Pre-season got underway on Saturday as the Sky Blues travelled the short distance to Liberty Way to take on a ‘Boro’ side who will be plying their trade in the Conference North this season. Bouyed by a positive week on the signings front, City would be looking to put on a show in front of a strong away following.
It wasn’t quite to be in the end with the game certainly having a sluggish feel to it at times. The first half was by far the more entertaining of the two as the Sky Blues looked to find a breakthrough but Rowley was in fine form in the Nuneaton goal.
With a changed side in the second half that never really got going, City looked cautious in their play and this led to a fairly tedious affair. Both teams kept possession well at times but chances were few and far between. Hey ho, at least we managed to fit 90 minutes in this time without needing to swim out of the ground!
The game got underway at a fairly high pace and Nuneaton looked to get forward straight away with Charlie Dawes breaking towards goal, his touch was heavy however and Charles-Cook claimed easily. City began to grow in to the game from this point though and a delightful Ryan Haynes cross caused havoc on 5 minutes but the ball was eventually cleared.
A tentative nature was easy to see as both sides looked fairly sluggish on the ball as expected this early in to the training schedule. Chances were created few and far between in the opening 10 minutes, but Ruben Lameiras (trialist A) was working hard to chase down lost causes.
Nuneaton did create their first real opportunity on 11 minutes as a cross found Jordan Keane in the area, but he was only able to head over under no pressure. Just a few minutes later and the Sky Blues attacked up the other end only to be denied by a triple save from Shawn Rowley. Tudgay saw his initial effort saved down low, the rebound was then struck on target by Maddison but he was also denied before Lameiras saw the third attempt stopped from a tight angle.
Chances began to be carved out at a lesser rate again soon after but it was the home side who had the next one as a long range strike was saved smartly by Charles-Cook. With 21 minutes on the clock good build up play saw Marcus Tudgay head across goal but nobody could get on the end of his knock down, and the striker headed over himself just a minute later from a James Maddison corner.
A few opportunities came in quick succession for Coventry in the 34th minute but a breakthrough wasn’t made. James Maddison saw his initial effort blocked well before Lameiras looked to bend one in to the corner, Rowley was on hand with a fine save again however. Two corners later and Tudgay had another chance with his head but it dropped over the bar to Boro’s relief.
A final flourish before the break saw City go close a few times more. Jim O’Brien showed good feet before firing in to the side netting with the first of three good opportunities. The second came about on 42 minutes as James Maddison lined up a free-kick on the edge of the area, his effort then dipped over the wall before bouncing out off the underside of the bar. The final effort came on the half-time whistle as O’Brien fired straight down the keeper’s throat after peeling off his marker in the area.
There wasn’t many talking points in the second period as neither team looked to get out of first gear. With 55 minutes on the clock there had been no chances to dissect and I had nearly fallen asleep in the terraces! With the match being a little bit like a game of chess, both teams struggled to work one another out and the majority of the play was scrappy and in the middle of the park.
However, on 66 minutes the first clear-cut chance was carved out and it fell in the way of the Sky Blues. A superb outside foot pass by new man Romain Vincelot picked out George Thomas on the edge of the area, he then rolled the ball to Ivor Lawton who saw his powerful strike stopped down low by Nuneaton’s substitute ‘keeper. He wasn’t needed seconds later though as Roussel Ngankam (trialist B) blazed wildly off target.
The slow tempo continued from this point and both teams just looked happy to keep possession in harmless areas. A long ball was played by Nuneaton on 77 minutes though resulting in Cian Harries and Conor Thomas clattering in to each other as they attempted to defend it, with the latter having to leave the field to be replaced by Ben Stevenson.
After a short delay Nuneaton did create the next chance on 81 minutes following some neat build up play, but it was to no avail as Charlie Dawes shanked his effort nearer to the corner flag than the goal. Danny Swanson then curled an effort wide up the other end with 83 minutes played before Boro’s marquee signing, Marlon Harewood, blazed a free-kick over just seconds later.
One last chance was wasted in the dying embers as Dawes’ attempt at a scissor kick caused Charles-Cook no problems in the City goal. The referee’s full-time whistle sounded almost immediately after though to put an end to proceedings and ensure it would be a stalemate.
Despite some supporters around me showing discontent from the stands, I had no worries from the performance or result. Yes, we probably should be beating a team that compete three divisions below us but there were plenty of positives to take. We looked comfortable in defending our goal during the game and add Reda Johnson to that and we may have a reasonably solid back four at our disposal.
I’m not going to sit here and say we were defensively superb because Nuneaton lacked creativity up top, but we dealt with what was thrown at us. Cian Harries looked very composed in the second half after coming on and he certainly lived up to his reputation of a ball playing defender.
We knocked the ball around swiftly in periods and we created a number of chances that would have, undoubtedly, been tucked away with more match practice. The clean sheet was also very promising as Nuneaton didn’t test us at all, we’re just a little light up top as we all know…
However, we seemed to have the upper hand in the midfield battle during both halves really and one player that pleased me was John Fleck, who operated in a more advanced role where he can, in my opinion, have more effect on the game. Romain Vincelot also looked fairly solid in the defensive midfield berth and his presence there should allow our more creative players extra room to go forward, along with providing the defence with more cover.
Obviously we are struggling in the forward department but we seemed to create enough chances to win the game. Marcus Tudgay failed to convert a few chances that I’m sure he’ll bag during the normal season. James Maddison looked forever promising going forward and he looked a cut above at times, all we need is another quality forward in front of him and we could be looking at a strong squad.
Match Ratings –
First Half XI
Riece Charles-Cook – 6
Aaron Phillips – 7
Jordan Willis – 7
Aaron Martin – 7
Ryan Haynes – 7
Jim O’Brien – 7
Jack Finch – 6
John Fleck – 7.5
Ruben Lameiras – 7.5
James Maddison – 7.5
Marcus Tudgay – 6.5
Second Half XI
Riece Charles-Cook – 6
Devon Kelly-Evans – 6
Cian Harries – 7.5
Sam Ricketts – 7
Chris Stokes – 7
Roussel Ngankam – 6
Conor Thomas – 6.5
Romain Vincelot – 7
Ivor Lawton – 7
Danny Swanson – 7
George Thomas – 6.5