Monday saw The Sky Blues travel north to the Proact Stadium where a lowly Chesterfield side awaited them. It was the final fixture of 2015 for both sides, and it certainly provided plenty of action and talking points. The noise created by the home and away crowd also added greatly to the affair, this passion was portrayed down on the pitch also.
A variety of emotions were experienced, ranging from frustration and despair to extreme euphoria as Tony Mowbray’s side searched for a positive result. It didn’t turn out to be the dream ending to a dramatic footballing year, but The Sky Blues did pick up a point in fitting fashion. Chesterfield will certainly be happy with a share of the spoils, although the travelling team would have felt undoubtedly aggrieved.
The referee’s whistle initiated proceedings and the game got underway with a veciforous atmosphere verberating around the stadium. Both sides tussled in midfield during the opening 5 minutes in attempt to gain a foothold. It was then The Sky Blues who carved out the first opportunity on 6 minutes as Marc-Antione Fortune linked up efficiently with Jim O’Brien, but the Scottish midfielder’s attempt didn’t trouble Tommy Lee in the home goal.
Coventry then began to get into their stride and they created another opening just seconds after. Fortune found James Maddison who attacked the ball at the edge of the box but he fluffed the contact with the ball, causing it to trickle harmlessly away from danger. Patient passing seemed to be the plan for Tony Mowbray’s side, but despite their superior possession of the football, Chesterfield looked comfortable in coping.
On 15 minutes, O’Brien had the next effort on goal but his ambitious strike rose way clear of the crossbar. The home side then started an attack from the resulting goal kick, winning a corner as Chris Stokes got in front of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake to quell the danger and put it behind for a corner. Jay O’Shea whipped the dead ball across the face but nobody attacked it to let City off the hook.
Just 3 minutes later, Coventry won a corner of their own and it led to the clearest chance of the half. Ryan Kent drilled the ball towards the front post and Sam Ricketts met it with a header that rustled the side netting. The game soon turned into a scrappy affair, however, as the quality was lacking from both outfits. Coventry continued to enjoy more possession of the ball, but chances came few and far between.
With 32 minutes on the clock, Sam Morsy rifled an effort way off target but this seemed to spark The Spireites into life briefly. Danny Wilson’s side then took the lead against the overall pattern of play, and it proved to be a set piece that was City’s Achilles’ heel again. Chris Stokes gave away the foul after the referee adjudged a tussle with Ebanks-Blake as an offence. O’Shea then delivered the ball from an appealing angle and substitute Lee Novak poweully flicked the ball into the corner via his head.
The final minutes of the first half were fairly lifeless as both teams handed each other possession on a number of occasions. One final chance was to be had late on, however, but John Fleck’s ambitious 30 yard strike was tipped over well by Lee who reacted well to the ball’s ferocious movement in the air.
A lively start was to be had in the second period as Coventry came out of the traps in search of an equaliser. O’Brien and Maddison were combining well in the opposition half and they were stretching Chesterfield’s back line. On 50 minutes, the pair linked up to allow the latter to turn his way into the area. The Spireites’ defence closed him quickly though to deny him a shooting opportunity.
The sea of Sky Blues’ supporters responded to their side’s positive start, but the home defence remained organised. With 57 minutes played, great work by Maddison freed Kent down the right but his cross towards Fortune was expertly dealt with by Sam Hird who hooked the ball away.
It was backs-to-the-wall defending now for the home side and Mowbray’s men really began to peg them back. With just over an hour on the clock, Maddison was at the centre of things again as he curled an effort narrowly wide following Ricketts’ through ball. Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong were introduced soon after to add extra pace to the forward line, and they had an immediate impact as they worked together to form a chance with Armstrong flashed just wide.
Some more last ditch defending denied The Sky Blues on 69 minutes as O’Brien, Armstrong and Ryan Haynes showed neat interchange to get the ball into a crossing posotion. It was Aaron Phillips who delivered the ball which was diverted into Ryan Haynes’ path, his volley was then headed off the line from Chris Herd. Action ensued up the other end just minutes later as Fleck’s loose pass gifted Chesterfield a chance to double their advantage. Gboly Ariyibi pounced on the wayward ball before squaring to Ebanks-Blake who clipped the bar with his strike.
