The Sky Blues made the long journey to Fleetwood Town on Saturday and it proved to be a worthy trip for the masses of away fans crammed into the terraces. The first half wouldn’t have filled many with optimism, but an improved second half (and a huge slice of luck) ensured City claimed all three points, however.
When looking at the stats on paper in regards to the respective sides, you would assume Coventry would enjoy an easy ride – far from it. The home side knocked the ball around well at times despite not creating much. Organisation was also their focal point as they restricted the Sky Blues for long periods. It may have been scrappy at times, but it was a vital win for Mowbray’s men.
The game got underway at a fairly high pace as both sides battled physically to gain control of proceedings. Fleetwood seemed to look more confident on the ball early on, but it was the Sky Blues who had the first effort on 4 minutes, Jim O’Brien cutting inside before firing harmlessly over from 25 yards.
Just a minute later and Pressley’s side were inches away from taking the lead in his first game as manager. Jamie Proctor was allowed too much space, it was his chest downwards that teed up Nick Haughton, but his low effort fell narrowly wide of the far post from a tight angle. With their next move, the Cod Army went close once more as Proctor was at the centre of things again, it was Jimmy Ryan who latched on the loose ball this time around and his fierce half-volley couldn’t quite find the top corner.
The home side were beginning to find some rhythm and on 14 minutes Richard Wood had a chance to open the scoring after Ash Hunter found him with an exquisite cross. His header was wayward from the centre of the box, however, as it dropped the wrong side of the post.
A tentative nature gripped the affair and the game became quite dull as a result. Fleetwood were playing the ball around in harmless areas and City were happy to stand off. The next chance didn’t come about until the 27th minute but it was the away side who created it against the run of play. Jacob Murphy couldn’t turn in Ricketts’ driven cross under pressure though as Chris Maxwell’s fingertips denied him.
The Sky Blues started to grow in confidence after missing that chance and another was carved out on 32 minutes after Ruben Lameiras dispossessed his opposite number. The Portuguese midfielder then found O’Brien who drove towards goal with speed. He then shaped a delicate effort just wide of the post with Maxwell at full stretch in the home goal.
As for the remainder of the period, neither team could register any attempts on target as the game was predominantly played in the middle of the park. Fleetwood continued to look the more promising of the two sides, but they couldn’t convert their possession in to chances.
Steven Pressley’s side came out of the traps rapidly from the restart and Hunter was denied by Charles-Cook who managed to spring across and tip a deflected half-volley around the post. This seemed to be a wake up call for the Sky Blues, however, and they reacted by upping their game.
Technically, Coventry’s squad is up there with the best in the division and they started to show why they’ve gained so many plaudits thus far. They began to play some neat football and they used the wide areas to good effect. The only thing that was missing was the final ball as the delivery was off the mark.
Although Fleetwood were starting to be pushed on to the back foot, they were a post’s width from taking the lead on 53 minutes. It was an Antoni Sarcevic clipped ball that picked out Hunter, City bodies got in the way, however. The resulting deflection diverted his effort on to the woodwork before the danger was cleared.
As Murphy started to improve on the left wing for the Sky Blues, he struck an effort agonisingly close to the top corner on 57 minutes after good work from Chris Stokes. The aforementioned was then involved again on the hour mark as he set up O’Brien who forced Maxwell in to a diving save to his left.
It was a topsy-turvy next 10 minutes and both sides looked promising on the attack, Proctor was allowed to find a way through the City defence too easily on 63 minutes but Charles-Cook was alert again to get down and grasp his low effort. A goalmouth scramble then took place up the other end following some unconvincing goalkeeping from Maxwell, the ball was eventually cleared though with bodies closing in.
Coventry City dominated the following 20 minutes as they looked to drive at a frail Fleetwood defence. Their weaknesses weren’t exploited, however, and the away supporters were growing increasingly frustrated with their side. An inability to create chances nearly cost Mowbray’s men on 80 minutes as David Ball tested Charles-Cook from just inside the area.
As sustained pressure was applied by the Sky Blues, Fleetwood’s defence began to become stretched and Murphy rattled the post on 85 minutes after showing neat feet and Fortune missed the rebound, the offside flag was raised to spare his blushes.
The away supporters were starting to think that it wouldn’t be their side’s day but that all changed on 90 minutes. Murphy played the ball inside to George Thomas, the young Welsh forward then evaded a defender before drilling a low effort on target. Maxwell did get down well to parry the initial strike but it bounced on to the unfortunate Wood’s abdomen before rolling over the line to spark euphoria in the away end as the Sky Blues clinched victory.
We just don’t make light work of it away from home do we? As the game dragged on I was adamant it would peter out as a stalemate. The first period was another disappointing one for the Sky Blues and were inexcusably off the boil. We have to give credit to Fleetwood who knocked the ball around well at times, but we didn’t help ourselves with some uncharacteristally sloppy passes.
Despite possession being edged by the home side in the first 45, City did defend well in front of a confident Reice Charles-Cook who performed admirably again. Chances were limited for both sides and it was no surprise that the score remained 0-0 at the interval.
Whatever Mowbray said to the players in the changing room seemed to spark us in to life and we came out roaring in the second half. Although we applied some sustained periods of pressure on the Fleetwood back line, they quelled the danger competently up until the 70th minute.
It was the final 20 minutes where the Sky Blues really started cooking on gas and Jacob Murphy, who was extremely poor for the majority of the tie, really flew through the gears. He began to inflict all kinds of damage on the opposition and it was just frustrating to see how talented the boy really is, skipping past players easily at this level. He just doesn’t do it consistently.
Overall, it was a deserved win in my view, we defended professionally and dealt with any danger confidently. We perhaps weren’t on song going forward but we looked increasingly likely to score as the time ticked by – I’d just like to thank Richard Wood for handing us the winner – after all, he scores when he wants. Coincidentally, we bumped in to his Dad in the services on the way back home, it’s safe to say his son was distraught at the uncanny timing.
Reice Charles-Cook – 8
Chris Stokes – 6
Reda Johnson – 7
Aaron Martin – 8
Sam Ricketts – 7
John Fleck – 7
Romain Vincelot – 7
Jacob Murphy – 6
Jim O’Brien – 8
Ruben Lameiras – 6
Marc Antione-Fortune – 7
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Johnson, Martin, Ricketts, Fleck, Vincelot, Murphy (C. Thomas 90), Lameiras (G.Thomas 77), O’Brien (Tudgay 83), Fortune.
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Elford-Alliyu, Jackson, Phillips.
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, Davis, Bell, Wood, Teixeria, Nirennold (Jonsson 49), Sarcevic, Ryan, Haughton (Grant 58), Proctor, Hunter (Ball 65).
Unused Substitutes: Gogic, Jordan, Sowerby, Matt.