third chance being a scuffed shot from a Viktor Gyokeres pull-back.

However, the story of this game overall was Preston North End spurning two great chances in either half to break the deadlock in an otherwise attritional contest. In the first-half, Ched Evans was sent clean through on goal by an excellent chip over the top by Preston’s Daniel Johnson after a corner, which the forward slashed at under little pressure. In the second-half, Liam Delap somehow sent an effort a few yards in front of the goal wide.

In the circumstances, it was a good point for Coventry City.

Starting To Run Out Of Even The Basic Elements Of A Team

With Kasey Palmer having added to an injury list prior to this game that already contained Callum O’Hare, Ben Sheaf, Jonathan Panzo, Fabio Tavares and Liam Kelly, seeing Jamie Allen taken off at half-time, with Mark Robins reporting it to likely to leave the midfielder out for a while, piles on the injury misery for Coventry City. The second-half saw Josh Wilson-Esbrand deployed in what looked to be an uncomfortable midfield role, along with Tyler Walker and Jack Burroughs plucked from the depths of the squad to help the team through the 90 minutes, highlighting how bare-bones the Sky Blues currently are.

It was hardly surprising that Coventry City lacked fluidity and verve for much of this game and it is to the credit of the coaching staff and players that they didn’t buckle and competed ably for the point. While it is frustrating that the Sky Blues couldn’t maintain their momentum after a three-match winning run in this game, it is a result that should be assessed on the available resources, which are increasingly thinning.

In the bigger picture of what this season has been, that Coventry City can even feel disappointed with a result that curbs their play-off ambitions is remarkable. From the pitch and stadium issues, the change in ownership, having to replace an entire player recruitment team just before January, and losing some key players for extended periods of the campaign, being effectively safe before the start of March is already an achievement in and of itself. While it is frustrating to be in a good position only to be held back by a slew of player absences, there really should be no pressure on this Coventry City side to make the play-offs this year.

Kyle McFadzean Exposed

It would be stretch to describe this as a poor defensive performance from Coventry City, but it should certainly be considered a worry that it was errant Preston North End finishing to preserve the clean sheet. Most notably, the manner in which Preston repeatedly got in behind Kyle McFadzean in the first-half looks a potential cause for concern.

The remarkable thing about Kyle McFadzean over the past 18 months has been how he has been able to defy his age, specifically in one-against-one races against theoretically quicker opponents. In this game however, he appeared unable to utilise some of that nous he is accustomed to deploying in those situations, which nearly allowed Preston in on a few occasions as they looked to make use of their strikers making runs off the back of McFadzean.

Perhaps it was because the wing-backs took on more advanced positions out of possession in this game than they ordinarily would. Jake Bidwell and Brooke Norton-Cuffy seemed to be closer to the midfield than the back three for large chunks of the period of the game in which Coventry City didn’t have the ball. The upshot of that being the wider centre-backs had to push forward to cover the space that was now vacant ahead of them, denying Kyle McFadzean the cover he needs to act as the team’s sweeper figure at the back.

Notably, the wing-backs appeared to drop back in the second-half, which prevented Kyle McFadzean being isolated in the same way. Aside from that Liam Delap sitter, the Lilywhites were limited to very little in the closing 45 minutes. With McFadzean in the side, While dropping deeper came at the cost of being unable to sustain attacking pressure, the defensive improvement for Coventry City is an acceptable trade-off right now, especially with Viktor Gyokeres at the other end often capable of making something happen with limited support.

Gustavo Hamer The Driving Force

On a night where nothing was really happening for Coventry City, when not even Viktor Gyokeres could defy the gravity of a dull 0-0 draw, it was Gustavo Hamer that threatened to make things happen for Coventry City. The midfielder had more touches, more passes and more dribbles than any other player on the pitch as he tried to get the Sky Blues going on a difficult evening.

It is Gustavo Hamer’s combination of excellent all-round technique to create space for himself on the pitch, the reading of the game to both win the ball back but spot passes that others wouldn’t consider, and the drive to exert his influence on proceedings that make him so valuable for this Coventry City side. Moments like the breakaway to set up Jamie Allen for a one-on-one, which involved Hamer first winning the ball in his own half, carrying it until he found the perfect opportunity to release the pass, and then getting the weight of the ball right for Allen to steal through on goal, epitomise how enthralling a player Gustavo Hamer can be to watch.

As the clock wore down in this game, it was Hamer that Sky Blues players were turning to in order to make something happen. Whether it was as part of efforts to build from the back, or right on the edge of the opposing penalty area, it is notable just how often Coventry City players look first to check where Gustavo Hamer is before they assess their options on the ball fully.

It takes a special kind of player to want to make things happen in difficult, dour, midweek away games like this one. With so much attention rightly having been paid to Viktor Gyokeres this season for his ability to make something happen out of nothing, it shouldn’t go without note how often Gustavo Hamer attempts to produce similar miracles, just from a deeper position on the pitch.

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