The curse of the ex-players struck again on Saturday as City’s trip to Gigg Lane was spoilt by a Leon Clarke brace. The Sky Blues had a healthy contingent of supporters behind the goal but they were left frustrated at the conclusion of the game as their side couldn’t salvage a point.
A poor first half from Mowbray’s men allowed the home side to go in to the break with a deserved lead and the Shakers doubled their advantage early in the second half. Despite an energetic final flurry from the away side, Bury rode out a nail-biting period to secure three points with a 2-1 victory.
A scrappy opening few minutes kicked the game off as the ball spent a lot of the time in the air, City were the first to get it down and attack though on 4 minutes as Jacob Murphy saw an effort blocked following a low Adam Armstrong cross. The home side then had an effort of their own just seconds later but Leon Clarke could only drive wide from 20 yards.
The game settled down soon after and both teams started to duel for possession in the centre of the pitch. Chances came at a limited rate until the 15th minute when City were unfortunate not to take the lead. Sam Ricketts headed a Jacob Murphy corner across goal and the ball bounced off Aaron Martin’s thigh at the back post, the ‘keeper then claimed down low as it just wouldn’t sit kindly for Coventry.
From this point the home side looked rejuvenated and they began to gain a foothold in the match. A chance was squandered on 17 minutes but it didn’t matter for the Shakers as they took the lead with their next move. A free-kick was won out wide and Chris Hussey played the ball to Clarke on the edge of the area, the forward then dispatched his effort with aplomb to punish the Sky Blues.
A few nervy moments soon followed for the away side as David Flitcroft’s players rallied in search for a second goal, the City defence stood firm though and they had a chance themselves on 25 minutes. Murphy delivered a tempting cross from a dead ball situation and Reda Johnson got an effort away at the second attempt but he could only volley in to the side netting from close range.
The Sky Blues had another chance of their own on 32 minutes as they broke away through Jim O’Brien, he then played a neat ball to Armstrong but the striker failed to hit the target as he bent an effort just wide of the far post. As for the remainder of the half, it proved to be pretty uneventful apart from a Nathan Cameron header that thundered off the bar from six yards.
Trailing at the interval, City came out at a high pace in the second half and Ryan Kent’s probing run illustrated Mowbray’s intentions to get back in to the game. This task was made doubly difficult however on 50 minutes as a penalty was given to the home side following an innocuous collision between Johnson and Clarke. The latter then stepped up to put away the spot kick and his second of the game to widen the margin.
As City attempted to settle back in the game, Bury sat and allowed the away side possession in harmless areas and a dull period subsequently pursued. Changes were made on the hour and the pendulum soon started to swing in the Sky Blues’ favour.
On 62 minutes City were handed a lifeline as they pulled a goal back to reduce the deficit. A good move lead to a corner and it was from Armstrong’s delivery that Johnson headed emphatically in to the back of the net past a few Bury bodies on the line.
Chances started to come frequently for Coventry as they took the game to the opposition. Fortune saw an effort held by Rob Lainton on 68 minutes before a guilt-edge chance fell to Tudgay with 72 minutes played. Romain Vincelot played the ball to Fortune who provided a great flick to put it on a plate for Tudgay, the striker’s touch was heavy though and the ‘keeper was out quick to deny him from point blank range.
Just 4 minutes later and an equaliser was inches away as a Ricketts cross in to the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ caused alsorts of problems, Joe Riley then managed to put the ball behind but it was agonisingly close for the away supporters who were in disbelief.
It just wasn’t to be and despite Fortune and Fleck both testing Lainton late on, they couldn’t find a breakthrough. The closest the Sky Blues came was via a Ricketts pile driver from 20 yards which cannoned off the bar and over after the defender burst forward with real intent. This summed up proceedings and Clarke nearly secured a hat-trick in to stoppage time but Lee Burge made a smart stop to keep the score at 2-1.
It turned out to be a frustrating day in the suburbs of Manchester as we couldn’t quite earn a point from a below-par performance. Everybody connected with the club knew it would be a difficult test and it was as an organised Bury side who gained the plaudits.
The first half performance was drab, it was nearly as lifeless as the game at Scunthorpe in fact. City didn’t really get out of the traps and the home side were allowed to settle in to the game and have too much control in possession. A few half-chances were created here and there but apart from that, we didn’t look dangerous.
One thing that did frustrate me the most within the game was the way in which we conceded the first goal. A simple free-kick played to the edge was struck in to the top corner by none other than Leon Clarke and I was left astounded. It really was schoolboy defending, a training ground move left us exposed and it’s simply not good enough. If we want to push on in this division we have to defend better from situations like that, we gave the striker far too much room.
Anyway, rant over – now to the positives. Other than the naivity at the back during that goal, we defended quite well against a strong attacking side. The penalty for their second was contentious to say the least as it looked as if Reda was fouled, but it was given and dispatched. What can we do?
Our response to falling further behind was admirable, and we made a real fist of things during the remainder of the game. Marc-Antione Fortune and Marcus Tudgay were introduced on the hour mark and they changed the complexion of the game. An added physical presence allowed our midfielders to play off them and it gave us something to aim at from out wide, an area which was used to ill effect earlier in the game. I believe at least one of them should start next weekend, they provide a different dimension.
The goal that we scored was coming and it was a committed header by Reda but we couldn’t quite force a second. We probed and pressed but it just wasn’t to be in the end, although Bury were fortunate in a number of situations, particularly with refereeing decisions.
In terms of individual performances, Sam Ricketts was superb on the overlap and his delivery was second to none late on. At the other end of the scale, Jim O’Brien wasn’t his usual self and he had a tough time along with Jacob Murphy who went missing throughout to my annoyance.
We go again next week though, there are plenty of positives to take and we know we are a good side. We’re still 4th in the league, let’s continue backing the lads! PUSB
Lee Burge – 7
Sam Ricketts – 8
Aaron Martin – 7
Reda Johnson – 7
Chris Stokes – 6
Romain Vincelot – 7
John Fleck – 7
Jacob Murphy – 5
Jim O’Brien – 5
Ryan Kent – 6
Adam Armstrong – 6
Marc-Antione Fortune – 7
Marcus Tudgay – 7
Coventry City: Burge, Ricketts, Martin, Johnson, Stokes, Vincelot, Fleck, O’Brien (Fortune 60), Kent, Murphy (Tudgay 60), Armstrong.
Unused Substitues: Charles-Cook, C. Thomas, G. Thomas, Phillips, Morris.
Bury: Lainton, Riley, Hussey, P. Clarke, Cameron, Mellis (Rose 69), Jones, Soares, Pugh (Brown 74), Mayor, L. Clarke.
Unused Substitutes: Ruddy, Hope, Dudley, Mohammed, Foulds.