Coventry City did exactly what was needed of them, in dispatching Birmingham City in their final home game of the season, in front of a record crowd, to ensure they remain in an advantageous position in the top six heading into the campaign’s finale.
The Sky Blues scored with their very first attack of the game, with Viktor Gyokeres searing past the Blues’ back-line to cut the ball back for Josh Eccles, who owed his first Coventry City goal to a sizeable deflection off an opposing defender.
The rest of the first-half was something of a nervy affair as Coventry allowed Birmingham onto them somewhat, waiting for opportunities on the counter-attack but perhaps affording slightly too much momentum for their opponents. That ultimately didn’t matter when the Sky Blues went into the break two-up thanks to a fairly harshly awarded handball decision, seeing Viktor Gyokeres score from the spot.
The second-half played out in fairly serene fashion for Coventry City, as Birmingham City laboured to conjure up any threat and the Sky Blues remained dangerous on the break. Viktor Gyokeres was a constant source of threat to the opposing back-line, and should have grabbed himself a deserved goal from open-play, but it wasn’t to be as the home side saw out a comfortable home win.
Perfect Start Sets City Up For Success
It has happened a lot over the past couple of seasons at the CBS Arena that the away time has scored their first shot on goal and then been able to dictate the rest of the game, in the biggest game that Coventry City have played at home for a few years, it was especially sweet that the Sky Blues were able to get off to just that start. Not only that, but it allowed Coventry to play the exact game that they wanted to, focusing on their counter-attacking threat, rather than having to find a way to pass through a potentially thorny opponent.
Coventry City’s focus on the counter-attack meant that they ceded control in favour of their best chance of grabbing further goals. It made for some nervous spells throughout the game, the first-half especially, as the Sky Blues didn’t put a great deal of pressure on Birmingham City on the ball, with the midfield often collapsing into the defence to protect the box rather than prevent the multitude of crosses that the Blues were keen to put in. A better team might have been able to find some quality with the possession in decent areas they were given, but Coventry never seemed that bothered with what Birmingham were trying to do.
It also helped that before the tension at holding a narrow lead in such an important game could ratchet up any further, Coventry City were two up thanks to a penalty converted by Viktor Gyokeres. It made the second-half something of a non-event as the Sky Blues refused to risk anything further and Birmingham City seemed to run out of ideas once they realised they weren’t going to score from crosses into the box. While there remained a worry of what might happen if the Blues found a breakthrough from somewhere, it became less and less likely to happen, with Gyokeres’ running on the break looking set to kill the game off entirely.
While a killer third goal didn’t come, Coventry City simply didn’t need it. They might not have dominated the game, which introduced a modicum of jeopardy to proceedings but they were able to play the exact match that they wanted to. With this team so good on the break, getting that first goal makes games considerably easier.
Gyokeres Steps Up To The Mark
For the last few weeks, Gustavo Hamer has taken up most of the limelight for Coventry City with a series of superlative performances. This game was a reminder of just how important Viktor Gyokeres has been for the Sky Blues and just what he is capable of.
An assist and a goal from a penalty he probably shouldn’t have been allowed to take almost feels scant reward after what was a truly dominant performance from Viktor Gyokeres. The Swede ran the Birmingham City defence ragged, turning unfavourable punts in his general direction into a constant source of threat, always seeming to be a level of skill and strength ahead of his opponents.
It was essential for Coventry City with the way they set up in this game that Viktor Gyokeres put in such a performance, with a large gap between the attack and the rest of the team for much of the game, a lot was being asked of Gyokeres to carry the team’s attacking threat. While he was aided by a pretty diligent performance from Matt Godden alongside him, it was Gyokeres who was the team’s outlet throughout the 90 minutes and it was Gyokeres that was the reason that the team were so dangerous on the break in this game.
Having looked fatigued since the international break, Viktor Gyokeres’ sharpness was especially encouraging. Those lung-bursting runs, that stealthy control in tight areas, that ability to turn nothing into something had been missing with fears growing that maybe opposing defences were starting to get his number by crowding him out and frustrating him with physical treatment. Based on the evidence of this game, Gyokeres appears to have found a new wind behind him and was able to rise above the manhandling in the best possible way – by beating defenders anyway.
This kind of performance underlined why ‘give the ball to Vik’ has so often been Coventry City’s one and only attacking plan for much of this season.
The Remarkable Growth Of Callum Doyle
A player who hasn’t really been given enough credit this season is Callum Doyle. The Manchester City loanee started the campaign as second-choice at left centre-back off the back of an underwhelming end to the previous campaign in League One with Sunderland and has steadily become possibly the most important defensive player in a team on the verge of making the Championship play-offs.
Cut back to the first home game of this season, the raw talent with Callum Doyle was apparent as he stroked the ball around confidently against a dogged Preston North End side and even had the team’s best effort on goal throughout the 90 minutes. However, Doyle’s slight stature always made him look susceptible to being overpowered by opponents and it appeared that he didn’t quite have the positional awareness or timing in the tackle to overcome that.
Flash forward to the final home game of the season, Callum Doyle looks a proper Championship defender – actually, probably a little better than that. He has notably bulked up physically over the course of the campaign, allowing him to hold his own in physical battles, seeing him win challenges in this game by overpowering Birmingham players. Not only that, Doyle has perfected his timing in the tackle, meaning that he, and Jake Bidwell in front of him, can take risks in stepping up on opponents knowing that he has the ability to cover, which saw him keep the Blues’ most dangerous player, Tahith Chong, at bay.
Developing both physically and in his defensive technique means that Callum Doyle’s raw talent can come to the fore even more. Those sweeping switches of the play are less common nowadays, but that ability to glide into midfield and support the team’s creative play has gone some way to addressing Coventry City’s current shortage of creative midfielders.
Playing alongside the leadership figure of Kyle McFadzean and the impressive physical figure of Luke McNally, Callum Doyle is really starting to stand out as someone who has all of the strings to their bow as both a defender and a footballer. Had it not been for an awkward first phase of the campaign, Doyle could well be in the conversation for player of the season.
1 thought on “The Wrap: Birmingham City – 2-0”
Well I enjoyed that, I came over from Southern France for the game, and it was well worth the trip. City obviously played within themselves, thanks to the early goal, with the (dodgyish) penalty the second half was pretty uneventful. Here’s hoping the match up at Middlesbrough is as straightforward – the most boring 0-0 will do for me.
Thanks for your diligent and thoughtful reporting throughout the season, here’s hoping for four more games unbeaten!