The Sky Blues took on Dean Saunders’ Chesterfield on Saturday looking to bounce back from a narrow defeat at Scunthorpe last weekend. On paper the game seemed like a very tough task but despite the slender scoreline, Mowbray’s side looked in full control throughout and picked up a deserved 3 points.
Jim O’Brien and Ryan Kent started the game after the omission of Ruben Lameiras and Marcus Tudgay and both players made a big impact. A solid first half was followed by a enthralling second whereby the home side were dominant and Adam Armstrong’s winner ensured the supporters travelled home in vibrant mood.
Chesterfield got the game underway at the Ricoh Arena and it proved to be an energetic opening few minutes from both sides. The home side were the first to venture forward on 3 minutes though after John Fleck stole the ball in midfield, he then found Adam Armstrong who rolled to Jim O’Brien but the Scotsman failed to keep the ball in play after knocking it around his marker.
More fast-paced football followed but neither goalkeeper was called in to action, this was until 14 minutes however when City went close. O’Brien intercepted another wayward pass from the away side and he rolled a neat pass out to Jacob Murphy on the left flank, he then played a one-two with Chris Stokes before forcing Tommy Lee in to a save from a tight angle.
With around 20 minutes on the clock, Coventry started to settle on the ball and they began to dictate the game at their own pace. The Spireites did have periods on the ball themselves too but they couldn’t find a way past an organised home defence. It was the Sky Blues who looked more threatening in forward areas but they just couldn’t add the finishing touch, this was summed up when Armstrong failed to pick out a man with a pull back inside the area on 22 minutes despite Sky Blue shirts in abundance.
Two further chances were then carved out for the home side on 26 and 28 minutes respectively but both were wasted again. The first came as a result of a sublime Romain Vincelot pass but Armstrong fails to keep his shot down, the second was instigated by the impressive Murphy who teed O’Brien but he shanked an effort way wide as his decision to shoot when crossing looked the better option wasn’t rewarded.
Chesterfield did start to enjoy more possession of the ball soon after as they attempted to disrupt the Sky Blues’ attacking rhythm, this proved impossible however. The lively nature of Ryan Kent was causing the Spireites all kinds of problems and his cross won City a corner on 38 minutes. It was the delivery from the set-piece that saw Fleck go close as he struck a ferocious effort from the edge of the box, Lee got down smartly to parry away to safety.
The final portion of the half was tightly contested but the away side had a couple of opportunities to take a lead in to the break. A defensive error from Murphy gifted Chesterfield possession and despite a Fleck interception, the ball fell to Liam O’Neil but the midfielder blazed over. The final opportunity came from a deep cross from the left wing but Chris Herd’s looping header was tipped over the crossbar from Lee Burge in the home goal.
After a few scrappy exchanges in the early moments of the second period, the first chance was created and it fell to the home side who managed to convert it to take the lead on 48 minutes. The Sky Blues attacked with real pace through Murphy and he showed exquisite feet before finding Armstrong in the area, the striker then controlled impeccably before slotting the ball in to the far corner with real aplomb to end his mini goal-drought.
From this point on the game was one-way traffic and City very nearly doubled their lead with their next attack. Another neat passing move opened up the Chesterfield defence and Murphy tried his luck from 25 yards, the ball bounced just in front of the goalkeeper and he responded admirably to tip the ball behind the far post.
Only a few inches were between a second goal again on 53 minutes too as Fleck’s driving run allowed him to lay the ball to Kent, the on-loan Liverpool youngster could only manage to shape his effort agonisingly wide of the far post. The ball was in the net up the other end just minutes later but Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was flagged for offside after latching on to Sam Morsy’s miscued strike.
As the City back line dropped slightly deeper to preserve the lead, Chesterfield looked for a way through but they were restricted to long range efforts. Gboly Ariyibi did force Burge in to a flying save on 66 minutes and the ‘keeper was on hand again with 69 minutes played to deny Daniel Jones’ who saw his deep free-kick travel towards the corner after evading everybody in the area.
After thwarting the opposition, Burge turned provider on 71 minutes as he punched a cross clear to release Murphy down the left. His unerring ability on the ball dazzled the Chesterfield defenders and he broke in to the box before testing Lee who dropped to his near post to turn the ball behind.
As the away side committed bodies forward, the home defence remained imperishable and this laid the foundations for Mowbray’s men to mount further attacks. Marc-Antione Fortune’s decision not to shoot on 80 minutes denied him a great chance but he did have another 2 minutes later, he couldn’t quite hit the target after showing great strength though.
An eventful final passage saw City go close on a couple of occasions again as Kent saw a goal ruled out for offside whilst Murphy’s deflected effort dropped inches wide of Lee’s far post. No more chances were fashioned and the game ended 1-0, the taste of defeat was made even more bitter for the away side too as Mani Dieseruvwe received a second yellow card for a deliberate handball.
Well, I have to say that that was a very satisfying victory, I’d even argue that it was our best performance of the season. The way in which we controlled the game against a good Chesterfield side was exceptional, the only negative was a lack of goals!
The opening 45 minutes were not quite as controlled as the latter, they were still impressive however and I was very confident at the interval. Our main deficiency last weekend was our lack of creativity in the final third, that was completely resurrected this time around and we looked more like the side we’ve been watching this season.
Every player to a man performed exceptionally today, and as you’ll see by my player ratings, nobody deserved lower than an 8. Defensively we were immense, our organisation was superb and Mowbray got his tactics spot on. He’s built a winning mentality at the club.
Of course, we can highlight the magnificent display of Jacob Murphy and the havoc that Ryan Kent caused the opposition, but the defence deserve a huge amount of credit too. A lot of our fans criticise the likes of Chris Stokes and Aaron Martin but there is no doubt that they were brilliant in this game. A special mention has to go to John Fleck too as his defensive covering was second to none.
We didn’t look like conceding all game and we could have bagged 5 or 6 ourselves, the signs of a good team are protruding further from the surface every week. As the boss says himself though, we have to stay grounded. Optimism is rife though and the mood in the camp is extremely positive, long may it continue.
Lee Burge – 8
Chris Stokes – 8
Reda Johnson – 8
Aaron Martin – 8
Sam Ricketts – 8
John Fleck – 9
Romain Vincelot – 8
Jacob Murphy – 9
Ryan Kent – 8
Jim O’Brien – 8
Adam Armstrong – 8
Marc-Antoine Fortune – 7
Ruben Lameiras – N/A
Coventry City: Burge, Ricketts, Martin, Johnson, Stokes; Vincelot, Fleck; O’Brien (Fortune 75′), Kent, Murphy; Armstrong (Lameiras 84′).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Phillips, Morris, C.Thomas, Tudgay.
Chesterfield: Lee, S Hird (Banks 77′), Jones, C Hird, Morsy, Evatt, Gardner (Ariyibi 41′), Ebanks-Blake, O’Shea, Novak (Dieseruvwe 45′), O’Neil.
Unused Substitutes: Cairns, Raglan, Gnanduillet, Humphreys.