Saturday turned out to be yet another frustrating afternoon for Coventry City supporters as Mowbray’s side imploded to throw away what looked a certain victory. Over 1500 made the trip to the County Ground and they were delighted after 80 minutes. That feeling suddenly turned to despair, however, at the full-time whistle.
The home side went in to the game on the back of five successive home defeats so on paper it looked a foregone conclusion that the Sky Blues would win. City put in a lacklustre performance though, and a draw was probably a fair result, although the way in which they allowed Swindon back in to the game made it feel like a defeat.
Swindon kicked off to get the game rolling and it was clear to see immediately that keeping possession was their priority. Despite their early control of the ball, it was Coventry who had the first effort of the afternoon as Adam Armstrong fired a strike harmlessly off target on 5 minutes.
The Sky Blues began to have more influence on the game following this chance and another soon followed just a minute later. A returning John Fleck marauded forward with the ball before playing a perfectly timed pass to Joe Cole. The loanee then got a shot away but the covering defender got across to put in a superb block.
Coventry continued to enjoy more possession, but Swindon looked comfortable in defending any danger. The final ball was lacking for the Sky Blues and the home side were preying on any loose balls. This was evident when Romain Vincelot was disposessed strongly on 17 minutes and Jordan Turnbull broke to force Reice Charles-Cook in to a low save.
Up the other end, just 5 minutes later and it was a glimpse of quality from Joe Cole to skip past his marker which caused problems for Swindon. That manoeuvre allowed him to create some space to find Jim O’Brien and the Scottish midfielder shaped an effort which went a few yards over the bar from range.
This proved to be one of very few Coventry first half attempts and Swindon soon settled back in to the rhythm of the game with some neat passing play. On 28 minutes Ben Gladwin struck a shot straight at Charles-Cook after a sloppy O’Brien pass gifted him the ball. The same player then let fly from a distant free kick with 33 minutes played, but the Coventry keeper handled at the second attempt on a greasy surface.
The final 5 minutes of the opening period proved to be more positive by both outfits but neither couldn’t make their pressure pay. With 40 minutes played an exquisite Vincelot pass picked out Armstrong but he was unable to find an advancing O’Brien who was in a great position on the edge of the box. Ben Gladwin then fired at Charles-Cook again up the other end before Cole was inches away from handing Coventry a lead in stoppage time, his effort was cleared off the line by Bradley Barry.
After a lifeless first half, the second got underway in an exciting manner as the Sky Blues played their way forward. Armstrong played an initial pass that was cut out but he regained possession before laying off to Ryan Kent, the Liverpool youngster couldn’t keep his shot down, though. On 48 minutes Swindon then attacked themselves via Henrik Ojaama and his cross from the right found Nicky Ajose who failed to contact cleanly with the ball.
In terms of entertainment, it was available in small amounts as both sides failed to stand out. On 62 minutes, however, both sides had a chance to take the lead as Jacob Murphy saw his powerful drive blocked for Coventry before Gladwin blazed over on the counter for the home side.
A goal did come soon after to spark some life in to affairs and it fell to the away side. The Sky Blues broke through O’Brien, after soaking up a period of Swindon pressure, his accurate pass then found Chris Stokes on the overlap and his cross caused havoc. Lawrence Vigouroux flapped the ball in to Vincelot’s path and the midfielder was on hand to fire home and hand City a lead.
Confidence seemed to rise within the Coventry ranks and they pressed forward again on 68 minutes with Ruben Lameiras who went down in the area after a flailing Swindon arm caught him. Appeals were dismissed, however. Just 5 minutes later and it could have been 2-0 as O’Brien played a pinpoint pass to Murphy, the winger then turned his marker inside-out before getting a strike away which Vigouroux saved at his near post.
As the pace of the game increased with Swindon looking for a route back in the tie, the away side exploited the newly available space and they won a penalty on 80 minutes after a rapid counter-attack. Murphy drove in to the area and turned Barry who brought him down, substitute Marcus Tudgay then saw his initial spot-kick saved but he reacted first to tap in the rebound.
The final 10 minutes proved to be very eventful and Coventry gave Swindon a route back into the game on 85 minutes as Charles-Cook’s long throw handed the home side possession. A forward pass then found Gladwin and he used good feet to skip through the away defence before firing in to the roof of the net.
As the home fans roared their side on, the Sky Blues began to feel the pressure and their defence subsequently dropped deeper in order to retain the lead. A chunk of added time was signalled by the fourth official and Swindon broke the travelling fans’ hearts late on as Ajose dispatched a penalty after a handall from Aaron Phillips. Further pressure was piled on following the equaliser but the referee’s whistle blew to close proceedings at 2-2.
Wow. Giving up a commanding position with only 7 minutes to play is criminal and inexcusable. Before I start dissecting that final passage that ultimately cost us a victory, the below-par performance prior to that point needs commenting on too.
The biggest annoyance for me is that we gave Swindon too much respect, we made a bottom four side look like Barcelona at times. Granted, they didn’t create too many goal scoring opportunities, but they were allowed far too much time on the ball as we sat off and watched them knock it around.
For a side that had lost 7 of their last 8 games previous, the Robins did look confident on the ball, but we allowed this to be the case. When in possession ourselves we did play some tidy football, however, both teams found it hard to create any chances in what was a dull affair despite the scoreline.
The fact we were playing a sole striker left Adam Armstrong isolated and chances were limited as a result. We should have pressed a shaky Swindon defence high from the outset as I still believe an early goal would have resulted in a completely different game, they would have crumbled.
On some of the rare occasions where we did look threatening, we did manage to split their back line relatively easily. Looking at the first goal, a bit of positivity from Jim O’Brien and a superb Chris Stokes cross led to a goal. Simple. This proved that breaking down the home side’s defence isn’t a difficult task, we just weren’t positive enough in forward areas.
When we scored the second goal I was stood in disbelief as to how we were leading by a margin of two. I turned round and said to my mate that “it’s a sign of a good team to be winning despite not being at our best” – but what happened next was shockingly poor, 7 minutes is a long time in football and it proved to be just that.
The first goal was schoolboy stuff. Reice Charles-Cook’s decision to distribute quickly backfired as Swindon stole possession and broke forward. The way in which we then allowed Ben Gladwin to waltz in to the area was horrendous and he took his finish extremely well but it was a gift. City looked nervous after conceding and a second goal was scored after a penalty was given as we failed to deal with a cross. We certainly missed Reda Johnson’s presence.
We need to stop going away and allowing home teams to dictate proceedings. There’s no doubting that we are a very good side but we’ve got to take our home performances with us on the road. I’m delighted that we are still 4th in the league but that was a real chance to create a gap between the sides below us. Hopefully a few harsh truths have hit home and we learn from this result, we’ve got to win games like that.
Roll on Peterborough, a response is needed.
Reice Charles-Cook – 6
Chris Stokes – 7
Aaron Martin – 7
Sam Ricketts – 7
Aaron Phillips – 6
John Fleck – 6
Romain Vincelot – 7
Jim O’Brien – 6
Joe Cole – 6
Ryan Kent – 5
Adam Armstrong – 5
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Phillips, Martin, Ricketts, Stokes, Vincelot, Fleck, O’Brien, Cole (Lameiras 45), Kent (Murphy 59), Armstrong (Tudgay 76).
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Morris, Harries, Fortune.
Swindon Town: Vigouroux, Barry, Branco, El-Abd, Turnbull, Rodgers, Kasim (C), Gladwin, Ojamaa (Robert 63), Ajose, Brophy (Obika 63).
Unused Substitutes: Belford, Ormonde-Ottewill, Traore, Balmy, Hylton.