City threw bodies forward as the game approached its latter stages and this caused the game to open up a little. Stokes headed just over for the visitors after a Maddison corner before Ebanks-Blake went agonisingly close with a strike that was blocked desperately on the line. One moment that did spur The Sky Blues on came about on 80 minutes as Mowbray was sent down the tunnel after complaining furiously to the referee about a number of questionable decisions.
This sparked the away end into life again and the volume was ramped up once more. Coventry’s players reacted as a result and really drove at goal, Marcus Tudgay heading over on 86 minutes. With the clock ticking down and things looking bleak for City, Maddison produced another piece of wonderful skill to level thing. He won a free kick after tremendous ball control on the edge of the area, he then stepped up to take it himself and it creeped over the wall before dropping into the top corner past a transfixed Lee.
Following the wild scenes and celebrations amongst Coventry’s fans, the game petered out to a draw. A total of 8 minutes were added on but either side could create an opening to win the game. An entertaining affair was brought to a close to leave The Sky Blues in 4th position heading into 2016.
Well, that was certainly another roller coaster of emotion in the life of a Coventry City supporter. After Saturday’s victory over Port Vale, the majority of the sky blue army were in confident mood and this was visible as us travelling fans made a sensational amount of noise. Credit must go to each and every one of the 2700 crammed in the visiting stand, we certainly pulled our team forward.
As for the game itself, it proved to be a tricky task against a Chesterfield side who were, in my opinion, one of the poorest sides we’ve played this term. However, credit must go to them as they frustrated us and limited our chances again. We didn’t help ourselves at times though, and the lack of incision and creativity in the first period meant we were unthreatening.
The decision to leave out Armstrong in favour of Fortune baffled many, and it turned out to be a move that wasn’t justified. The Frenchman does try and impact the game, but his lack of mobility and guile really leaves us wanting in forward areas. At times, his link-up can be relatively good, but it seems to be a rarity.
At the other end of the field I thought we coped brilliantly with the power of Ebanks-Blake. A makeshift back four was fielded due to the extensive number of injuries we have in defence, but they were excellent – apart from the goal we conceded, of course. From open play I thought we thwarted any danger expertly, with Stokes being the stand out in his secondary centre-back position.
Despite the home side leading against the run of play at the interval, I thought we failed to reach the heights of previous games. The second half, however, we were much improved and we rallied to take the game to Danny Wilson’s side. Maddison was pivotal in the pocket behind the main striker, and his free kick to rescue a point was phenomenal. He is a real wonder kid.
A lot of people are berating the referee’s performance, and rightly so, but he isn’t the sole reason why we haven’t won that game. I believe that a draw is a fair result on reflection, with Chesterfield having a couple of decent chances to win it. For all our possession, we didn’t create any golden opportunities and once again, the opposition goalkeeper wasn’t called into much action.
Of course I am gutted that we couldn’t get the victory, but I am delighted with another away point. With our home form being so exceptional, if we can keep picking up points on the road then we will be in for a successful season. It’s been a great start, we’ve just got to keep it going.
Happy new year to all City fans and whoever takes the time to read my blog, it’s much appreciated.
Let’s hope 2016 is a good year for this football club.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Ryan Haynes – 7
Chris Stokes – 9
Sam Ricketts – 8
Aaron Phillips – 7
Romain Vincelot – 7
John Fleck – 7
Ryan Kent – 6
Jim O’Brien – 7
James Maddison – 8
Marc-Antione Fortune – 5
Adam Armstrong – 7
Jacob Murphy – 6
Marcus Tudgay – N/A
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Phillips (Tudgay 77), Ricketts, Stokes, Haynes, Vincelot, Fleck, Kent (Murphy 65), Maddison, O’Brien, Fortune (Armstrong 65).
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Di. Kelly-Evans, Lameiras, Bigirimana.
Chesterfield: Lee, O’Neil, Evatt (Novak 15), Hird, Wood, Herd, Morsy (C), Donohue, O’Shea (Dieseruvwe 61), Ariyibi, Ebanks-Blake.
Unused Substitutes: Chapman, Banks, Simons, Onovwigun, Harrison.
Attendance: 9057 (2660 away)