Tuesday Night saw two teams vying for a place in the top two spot clash at the Ricoh Arena. Over 15,000 were in attendance to witness the hotly anticipated affair and they were treated to a well contested game of football. The conditions weren’t conducive to pretty passing play, but some impressive displays caught the eye.
Despite both sets of supporters praying for a vital three points, the sides had to settle for a share of the spoils. Undoubtedly, Sean O’Driscoll’s men will be the more upbeat following the result, but Coventry can take a lot of positives from the performance too.
The referee’s whistle signalled the start of proceedings with the rain lashing down on a cold Ricoh turf. Both of the promotion hopefuls started the game in similar fashion, keeping the ball well and looking to create space in the midfield areas. It was The Sky Blues who had the first opportunity on 5 minutes, however, as a tempting Joe Cole corner ricocheted dangerously in the area before a Walsall player hooked it clear.
With 8 minutes on the clock, The Saddlers managed to carve out their first chance of the game. Chris Stokes lost possession after the ball got stuck under his feet and Tom Bradshaw profited. With the striker setting his sights on the home goal, Sam Ricketts got across to cover and put in a solid block.
Action soon started to dry up as the match turned into a bit of a duel, City were looking the slightly more threatening though. Adam Armstrong was incredibly close to handing Jim O’Brien a one-on-one chance on 15 minutes, but the Newcastle youngster’s pass didn’t find its target.
The best chance of the half fell the home side’s way too, but Cole spurned it on 28 minutes. A pinpoint O’Brien ball found the ex-England international in the box, but he was caught in two minds and Neil Etheridge was relieved to pick it up.
The Saddlers’ goalkeeper was beaten, however, on 35 minutes as Tony Mowbray’s team broke the deadlock. A tempting free-kick was fizzed into the area and Chris Stokes met it with a glancing header. Walsall’s defence stood transfixed as the ball found the bottom corner and the home fans erupted into celebration.
The Saddlers went close themselves up the other end 3 minutes later as good build-up eventually saw Tom Bradshaw receive the ball. He then shifted it out of his feet before striking a low effort onto the foot of the post with the Coventry keeper squirming. The Sky Blues nearly had the last laugh of the first period, but another attempted pass by Armstrong was narrowly behind O’Brien who breached the offside trap.
The visitors started the second half and they looked to get on the front foot immediately. Just 2 minutes after the restart, Romaine Sawyers found space to shoot on the edge of the area but his attempt left Charles-Cook untroubled. Coventry then countered with real menace, however, and Romain Vincelot called the away goalkeeper into action following a low drive.
Some fluent passing from City carved the opposition defence wide open on 51 minutes as Ryan Haynes flicked on a goal kick. Jacob Murphy then dodged a challenge to sprint down the left wing before seeing a low cross arrived away. O’Brien then arrived to stab the ball towards goal but it dropped narrowly wide with Walsall bodies flailing.
As the game progressed, the hosts started to drop deeper in order to deny The Saddlers an equaliser. It seemed to work as Coventry’s defence looked organised and resolute, with chances coming in low quantity for the visitors. The Sky Blues did, however have a couple of chances around the 70-minute mark. Substitute James Maddison saw a free kick well saved before Armstrong brought the best out of Etheridge.
With the traveling embankment of Walsall fans becoming increasingly hopeful as their side kept possession well, they were delighted when Bradshaw notched a leveller with just 10 minutes remaining. It was the exciting Rico Henry that provided the assist with a neat cross, but the striker’s finish was just as impressive as he cushioned a volley into the far corner with aplomb.
Walsall looked the better side in the latter stages after scoring, but Coventry managed to see out the game and earn a point. The Sky Blies could’ve won all three late on as both Armstrong and Murphy fired wide, but they were left ruing missed chances upon the final whistle.
The first feeling that I had upon leaving the stadium was disappointment. Of course, after conceding a sloppy goal to a Walsall side that we contained expertly for large parts, the result feels as painful as a defeat. However, at least we picked up a point and it could be an important one come May.
I was disappointed with the away side in all honesty; I thought they lacked a bit of creativity. Although they have clearly shown their footballing credentials throughout the season so far, they looked fairly average to me. We had the impetus for the majority of the fixture, but the fatal blow came from sitting too deep and inviting pressure.
Admittedly, we looked very comfortable in dealing with Tom Bradshaw prior to conceding. Maybe we thought we could soak up the pressure and hit them on the break, but our midfield went missing and we were subsequently last to every loose ball. Their goal then came from nothing and I’m sure our back four will be kicking themselves. Aaron Phillips was nowhere to be seen when a cross was whipped in and Bradshaw creeped in between two bodies and finished neatly.
I have no doubt that the striker will take the plaudits for rescuing a point with his strike, but the save from Neil Etheridge moments before was a defining moment. After Adam Armstrong shimmied his way into the box and got the shot away, I immediately thought ‘goal’. The speed in which Walsall’s keeper got down to claw it away was unbelievable. He deserves huge credit for a quite wonderful stop.
If that effort ruffles the net, it’s a different game altogether. It is what it is though and we can’t be too downbeat. We controlled the game for large parts and a very good Walsall outfit struggled to create. Reice Charles-Cook was a spectator until the goal and it’s just a shame we couldn’t hold out for all of the points.
We are still unbeaten at home though and that should fill us with confidence going into Saturday’s showdown with Burton Albion. If we can gain a victory from that one, the point from this game would seem a whole lot better. The Brewers do have a superb defensive record, but we have a fotmidable attack. It should be a great game, get yourselves to the Ricoh if you can!
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Ryan Haynes – 6
Sam Ricketts – 7
Chris Stokes – 7
Aaron Phillips – 6
Romain Vincelot – 7
John Fleck – 7
Joe Cole – 7
Jim O’Brien – 6
Jacob Murphy – 6
Adam Armstrong – 7
James Maddison – 6
Marc-Antione Fortune – N/A
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Haynes, Stokes, Ricketts, Phillips, Vincelot, Fleck, O’Brien (Fortune 82), Cole (Maddison 65), Murphy, Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Ramage, Bigirimana, Lameiras, Tudgay.
Walsall: Etheridge, O’Connor, Downing, Chambers (C), Mantom, Bradshaw, Sawyers, Henry, Lalkovic (Forde 60), Kinsella (Demetriou 60), Evans (Cook 78).
Unused Substitutes: MacGillivray, Taylor, Preston, Morris.
Attendance: 15,671 (1,359 away)