Saturday saw an in-form Blackpool side make the journey south to the Ricoh Arena. With the Seasiders sitting in the lower depths of League One, some were touting this fixture as a certain win for the Sky Blues. It proved to be a frustrating day, however, as the away side managed to leave with a share of the spoils.
Adam Armstrong and Ryan Kent both returned from international duty and the pair were handed starting berths. Despite controlling possession throughout the tie, City were unable to break down a defensive Blackpool unit and it resulted in a fairly tedious affair for the 12,000 spectators.
The game kicked off via Coventry City and they were on the attack almost immediately. John Fleck played a precise volleyed pass towards Ryan Kent and the winger cut inside before finding Marc-Antione Fortune, the striker then rolled his man to create room for a strike which flew narrowly wide of the far post.
From this point onwards, it was clear that Blackpool’s main objective was to defend for a point. Coventry subsequently were allowed the majority of the ball but they faced a difficult task in breaching a resolute defence. On 10 minutes the next chance was created after good work from Chris Stokes released Jacob Murphy, the winger then sprinted in to the box but Colin Doyle reacted quickly to deny him with a low save.
The away side looked to hit City on the counter-attack and they had two chances in relatively quick succession on 15 minutes. Mark Cullen’s speed created the first opportunity as he saw a shot blocked from the edge of the area. It was the striker who went close seconds later too as a low cross found him inside the six-yard box, Stokes was across to cover with a tremendous block, however.
With 18 minutes on the clock, Murphy tested Doyle from range but the keeper responded well with a good save. The next chance fell to the Tangerines, however, Jim McAlister firing narrowly wide of Reice Charles-Cook’s goal. The Coventry stopper was called in to action just a minute later though as Jack Redshaw benefited from a poor Romain Vincelot pass, the forward bringing a smart save out of Charles-Cook.
After a period of uncertainty, the home side began to settle down again and Sam Ricketts headed a Murphy corner over the bar on 30 minutes. The next opening saw the Sky Blues go agonisingly close to taking the lead as John Fleck teed up Stokes who was in an advanced position. The left-back then let fly from 30 yards and only a fingertip save from Doyle stopped the ferocious effort finding the top corner.
A few more chances fell in the way of Mowbray’s side before the break and Fleck and Kent both saw long range strikes go close. The biggest opening came after some tremendous play on 44 minutes though as Fleck, Stokes and Murphy linked up brilliantly. Some great defending denied Fortune in the centre, however, and the striker failed to get enough contact on the ball to divert it on goal.
Blackpool got the second period underway and they looked to attack in a rare adventurous spell. With 46 minutes played Bradd Potts blazed harmlessly over following a flowing move, Redshaw then curled an effort towards the bottom corner from 20 yards but Charles-Cook sprung across to parry the ball to safety.
Following a flurry, the away side retreated to their defensive mindset and City were restricted to efforts from distance. One golden opportunity was carved out on 53 minutes though as a controlled build-up resulted in Fortune holding the ball well in the area. He then rolled the ball out to Kent on the left and his pinpoint cross found Armstrong unmarked in space but the striker uncharacteristically miscued his shot when it looked easier to score.
It was all Coventry at this point but no real chances were carved out, Murphy did drill an effort straight at Doyle on 57 minutes but frustration was starting to grow as Blackpool’s time wasting antics became more frequent. The best chance of the game did fall then away side’s way on 68 minutes though and Cullen should’ve given his side the lead. A long clearance released the striker and he bundled his way between Johnson and Aaron Martin to open up some space, he inexcusably dragged his shot wide though with the goal gaping.
The final 20 minutes proved to be very tedious as the Seasiders’ back line dropped even deeper. Murphy did manage to sting the palms of Doyle on 71 minutes but this was the last time the keeper was tested. Blackpool’s defence managed to see out their task and the referee sounded his whistle for full-time. Coventry supporters were left furious with the officials and to add to the ill-feeling, Johnson picked up a late injury to force the defender off.
The immediate feeling I had following the full-time whistle was certainly frustration, not particularly with our performance, but with Blackpool’s remarkably negative approach. I understand they’re down the bottom of the division but to time waste from the outset is embarrassing – I feel sorry for their fans who made the trip.
Despite my disapproval, they got a point which they’ll be delighted with. In terms of our own display, we weren’t creative enough and incisive enough to crack the two banks of four defenders sitting in front of us. The decision to start Armstrong and Kent will undoubtedly be questioned as neither had a huge effect on the game. The aforementioned looked very fatigued whilst the latter’s final product was off the mark.
If you look for the positives from an action deprived match, we’ve kept another clean sheet and we defended admirably to nullify Mark Cullen’s impact on proceedings. Our home unbeaten run still stands and the fact Blackpool showed us so much respect is credit to how far we’ve come as a team.
Last season, teams were earmarking the Ricoh as an easy hunting ground. It’s been a fortress so far this campaign and the away side celebrating a point like a title win is a sign of the times. We are a good side and other teams know it.
Of course, thousands of City supporters will be left dejected after the result – I urge them not to be. The season will be full of thrills and spills, irritating days will occur but I’m sure they’ll be more joyful scenes over the course of the year. It’s the most exciting group of players we’ve had for years, we have an exceptional manager – those lads deserve our support.
Roll on Rochdale.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Chris Stokes – 8
Reda Johnson – 8
Aaron Martin -8
Sam Ricketts – 8
John Fleck – 8
Romain Vincelot – 6
Jacob Murphy – 7
Ryan Kent – 7
Adam Armstrong – 6
Marc-Antione Fortune – 7
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Martin, Johnson (Phillips 83′), Ricketts, Fleck, Vincelot (Lameiras 68′), Murphy, Kent (Morris 78′), Armstrong, Fortune.
Unused Substitutes: Burge, O’Brien, G.Thomas, Tudgay.
Blackpool: Doyle, Ferguson, McAlister, Robertson, Potts, Cullen, Redshaw (Thomas 63′), Cameron (Osayi-Samuel 79′), Aldred, Boyce, Cubero.
Unused Substitutes: Rivers, Oliver, Herron, Dunne, Letheren.