The Sky Blues fell to their second defeat of the campaign on Saturday as Mark Robins’ struggling Scunthorpe side came out 1-0 winners in a drab affair. In terms of entertainment value the game was a non-starter, City only mustered a meagre three shots on target throughout the 90 minutes.
Going in to the game you would have only backed one team to come out on top, but the result contradicted the form book. I wasn’t too convinced by Scunthorpe’s display but they did what they had to do to win the game, we’ve got to move on and put it behind us.
With another impressive away following backing them from the stands, Coventry City were immediately under pressure and you began to feel that it wouldn’t be an easy ride from the onset. The home side pressed relentlessly out of possession and attacked with pace when they had it and a corner was won on 2 minutes. Former Coventry man Gary McSheffrey then whipped in a tempting delivery but it was headed over from close range via an attacker.
Following this early chance, the Iron pieced a promising move together again on 5 minutes but Kevin Van Veen could only shank a long range effort wide of the post. Paddy Madden was next to reap havoc down the right wing on 10 minutes and his pace left Chris Stokes floundering as the full-back committed a foul. McSheffrey drilled the resulting free-kick on target from a tight angle and Lee Burge did well to palm the ball away from danger.
A fairly dull period followed this as scrappiness crept in to both team’s play, it was still the home side who posed more of a threat on the ball and their next opportunity was carved out on 20 minutes. It proved to be a short corner routine that unravelled the City back line as they were caught napping and Van Veen smashed the near post after being allowed to roam in to the area unchallenged.
Tony Mowbray’s men continued to concentrate on keeping their shape but their decision not to press in the final third was allowing the home side to dictate proceedings at their pace. Another couple of quick-fire chances fell to McSheffrey on 23 and 26 minutes respectively, the first flashing way wide before the second tested Lee Burge who held on well.
The remainder of the half didn’t produce too much exhilarating football but it was Mark Robins’ side who went the closest to taking the lead. Tom Hopper bundled a Van Veen cross wide on 31 minutes before Jack King was inches away with a glancing header on 40 minutes as Ruben Lameiras headed off the line to Coventry’s relief.
One final chance fell to the Iron with 44 minutes played after good Madden work but Burge got down well to stop Hopper’s header which was heading in to the bottom corner.
The referee’s whistle blew to get the second 45 minutes underway and it started in a similar fashion to the first. It took just a minute for Scunthorpe to create a chance and it came from a quickly taken free-kick which set McSheffrey free down the left, his pinpoint cross then found Hopper and his powerful header flashed inches over the crossbar.
Another few chances came and went for the home side as the Sky Blues struggled to deal with the pace in the opposition ranks. After stealing possession in midfield, Scott Laird embarked on a forward run down the left wing an he drilled a low cross that was begging to be finished, Hoppper couldnt capitalise however and the danger was cleared. Just a minute later and another chance was spurned as great feet from Van Veen allowed him to pick out Jordan Clarke who flashed a half-volley marginally over.
Mowbray reacted to the Sky Blues’ slow start and Ryan Kent was introduced in place of Jacob Murphy who failed to stamp his authority on the game. The Liverpool youngster showed his quality immediately and he changed the game, City began to look dangerous going forward and a much-improved spell subsequently followed.
It was Kent who nearly had a one-on-one opportunity on 57 minutes as an exquisite Tudgay flick allowed him to break free, Scunthorpe’s impressive central defensive pairing soon crowded him out however and the danger was cleared before he could get a shot away.
With an hour on the clock, the away side started to have more control in possession and Scunthorpe began to fall under pressure. The home defence dealt with any danger well however and despite City’s possession, their next chance didn’t come about until 74 minutes. Some solid hold-up play from Marc-Antione Fortune saw him tee Kent but the midfielder could only shape his effort off target.
Despite the away side’s growing promise, it was Scunthorpe who took the lead on 78 minute following a swift counter-attack which won them a throw-in. This was then taken and the ball eventually found Madden umarked on the edge of the area, he then controlled well before firing a low effort in to the far corner past a sprawling Burge.
The remainder of the tie didn’t conjure up any excitement as the Iron were content with keeping possession and frustrating the Sky Blues. One final chance did fall for Coventry however on 87 minutes after Kent found Sam Ricketts on the right flank, his cross then picked out Romain Vincelot but the midfielder couldn’t quite direct his header which fell inches wide of the far post.
A sizeable chunk of additional time was then signalled by the fourth official but it proved to be a tedious finale as Scunthorpe took the ball in to the corner at every opportunity. This denied the away side a chance to equalise and the game petered out before the referee brought an end to proceedings, handing Mark Robins a lifeline and his players a deserved victory.
Well, that certainly wasn’t the performance and result that we were expecting. Prior to the game I had seen an enormous amount of positivity on social media and the majority of our fanbase couldn’t see past a Sky Blues win, including me.
Despite thinking we would gain the full monty, I did say it wouldn’t be an easy tie. In terms of our own performance, it is probably the worst we’ve played as a collective this term. Credit must go to the home side though, I suspect they’d done their homework during the week and it certainly paid dividends.
It was their high press that proved to be our ‘Achilles heel” as we simply couldn’t settle on the ball, particularly in the opening period. It was one-way traffic in the first 45 minutes really and we didn’t look at all threatening. This wasn’t helped by Marcus Tudgay effectively playing as a central midfielder, he was far too distant to Adam Armstrong who was left isolated and deprived of service.
The second half was an improvement but it still wasn’t our best football, the introduction of Ryan Kent changed the game prior to Scunthorpe’s goal and we did have a period where we were started to probe. Just when we looked likely to score, we were hit with the sucker-punch of Madden’s goal and that changed the complexion of the tie.
In regards to their goal, I couldn’t believe how much time and space the striker had in the area. To allow a player of the Irishman’s quality, or any player for that matter, a radius of around 10 metres to work in isn’t a wise move and he made no mistake with the finish. It was frustratingly poor and we have to do better.
Our defending of quickly taken free-kicks and corners was irresponsible too as we didn’t look alert at the back. With little chances falling our way from open play, dead ball situations could have saved us in the attacking sense but our delivery from them was dismal. We had a number of chances to get the ball in to the box but we were wasteful, extremely wasteful.
Overall, it was a poor performance and we have a lot to work on before next weekend’s home encounter with Chesterfield. We have a week on the training ground now to improve and put this game behind us. We will have blips from time to time and I hope that’s what this was, we have enough quality to bounce back and we can’t be downhearted. It has still been a great start and we’ve exceeded expectations thus far, we are 4th in the division. Let’s extend our unbeaten home record next week. It’s how we react to defeat that will shape our season.
Lee Burge – 7
Sam Ricketts – 7
Reda Johnson – 6
Aaron Martin – 6
Chris Stokes – 5
Romain Vincelot – 6
John Fleck – 6
Jacob Murphy – 5
Marcus Tudgay – 6
Ruben Lameiras – 5
Adam Armstong – 5
Ryan Kent – 7
Marc Antoine-Fortune – 6
George Thomas – N/A
Coventry City: Burge; Ricketts, Martin, Johnson, Stokes; Vincelot, Fleck; Lameiras (Fortune 72), Tudgay (G.Thomas 85), Murphy (Kent 55), Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Phillips, C.Thomas, Morris
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Clarke, King, Wallace, Laird, Ness (McAllister 65), Bishop, McSheffrey, van Veen (Syers 67), Madden, Hopper (Henderson 67).
Unused Substitutes: Anyon, Wiseman, Goode, Adelakun.