The Sky Sports cameras were present at the Pirelli Stadium on Sunday to capture another Sky Blues victory as Mowbray’s men battled their way to a 2-1 win. It proved to be a tight affair but the away supporters would be leaving with smiles on their faces as Coventry moved up to 2nd in the League One table.
With the way Burton have started life in the third tier I had earmarked this game as a potential ‘banana skin’, and with six absentees from our squad it made the task look even more challenging. Both teams are known for playing an attractive brand of football and the two sets of players didn’t disappoint as they put on a pulsating display in front of a packed crowd.
The game got underway with both banks of supporters in fine voice as they created a magnificent atmosphere, the players didn’t respond initially though as a few wayward passes meant neither side could really enforce theirselves on the tie.
Despite a scrappy start it was Burton who registered the first attempt on 2 minutes, a neat move down the left saw a cross reach Tom Naylor but his diving header failed to trouble Lee Burge who held comfortably.
With 5 minutes on the clock the game began to settle down a little, it was still played at a relatively high pace but both sides looked content with keeping possession. No clear-cut chances were carved out however as the majority of the play was contested in the middle of the field.
The home supporters were delighted on 11 minutes though as some tidy play opened up the City defence and they took the lead. It was another probing move down the right that caused Chris Stokes problems as Mark Duffy dropped the shoulder, the winger then flashed a low cross in to the area and it bounced unfortunately off of Aaron Martin’s shin and in to his own net.
After taking the lead the Brewers pressed high in attempt to get a second but the Sky Blues didn’t look rattled and they remained composed to regain a foothold in the game. The next real chance came for Coventry after good work forced Burton to concede a foul, Lameiras then bent the resulting free-kick narrowly wide from 25 yards.
With the next move the Sky Blues did manage to equalise after some excellent play down the left saw Lameiras find Jacob Murphy inside the area, he then showed great vision to slot the ball to Marcus Tudgay and the reinstated striker made no mistakes with the finish – the away end bursting in to raptures.
Following the score being levelled, the affair really started to open up and it was the home side who began to look more threatening. Despite patient possession from City, Burton started to utilise the width of the pitch brilliantly and Duffy and El Khayati were having a joyful time on either wing, the aforementioned having a real influence on proceedings.
A chance was then passed by via Naylor on 28 minutes as another delivery from Duffy enabled him to head towards goal but he couldn’t direct his effort. The Sky Blues defence were coming under real pressure at this point but Reda Johnson and Aaron Martin were excellent in dealing with any aerial balls.
A period of tranquility soon followed the manic first half an hour as neither goalkeeper was tested in the remainder of the half. Burton did have the better of the latter stages but City defended well and Romain Vincelot nearly sent the Sky Blues in leading at the break but he saw his effort blocked tremendously.
Similarly to the first period, it was the home side who came out of the blocks the fastest and only a perfectly timed Sam Ricketts tackle denied the Brewers an immediate opportunity after the restart. Some scrappy exchanges soon followed but it was Burton who had the first chance on 50 minutes, Stuart Beavon let fly from 30 yards but Burge held on at the second attempt.
Just 3 minutes later and Coventry took the lead to Burton’s dismay as their defence were adamant that it was offside. It was an initial Jacob Murphy corner that caused havoc and Martin prodded the ball towards goal after the winger’s second cross, Vincelot then looked to be in an offside position as he tapped home but after consulting his linesman the referee allowed the goal to stand.
As Burton looked to get back in to the game it soon began to open up again and excite both sets of fans. With his side trailing, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink rallied his troops and Albion began to drive forward. Abdanaseer El Khayati went close on 55 minutes but some superb defending from City again saw his fierce drive diverted away from goal.
The away side then had another chance of their own on 63 minutes as they broke away. A superb John Fleck pass found Lamieras who controlled exquisitely before playing a sly ball to Tudgay, the striker then chipped a cross in towards O’Brien but he couldn’t beat the defender to the ball.
As Burton began to push more consistently, the Sky Blues defensive line dropped deeper and this invited pressure. For all their possession however, the home side couldn’t make it count as a resolute Coventry side stood in their way.
The final 10 minutes proved to be very nervy as the kitchen sink was thrown at Coventry’s goal, the away supporters were desperate for their side to cling on but they didn’t make light work of it. It may not have been such an anxious experience if Tudgay had finished a one-on-one chance with 81 minutes played, his chipped effort dropped just over the bar however as he elected against putting his foot through it.
Another effort from the striker was put over on 84 minutes before a couple of glorious opportunities nearly earned Albion a point. The first came from Lucas Akins as he saw a powerful strike from 20 yards well saved by Burge, the best one was then put wide from six yards as a low cross found Timmy Thiele who somehow poked wide. The referee’s final whistle was blown soon after though to bring a sense of relief and joy over the travelling City supporters.
Well, what a result that is considering we were missing a fair number of bodies. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that prior to the fixture, I couldn’t see us winning. I thought that we would really struggle against a solid Albion side, and at times we did, but we saw great character from our team alongside some quality. That’s a recipe for success.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between for the two sides but when we did have opportunities, we made the most of them. Fair enough, our second did look suspiciously offside but we’ve had a few decisions go against us so far this season, we’ll certainly take it.
Marcus Tudgay had a couple of chances to make it three but he couldn’t quite put them away, despite that, I thought he was superb. He brings another dimension to our team, he holds the ball up well for his size and it allows our other forwards to play off him. He possesses a real footballing brain in my opinion and he has certainly gave Mowbray a decision to make next weekend.
The most pleasing aspect for me today was the way we dealt with pressure. On the way back to the car I said to my mate that that was another game that we would have lost last season. How times have changed. We looked organised, we looked determined and most importantly, we looked united. We showed a different side to our game, we can battle as well as playing pretty football.
Mowbray has brought in certain types of player and it’s paid off thus far, there isn’t one bad egg in our squad. To be successful as a team you need to be just that, a team. Last season we had a lot of individuals who looked to be passengers, this season every player wants to be in the driving seat.
It’s still early days though and there is still plenty of time for things to go wrong (pessimistic, I know), but what we’ve been treated to so far has been extremely encouraging. If our attitude remains how it is now and we continue to play good football, we could be on for a good season.
Roll on Scunthorpe.
Lee Burge – 5
Chris Stokes – 7
Reda Johnson – 8
Aaron Martin – 7
Sam Ricketts – 7
John Fleck – 7
Romain Vincelot – 7
Ruben Lameiras – 6
Jim O’Brien – 6.5
Jacob Murphy – 7.5
Marcus Tudgay – 8
Coventry City: Burge; Ricketts, Martin, Johnson, Stokes; Vincelot, Fleck; Murphy (Haynes 90), Lameiras (Fortune 73), O’Brien, Tudgay (C.Thomas 83).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Harries, Elford-Alliyu, G. Thomas.
Burton Albion: McLaughlin, Edwards, Cansdell-Sheriff, Mousinho (C), Weir (O’Connor 90), Beavon, El-Khayati (Akins 67), Naylor, Thiele, Duffy (Palmer 66), Binnon-Williams.
Unused Substitutes: Matthews, Reilly, Butcher, McCrory.