Monday night saw the Sky Blues entertain Southend United at the Ricoh Arena and the home side were looking for their third consecutive victory on home soil. Phil Brown’s side were still without a win in League One prior to the game but they would’ve been delighted to leave the Midlands with a share of the spoils.
It was very much a game of two halves from the Sky Blues as a below-par first period was superceeded by a flawless second. Naive defending from City in shipping two quick-fire goals and some superb goalkeeping from Daniel Bentley in the Shrimpers’ goal denied Mowbray’s men a win in the end, but on another day it could have been a different story.
The game got underway under the lights at the Ricoh and a dazzling start saw City attack almost immediately but Daniel Bentley did well in the Southend goal to hold on to Jacob Murphy’s low cross. The away side then had the first attempt of the tie just seconds later as Reda Johnson turned in to trouble, Ryan Leonard couldn’t keep his shot down after being gifted possession however.
With just 8 minutes on the clock some more end-to-end action came about as David Mooney firstly flashed a low ball across the face of the City goal after showing good feet, the Sky Blues then raced away up the other end only to be denied a penalty despite insistent appeals after Murphy was upended in the area.
City seemed to lose a bit of focus following the incident and Phil Brown’s side began to enjoy more of the ball. It was the away side who missed a glorious opportunity to take the lead on 12 minutes as Leonard was left unmarked inside the area, the middle idea couldn’t connect cleanly with his volley however and Lee Burge was grateful to clutch the ball in to his chest.
The relentless pace continued and it was the home side’s turn to come close a few minutes later as they saw three chances pass by in a matter of seconds. An initial Ruben Lameiras strike from long range was well parried by Bentley before Jim O’Brien saw his rebound well blocked. A corner was then whipped in via Lameiras and Reda Johnson headed narrowly wide from the centre of the box.
A calmer period did follow soon after and no real chances were created in a spell of scrappiness. The next chance of the affair fell to the Shrimpers on 32 minutes and it was another one that should have been put away. A free-kick was whipped in from around 30 yards and Noel Hunt nodded the ball across goal in to David Mooney’s path, the striker then somehow managed to fire his effort wide from close range to let the Sky Blues off the hook.
Just a minute after the miss, the away side were punished harshly as Coventry took the lead. A short corner routine allowed Lameiras space to clip a cross in to the area, a few blocks were then made by the Southend defence but the loose ball soon found its way in to the back of the net as Johnson emphatically rifled it in to the corner from just inside the box.
The feeling of euphoria was soon transformed in to dismay for Coventry City supporters as the next 7 minutes saw the visitors score twice to take a lead in to the break. An equaliser came about on 36 minutes as Ben Coker picked out Noel Hunt with a sublime cross and the seasoned striker headed home with an accomplished finish. The second then came from the spot on 40 minutes as Aaron Phillips brought down his man and Mooney stepped up to plant the ball in to the corner despite the best attempts of Burge who got a fingertip to the effort.
The second half started with the away side looking the more confident and they registered the first effort of the half as a corner was headed on target by Glen Rea. The tide soon began to change however and Coventry found a new lease of life which allowed them to win a penalty on 53 minutes after neat interchange, O’Brien failed to convert it though as Bentley telegraphed his run-up before diving low to save.
Missing a chance from 12 yards didn’t hamper the home supports mood however, and as a rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ echoed around the stands, the team began to turn up the heat. The Sky Blues began to knock the ball around with real purpose and only superb defending denied Adam Armstrong a chance on 62 minutes as Chris Stokes’ low cross was diverted away.
As the visitors attempted to break up City’s rhythm through a series of fouls, no real chances were created as a result despite the home side dominating possession. The Sky Blues did continuously venture forward however and they finally managed to break through again on 72 minutes after good passing won them a corner. Murphy whipped in a tempting ball towards the front post and Sam Ricketts got up with a glancing header to score his first goal for the club and level proceedings.
From this moment on it was an absolute onslaught as Mowbray’s group pressed for a winner. Another intricate passing move saw Armstrong release Murphy, the winger then cut inside from the left before forcing Bentley in to another sprawling save on 77 minutes. Just a minute later and the goalkeeper came out on top again as he palmed over Murphy’s effort which was fiercely struck from range.
Southend’s back line continued to stand resolute and organised to deal with the wave of City attacks and they managed to restrict the home side to little clear-cut chances. The best chance to win the game came with the last kick as a pinpoint Murphy cross found Marcus Tudgay, the substitute then drilled a low effort on the half-turn but Bentley responded again to save his side a point by clawing the ball away from the bottom corner.
Initially you may look at the opposition and think ‘we’ve only got a point at home to Southend, what’s going on?’, but let’s put it in to context. Are we unbeaten at home? Yes. Have we now got 10 points from our opening 5 games? Yes. Did we deserve more? Arguably, yes. We were facing a side whose away form is very respectable thus far to say the least, it’s not a bad result at all. We’ve kept a decent run (bar a small blip at the Bescot) going.
I’ll admit, the first half was similar to the one at Walsall where we really struggled to gain a foothold in the game and the two goals we conceded were easily preventable. I thought Reda Johnson had a poor game, he was overcommitting at times and he was caught out of position on numerous occasions. Southend could have had more too and we rode our luck at times but there’s going to be periods like that, we were unlucky ourselves with a few efforts, it’s how you respond though.
I could imagine that Mowbray ripped in to the players during the interval and we saw a reaction. We came out in the second half fighting, determined, with fire in our bellies. It is refreshing to see and it furthers my belief that we have a really tight-knit unit here who battle as a team for the manager and for the supporters. We showed a lot of character, we would have lost that game last season.
The away side had the odd moment but it was largely one-way traffic in the second half and if it wasn’t for a late Bentley wonder-save, we would be sitting in second place with 12 points. A siege on the Southend goal took place and they’ll be relieved to have only conceded a solitary goal in the second period.
I thought the introduction of Marcus Tudgay at half-time had a positive influence as his hold-up play allowed us to feed off him. Adam Armstrong struggled to have any real impact on the game as Southend’s defending forced him to drop deep to receive the ball so it was a move that freed up the on-loan front man again. My man of the match has to be Jacob Murphy though, he was at the heart of every attack and he looked so positive on the ball in dangerous areas and Southend really struggled to deal with him.
On reflection, I think a point a piece is a fair result as both teams had enough chances to in the game. There’s no doubt in my mind that if the game was a few minutes longer we would have scored a decider but it wasn’t to be. There was plenty of positives to pick out again and the football we played at times was superb, it’s whether or not we can sustain this form now.
Roll on Burton!
Lee Burge – 7
Chris Stokes – 7
Reda Johnson – 5
Sam Ricketts – 7
Aaron Phillips – 6
John Fleck – 6
Romain Vincelot – 7
Jim O’Brien – 7
Ruben Lameiras – 6
Jacob Murphy – 8
Adam Armstrong – 7
Marcus Tudgay – 7
Coventry City: Burge, Phillips, Ricketts (C), Johnson, Stokes, Vincelot, Fleck, O’Brien, Lameiras (Tudgay 45), Armstrong, Murphy.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Haynes, Martin, Morris, C. Thomas, G. Thomas.
Southend United: Bentley, White, Coker, Worrall (McLaughlin 75), Timlin, Mooney (Weston 63), Atkinson (Wordsworth 80), Hunt, Leonard, Rea, Barrett.
Unused Substitutes: Prosser, Payne, Smith, Pigott.