Saturday’s fixture against Darren Ferguson’s Doncaster Rovers proved to be a frustrating one for The Sky Blues. The away side were always going to come here searching for a point, but the way in which they gained it was definitely an annoyance for the Coventry supporters.
It was a below-par performance from Mowbray’s men but despite that fact, it looked as if City would extend their lead at the top of the table. However, giving away two gifts allowed Donny to claim a point and they very nearly snatched all three late on. Undoubtedly, a number of home fans will be disappointed but the draw kept their side on top of SkyBet League One.
The game got underway on a cold, wet day at the Ricoh Arena and it was clear from the outset that Doncaster’s aim was to frustrate City. Lining up with five bodies across the defensive line, the home side struggled to create anything meaningful early on. Jim O’Brien and John Fleck did both have efforts blocked in quick succession on 5 minutes following a short corner, but the ball was cleared away from danger.
An even pattern to the game continued and the visitors carved open their first chance on 8 minutes. Patient passing allowed them to switch the ball out to the right wing, Craig Alcock then whipped a cross in towards Nathan Tyson but he headed harmlessly over after good pressure from Ben Turner. City were then foiled themselves by some good defensive play 2 minutes later as Jacob Murphy drilled a low cross into the area. With Adam Armstrong poised to finish, it took some excellent work from Harry Middleton to divert the ball over the bar.
Almost immediately after, Fleck saw another drive veer wide after some neat passing by Ryan Kent and O’Brien. However, on 16 minutes Doncaster went close to opening the scoring, but Reice Charles-Cook pulled off a smart save. A Cameron Stewart corner was tossed in but City managed to head away to the edge of the area, Middleton that struck a sweet half-volley but the keeper stopped the ball from nestling into the top corner.
As both teams attempted to play neat football in terrible conditions, some sloppy passing crept into the game and this meant chances were hard to come by. The next real opening fell to Coventry on 30 minutes, however, and they made it pay to pull themselves in front. Doncaster sat off and The Sky Blues were allowed to knock the ball around at will. It eventually came to O’Brien and quickly popped it of to Sam Ricketts who was in an advanced position, he then incisively slotted the ball through to Adam Armstrong and he expertly stroked an effort into the bottom corner after a wonderful turn.
The home side looked to be brimming with confidence after taking the lead and they began to have more control on proceedings. On 36 minutes a corner was won by City and they almost doubled their lead as Aaron Martin’s header was blocked well following Kent’s delivery. Donny then quickly broke up the other end, Romain Vincelot was on hand though to block brilliantly. Just a minute later, Kent provided the pass again with a perfectly weighted through ball to release Armstrong, his attempted chip then dropped over the bar.
The final 5 minutes of the half didn’t really provide much entertainment, but a couple of final chances were carved out. Another Fleck strike tested Thorsen Stuckmann on 40 minutes before Rovers had a penalty shout turned down on the stroke of half-time. It was Nathan Tyson who went down in the area, but the referee perceived it to be soft and The Sky Blues held on to their 1-0 lead.
Coventry came out for the second half looking to gain a real foothold, and their passing early on was controlled and patient. On 48 minutes they had the chance to extend their lead after some fluent build-up saw Armstrong receive the ball in the box. He then showed good feet to evade a challenge before shaping a pass to Murphy, the winger then smashed his effort into the side netting from a tight angle.
Despite City’s bright start, they were shocked to give away a goal on 51 minutes to allow Doncaster back into the game. A ball dropped from the air and Fleck failed to control the ball, Andy Williams then struck low and Charles-Cook let the ball slip from his grasp allowing Nathan Tyson to tap home from a yard out.
The Sky Blues still had more possession after conceding, but some wayward passing was encouraging Doncaster to lift their game. However, on 57 minutes their was delight amongst the home supporters as Coventry took the lead once more. A superb one-two between O’Brien and Ricketts led to the initial chance that won a corner. Donny managed to hook the ball away but it fell to Fleck who smashed a powerful strike on target, the keeper then made a hash of it to gift City a goal.
Some scrappy passages soon ensued but it was Mowbray’s men who were on the front foot. Armstrong dragged a shot just wide on 65 minutes before he was denied again by some outstanding defending seconds later. Another chance soon followed for a now threatening Coventry side, O’Brien hitting one close with the outside of his boot.
A failure to convert chances then came back to haunt The Sky Blues as Doncaster made it 2-2 against the run of play on 71 minutes. Fleck was at fault again as a lazy flick gifted the ball to Nathan Tyson and he made no mistakes with the finish. The game petered out from this point, with it looking likely to end level.
With 78 minutes played, Kent did bend an effort wide after good play from Ricketts for the hosts. James Coppinger then played a superb ball through to Williams 2 minutes later and Donny had a great chance, he fluffed his lines though to tamely find Charles-Cook’s midriff. Armstrong tried an audacious lob from 40 yards with just minutes remaining, it fell wide though to his frustration. Into stoppage time, Rovers nearly stole three points as Tyson turned cleverly before rattling the bar with the keeper beaten. This proved to be the last real chance of the tie and both teams would have to settle for a point.
The first feeling that sprung into my mind upon the full-time whistle was anger. Giving away two sloppy goals is simply not acceptable. However, after having a bit of time to dwell on the outcome, my mood changed. Of course it’s annoying and it feels like a defeat, but we’re now eleven games unbeaten and we remain at the summit.
In comparison to other displays we’ve witnessed this term, there’s no arguing against the fact that it was a poorer performance than we have been used to. Even so, we’ve managed to pick up another point in our quest for promotion and it could prove to be a vital one come May. Last season we’d be saying that it was a superb showing, and in my opinion, this shows how far we’ve come in a short space of time.
Despite Doncaster’s slow start to the season, they were searching for their fifth win in six games. Their supporters will be delighted travelling back to Yorkshire, but we can look at it positively too. We had a lot of players in our side who weren’t quite at the races, but we still didn’t let a decent footballing side capitalise fully on that.
After the way we defended away to Bradford in midweek, it was unexpected that we’d let the league’s bottom scorers bag two. But again, we will have the odd game where a number of players won’t be in top form. Let’s just be grateful of where we are, and hopefully we can use his result as motivation to go to Bramall Lane on the 13th of December and defeat Sheffield United.
As I’ve said before, this group of players we have now are a talented bunch. We are more of a collective team than we’ve ever been and with Mowbray at the helm, you know we will do everything in our power to right our wrongs. John Fleck and Reice Charles-Cook will be kicking themselves for their mistakes, but they’ll have the rest of the team behind them. Everybody makes mistakes, it’s how we learn from them that will determine our league position at the end of the season.
With two weeks now until our next fixture, we have plenty of time to prepare ourselves correctly and continue our unbeaten run which is the longest since 1967. Another healthy following will be in the away end backing the side, another three points would be magnificent.
Reice Charles-Cook – 6
Chris Stokes – 7
Aaron Martin – 7
Ben Turner – 8
Sam Ricketts – 7
John Fleck – 6
Romain Vincelot – 7
Jim O’Brien – 7
Jacob Murphy – 6
Ryan Kent – 6
Adam Armstrong – 7
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts, Martin, Turner, Stokes, Vincelot, Fleck, Murphy, O’Brien, Kent, Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Phillips, Haynes, Bigirimana, Lameiras, Tudgay, Fortune.
Doncaster Rovers: Stuckmann, Butler, Evina, Alcock, Taylor-Sinclair, Grant, Coppinger, Middleton, Tyson, Williams (Stewart 84), Mattioni (McCullough 23).
Unused Substitutes: Marosi, Forrester, Mackenzie, McKay, Whitehouse.