With the news of Jimmy Hill’s passing leaving the city of Coventry saddened and shocked, supporters would be hoping that Tony Mowbray could orchestrate his side to three points. It turned out to be a disappointing day, however, as the current Sky Blues side dropped another two points to prolong their blip in form.
Oldham Athletic didn’t really look too threatening for the entirety of the match, but they left the Ricoh Arena with their 14th point away from home. Frustration is rife amongst City’s supporters at the moment and their team are now four games without a win.
No sooner than the game got underway, City were on the attack and they went close to opening the scoring with just 30 seconds played. Adam Armstrong intercepted a loose pass from an Oldham player and he raced away, a defender was on hand to divert the ball wide with a solid block, however.
The Sky Blues were dictating play in the early stages and they were stroking the ball around with ease as the away side dropped off. Most of the possession was had in harmless areas, though. It was clear that David Dunn’s side would sit deep in order to restrict Coventry.
As the clock continued to tick on, neither side caused any problems and supporters of both sides fell quiet as a result. The home side still saw more of the football than their opponents, but Oldham began to settle by playing it around in a rather conservative manner. Coventry’s failure to threaten was surprising, Jim O’Brien looked the most likely to cause problems and his incisive pass towards Adam Armstrong very nearly led to a chance on 22 minutes. David Cornell raced off his line expertly to thwart the move, however.
Just 3 minutes later, Coventry were dealt a blow as Ben Turner was forced off through injury. Ryan Haynes was elected to replace him and he made a positive contribution almost immediately, getting in front of Timothee Dieng to deny him a huge opportunity from a Mike Jones corner. City then went close up the other end on 30 minutes as Gael Bigirimana freed Ryan Kent, the latter’s cross flashed across the face and out without a touch.
It took until 37 minutes for the first clear-cut chance to be had and it fell to The Sky Blues. Joe Cole received the ball on the right wing and he immediately shifted the ball inside to O’Brien. He then hustled past his opposite number before forcing Cornell into a relatively routine stop. The last event of note in the first half came about on 42 minutes as the home side strung together a neat move. Good play from Bigirimana and Armstrong allowed Aaron Phillips to get a cross in and it was deflected narrowly wide of the far post.
As supporters returned to their seats for the second half, they were undoubtedly praying for more entertainment. Despite the dull showing in the first 45 minutes, Coventry got off to a flyer to take the lead just 3 minutes after play resumed. The first of two successive Cole corners saw Romain Vincelot denied by a goal line clearance, the second was then floated in deep and Aaron Martin towered above his marker to nod home.
The Latics then looked to respond after falling a goal behind and they suddenly ramped up their efforts to search for an equaliser. They managed to have their first effort on target with 52 minutes played as Jake Cassidy cut inside past Martin. His low strike was then smartly saved by Reice Charles-Cook. David Dunn’s side started to give the travelling fans some hope with increased possession statistics, but City remained in control defensively.
On the hour mark, huge shouts for a penalty from the home section of support were ignored by the referee. It was Kent who was felled after showing quick feet and despite Oldham’s players stopping completely, the officials were unmoved. City’s supporters responded furiously and this incident seemed to spark the game into life for a brief period.
The Liverpool loanee was at the centre of things again on 66 minutes as he bent a low cross towards Stokes. The defender could only prod wide under pressure though. Oldham then shifted the ball forward a minute later and Danny Philliskirk tried his luck from 25 yards. Charles-Cook parried the ball away from danger though to preserve his side’s lead. Up the other end again with the next attack, Romain Vincelot saw an effort from similar distance flash narrowly wide.
Following that topsy-turvy passage, the game returned to its previous pattern of battling in the midfield. No real efforts were to be had apart from the returning James Maddison’s fluffed strike on 76 minutes. Oldham did throw caution to the wind soon after though as they started to press The Sky Blues high, forcing Mowbray’s side to defend. A number of crosses were launched into the home box but they were defended superbly.
With the game into stoppage time it was looking as if Coventry would return to winning ways. Their goal was nearly breached on 92 minutes as Mark Yeates’ cross found Michael Higdon who was left astounded as Charles-Cook acrobatically tipped over. The resulting corner provided Oldham with one last chance and they somehow levelled the scores, Danny Philliskirk flicked the ball into the net past the keeper who was unconvincing in his efforts to stop it. The whistle was then blown shortly after to ensure a share of the spoils and a dejected mood amongst City fans.
It certainly wasn’t a game that will live long in the memory as moments of quality came in low quantity. With Oldham being the latest side to come and park the bus in front of our attack, it turned out to be another test of City’s persistence and attacking qualities.
With the omission of Jacob Murphy and John Fleck from the starting eleven, some of our threat was taken away. However, in Gael Bigirimana and Joe Cole, you’d think that we’d have enough creativity to open up the away back line. It was worrying to see us struggle again in that respect.
Defensively, we weren’t stretched at all. The first period was one of the dullest 45 minutes I have witnessed this season, Oldham showed no intention of getting forward but we didn’t turn the screw. I honestly couldn’t see us scoring, but we managed to from a well taken corner that allowed Aaron Martin to head home.
Upon conceding, The Latics perked up a little bit and they began to come at us more intently. You could clearly see that they’re a side devoid of quality in the attacking areas, however, with makeshift centre back Chris Stokes and Aaron Martin mopping up with ease. You knew that Oldham wouldn’t score unless it was handed to them on a plate, but City managed to serve them up a right treat.
We’ve got to keep our concentration and see out the final stages of games. To stay at the top end of table we have to win matches from such positions, but another poorly defended corner has cost us dearly. The most frustrating aspect for me though was our inability to kill off the game prior to the last few minutes where nerves naturally kick in.
At 1-0 up, we allowed Oldham more of the ball and this is a mistake we often make. We should instead capitalise and use momentum, along with the noise created by circa 15,000 supporters, to push on. I have no doubt that if we managed to grab a second goal, we would be celebrating another victory right now.
Goals have dried up for us and I’m beginning to think that teams have worked us out. Adam Armstrong was given very little room to manoeuvre again and his impact was limited. Chances are also coming at a lesser rate, and if we are to stop this rot then we need to become more threatening again. When we turn it on, goals are guaranteed. It just hasn’t happened of late.
Looking at the positives though, we are still comfortably in the play-off positions and close enough to the top two. Our unbeaten home record is still intact too which is a great achievement. Let’s look at this way, if this is a poor run then we are a bloody good side. We are difficult to beat and it’s refreshing to see us battling at the right end of the table.
We go again on Boxing Day.
Reice Charles-Cook – 6
Chris Stokes – 8
Ben Turner – 7
Aaron Martin – 7
Aaron Phillips – 7
Romain Vincelot – 8
Gael Bigirimana – 6
Joe Cole – 6
Jim O’Brien – 8
Ryan Kent – 6
Adam Armstrong – 6
Ryan Haynes – 7
Marc-Antione Fortune – 6
James Maddison – 6
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Phillips, Martin, Turner (Haynes 26), Stokes, Bigirimana, Vincelot, Kent(Maddison 69), Cole(Fortune 58), O’Brien, Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Di Kelly-Evans, Lameiras, Tudgay.
Oldham Athletic: Cornell, Dieng (Higdon 89), J Wilson, Kelly, Jones, Philliskirk, Cassidy (Poleon 74), Winchester, B Wilson, Eckersley, Wellens (Yeates 74).
Unused Substitutes: Coleman, Mills, Vassell, Fulton.