Saturday saw two of League One’s promotion candidates face each other at the Ricoh Arena as Coventry City welcomed Burton Albion. As expected, the two sides were very well matched and it made the fixture an interesting affair. With almost 18,000 watching on from the stands, The Brewers managed to ensure their fans would be leaving in high spirits.
Despite Tony Mowbray’s side looking comfortable in possession and more threatening going forwards, two lapses in concentration haunted them as they lost ground on the leaders. Burton now sit comfortably at the summit whilst The Sky Blues remain in the play-off positions.
Referee Andre Marriner blew his whistle to signal kick-off and both sets of supporters burst into voice as the two sides began to battle. The first few minutes were scrappy as the ball spent the majority of the time in the air, with The Brewers and The Sky Blues tussling to gain an impetus.
It took until 5 minutes for the first shot on target to be registered and it fell to the hosts. Some controlled build-up allowed City to shift the ball into an attacking area, John Fleck then picked it up and let fly but his effort was tame to leave Jon McLaughlin with a routine save. One of Burton’s first forward ventures then sparked penalty appeals in the away end just 3 minutes later, but the referee adjudged Peter Ramage’s challenge to be fair.
Coventry soon started to see more of the ball and they were playing some football that was aesthetically pleasing. They were finding it difficult to trouble the travelling defence, however, and it was The Brewers who had the next opportunity on 17 minutes. Mark Duffy’s corner led to the opening but Calum Butcher could only fire harmlessly over the bar.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Jacob Murphy called McLaughlin into action from 30 yards before failing to get on the end of an Adam Armstrong cross seconds later. James Maddison then curled a free kick on target 5 minutes later but McLaughlin got across quickly to deny him.
As Coventy continued to press forward, The Sky Blues forced the best chance of the opening half on 30 minutes. It was some very tidy build-up that allowed Maddison to receive the ball in a threatening area. The young midfielder then showed brilliant feet to jink his way in between two defenders before curling an effort towards the top corner that McLaughlin clawed away acrobatically.
In the 33rd minute, Charles-Cook was required to make a spectacular save up the other end to keep the scores level. Duffy played another clever corner to the edge of the box and Tom Naylor was left in space. The midfielder then rocketed a low strike on target but the keeper sprung across his goal to tip the ball away from danger.
The final passages of the first half failed to cause too much excitement with both teams seemingly settling for 0-0 at the interval. It was the hosts who looked more likely to score, but they could only carve out one more chance on 39 minutes. Ruben Lameiras started the move as he found Murphy. His ball then found Armstrong but the loanee failed to trouble the opposition goalkeeper.
The Sky Blues supporters were in confident mood going into the second half, but that was soon decimated as Burton took the lead on 48 minutes. A seemingly harmless ball was clipped into the home area and Aaron Phillips inexcusably attempted to chest the ball back to his goalkeeper and it fell short. Butcher then gratefully pounced on the loose ball to fire powerfully past Charles-Cook.
Despite the away side taking the lead, Coventry got back on the front foot immediately as their searched for an equaliser. Chances were hard to come by though as Burton’s line of defenders remained organised. They then themselves went inches away from doubling their lead with in the 56th minute. A quickly taken Duffy free kick caught City off guard and Stuart Beavon cannoned a powerful strike onto the crossbar.
The Sky Blues were next to go close with as Armstrong curled an effort just wide following good work from Sam Ricketts and Murphy down the right. Romain Vincelot then failed to connect clearly with a Maddison delivery on 66 minutes before the latter ballooned a free kick into orbit after Armstrong was brought down.
City’s failure to find the net was causing anxiousness inside the stadium, but any chance of getting back into the game was quelled on 72 minutes as Nigel Clough’s team went 2-0 up. Some more poor decision making from Peter Ramage and Charles-Cook saw the home side fail to clear the ball. Anthony O’Connor then lumped a hopeful ball forward and it found Beavon who managed to beat the offside trap to thump into the roof of the net.
As premature celebrations began amongst the visiting supporters, Coventry’s players failed to respond down on the pitch. They kept the ball well but it brought no reward as The Brewers’ defensive unit were tightly packed. The referee’s final blow on the whistle soon signalled defeat for The Sky Blues and the curtain finally fell on the undefeated home record of Coventry.
That was certainly another frustrating day at the office for The Sky Blues and it’s the most annoyed I have been this season after leaving the Ricoh Arena. For the majority of the play, we more than matched our promotion rivals and we looked more promising on the ball. Two horrendous errors have cost us dearly again though.
I’m sure most of the travelling Burton fans would agree that Coventry were the more entertaining of the sides, but what will they care as they’re the ones leaving with three points? The home side dominated possession during the first period and they looked the brighter early on in the second, but they failed to convert their time on the ball into chances.
The Brewers didn’t create anything from open play either really, but they managed to tarnish City’s home record by scoring a couple of gifts that were presented to them. Aaron Phillps’ part in their first goal was truly shocking. I have no idea what he was doing and I’m sure Mowbray will be livid with the defender. Me and many others were certainly left baffled, and for me, his inadequacies surely have to result in him being dropped.
The second goal was comical too, with our failure to clear the ball causing all sorts of problems again. Reice Charles-Cook and Peter Ramage both had chance to clear it, instead we hand Burton the ball. Our attempt to play offside after was dreadful too as a long ball was played to Stuart Beavon. Charles-Cook perhaps could have done better at his near post too, but we simply weren’t good enough.
Obviously, if anbody had offered us fans 4th place at this stage prior to the season getting underway, we would have snapped your hand off. However, after reevaluating, I believe that we have a squad capable of achieving automatic promotion. If we don’t force our way into those spots, we only have ourselves to blame. We desperately need to start defending much better again. It’s just agonisingly frustrating when you lose a game in such circumstances.
Our attack found it difficult too as expected. Their keeper had a fairly easy time of it as his back four swept up any City danger. When we did create room to manoeuvre a shot on goal, we failed to find the corners and nothing troubled them. On reflection, a draw probably would have been a fair result but we’ve got to put things right next week.
We’ve notoriously fell away in the second half of the season time and time again, but we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen this season. I still firmly believe that we can secure promotion this term, but we’ve got to reignite our form. This is a vital period for us a club, we’ve got to stuck behind those lads in sky blue and spur them on to three points next week. Then we can hope for a run of victories.
Reice Charles-Cook – 6
Chris Stokes – 7
Sam Ricketts – 7
Peter Ramage – 6
Aaron Phillips – 5
Romain Vincelot – 7
John Fleck – 6
Ruben Lameiras – 6
Jacob Murphy – 6
James Maddison – 6
Adam Armstrong – 6
Marcus Tudgay – 6
Gael Bigirimana – 6
Joe Cole – N/A
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Ramage, Ricketts, Phillips(Bigirimana 56), Vincelot, Fleck, Lameiras (Tudgay 56), Maddison (Cole 73), Murphy, Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Haynes, O’Brien, Fortune.
Burton Albion: McLaughlin, Edwards, Cansdell-Sherriff, Mousinho, Beavon (Bennett 79), El-Khayati (Akins 61), Butcher (Reilly 77), McCrory, Naylor, O’Connor, Duffy.
Unused Substitutes: Bywater, Harness, Thiele, Palmer.
17,140 (1,542 Away)