After last season’s embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Worcester City, the Sky Blues were dumped out of the FA cup at the first hurdle again as Northampton Town triumphed by the same scoreline. A weakened Coventry side failed to cause the away side too many problems and they fell to their first defeat of the 2015/16 season at the Ricoh Arena.
The Cobblers were backed by a large embankment of supporters in the south stand and they certainly played their part. Around 2,500 of them spurred their team on and they’ll be travelling home happy, whereas the City contingent will undoubtedly be disappointed with the result and performance.
After a minute of silence in tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for their country, the game kicked off with much anticipation. The tempo of the game was fairly slow initially as both sides adjusted to each other’s game, but Northampton soon took an early lead.
With just 5 minutes on the clock, a disputable foul was committed by Conor Thomas and The Cobblers had a chance to swing a cross in. Nicky Adams delivered the ball with pace in to the City box, it bounced across the face before ricocheting inadvertently off of Chris Stokes and in to the back of the net.
The intensity of the tie picked up after the home side fell a goal down, and they subsequently ramped up their efforts in order to find a way back to level terms. Following a positive spell of possession, Mowbray’s side did pull themselves level on 10 minutes. Some intricate build-up within the midfield allowed Jacob Murphy to receive the ball in advanced area, he then shifted it out of his feet before unleashing a powerful low strike in to the bottom far corner past the sprawling Adam Smith.
Coventry were now looking the more composed of the two sides as they ventured forward on a number of occasions. The away defence were organised, however, to restrict the Sky Blues. One chance was carved out on 17 minutes after good work from Murphy and Ruben Lameiras allowed John Fleck to take a swing at it, his effort was tame though.
Just a minute later and Northampton got themselves in front against the run of play, and this changed the pattern of the game. A simple cross came in from the right hand side and Marc Richards made no mistakes with a free header from close range as City’s defence we left standing. Question marks were raised over Lee Burge in the Coventry goal, but the defence in front of him defended the cross remarkably poorly.
After taking the lead, The Cobblers looked in full control of affairs and John-Joe O’Toole had a headed chance of his own on 30 minutes, although he couldn’t direct it. The Sky Blues got forward on occasions and a Lameiras cross on 39 minutes seemingly struck a Northampton arm, but the referee waved away the appeals. This proved to be the final talking point of the first half and the referee blew his whistle for half-time soon after.
Coventry started the second half in a more lively fashion and Jim O’Brien saw an effort drop wide from 25 yards on 47 minutes. Another half-chance fell for the home side just 2 minutes later as Murphy’s initial effort was blocked, the loose ball then reached Fleck but the Scottish midfielder fired harmlessly wide of Smith’s goal.
As Northampton’s defence allowed City to keep possession in innocuous areas, the home crowd began to get increasingly frustrated as they failed to test the opposition goalkeeper. Their next opening came about on 63 minutes as Murphy raced down the left wing, he then drove in to the area before falling to the ground under a fairly soft challenge. The referee again waved away the hopeful penalty cries.
City were enjoying large quantities of time on the ball, but an organised and efficient defence blocked their route to goal. A tidy series of passes on 66 minutes meant that the Sky Blues ventured deep in to the opposition territory, but in accordance with the game the move broke down as the decision making let them down.
As the clock ticked on, the home side began to throw more bodies forward. Northampton continued to stifle the Coventry attack and they almost stretched their lead on 80 minutes through a counter-attack. A ball came in from a wide area and O’Toole was thwarted brilliantly by Burge who spread himself well to turn the ball away from danger with his feet.
The final 10 minutes saw City ramp up the pressure, but Murphy’s failure to hit the target on 81 minutes let The Cobblers off the hook. It was his cross that zipped across the face of the box a few minutes later but nobody made contact, summing up the home side’s display.
Two final chances came Coventry’s way but O’Brien couldn’t direct his effort on 89 minutes and Smith sprung across to save a Murphy drive in stoppage time to ensure Northampton would progress in the second round.
It was always going to be a tough test despite the opposition being a League Two outfit. The way in which we failed to create too many meaningful chances was a real worry, however. With the absence of Adam Armstrong, Marc-Antione Fortune was at the tip of our attack and he failed to have any impact on proceedings.
On a number of occasions – particularly in the first period – we would neatly pass our way in to dangerous areas, but once we got the ball in there we were clueless. A combination of wayward passing and strong defending from Northampton made for a frustrating day at the office. I know that we were down to the bare bones, but for me that doesn’t cut it. We had enough quality in that lineup to cause problems, we simply didn’t perform.
As highlighted recently, the defence is failing to do their job and both of the goals we conceded were easily avoidable again. This is what’s frustrating me the most. We are going to have days where we struggle in forward areas, but if we defend sufficiently we still have a chance of winning games. Today epitomised the fact that we need a replacement for Reda as soon as possible. Our defending from crosses was woeful.
Despite the disappointment of losing a game of football which has cost us our place in the best cup competition in England, I’m not too disheartened. We have to move on as a club, the league is now our sole focus and we’ve got to throw everything at winning promotion. As resources go, we aren’t blessed enough to sustain a cup run and it could be a blessing in disguise to go out.
We were never going to win the trophy anyway, although the financial gain would’ve been welcome had we progressed to the latter rounds. Credit has to go to Northampton though, they were a decent outfit and their fans were excellent on the day. I wish them all the best for the future and I hope that their financial issues are resolved sooner rather than later.
The magic of the FA cup may have ended for us this season, but let’s stick together and back this group of players we have. It’s about time we had some success at the club, and now with the only focus being on getting out of League One, we could still be in for a very good season.
Lee Burge – 6
Chris Stokes – 6
Aaron Martin – 6
Sam Ricketts – 6
Aaron Phillips – 5
John Fleck – 7
Conor Thomas – 5
Jim O’Brien – 7
Ruben Lameiras – 6
Jacob Murphy – 8
Marc-Antione Fortune – 5
Ryan Haynes – 6
Bassala Sambou – 6
Lateef Elford-Alliyu – N/A
Coventry City: Burge, Phillips(Haynes 46), Martin, Ricketts, Stokes, Fleck, Thomas (Sambou 58), Lameiras, Murphy, O’Brien, Fortune (Elford-Alliyu 70).
Unused Substitutes: Di Kelly-Evans, Harries, Stevenson.
Northampton Town: Smith, Moloney, Taylor, Diamond, D’ath (Watson68), Richards (Calvert-Lewin 63), Adams (Hoskins 83), Potter, Buchanan, McDonald, O’Toole.
Unused Substitutes: Clarke, Horwood, Lelan,Watson, Hackett.