Tony Mowbray’s Coventry City travel south to Roots Hall on Saturday as they face Phil Brown’s Southend United side. The Sky Blues will be hoping to make it two away victories in succession after their 5-0 demolition of Crewe Alexandra back on the 2nd of January.
When the two teams last met, scores were level at the Ricoh Arena as Sam Ricketts’ second half header earned City a 2-2 draw. The travelling supporters will be hoping for three points this time though with close to 2000 making the journey from the Midlands, the team will certainly hear the rallying cries from the away section.
Southend United have had mixed fortunes of late; winning one, losing three and drawing one of their last five League One fixtures. The solitary victory came away at Colchester at Boxing Day, but since then, they have failed to win in the last four encounters. A sequence of defeats was halted in their latest outing, however, as they earned a point from a 0-0 draw away to Peterborough United.
Currently, The Shrimpers sit 9th in the division with 38 points to their name. Many would have envisioned Phil Brown’s men to be struggling in the third tier, but they are firmly in the hunt for a play-off place. A fairly sturdy back line will give them hope of progressing, but they need to find the net more often to turn draws into wins.
The Sky Blues head into this fixture on the back of a disappointing week. Only picking up one point from a possible six against fellow promotion candidates Walsall and Burton Albion has led to Coventry losing ground at the top. Subsequently, they are yet to reach the 50 points mark and are placed 4th with 48.
Prior to the last two fixtures, Tony Mowbray’s men were unbeaten in four as they drew with Oldham, edged past Port Vale, salvaged a point at Chesterfield and swept aside Crewe. Throwing away points has become a habit recently though, and I’m sure all connected with the club will want to stop that from happening again on Saturday.
The Shrimpers will be without defender Ben Coker as he is set to have an operation on a tear in his lower abdomen, leaving him sidelined for up to six weeks. Stephen Hendrie is likely to fill that void after joining on loan from Premier League club West Ham United. Another new loan signing in Sam McQueen has also strengthened the squad after joining from Southampton.
Midfielder Anthony Wordsworth is also sidelined for the foreseeable future due to a foot injury, whilst Miles Weston and John White are also set to miss out. Other than that, Phil Brown has a healthy group of players to select from as his look to get back to winning ways.
Coventry City are still without defender Reda Johnson as the Benin international is still recovering from a muscular injury suffered back in September. Ivor Lawton and Jordan Willis are also absent with long term problems, as is Aaron Martin who is ruled out for up to a month. John Fleck is also unavailable after receiving a two-match ban following his tenth caution of the season.
The rest of the playing squad are fit and available, however, and despite the growing interest around James Maddison, he remains a Coventry player. Mowbray has confirmed that Stephen Hunt and Andy Rose are nearing full fitness, and they could feature at the weekend.
Three To Watch:
The 22-year old goalkeeper is one that certainly has a bright future in the game. After progressing through the youth system at Roots Hall, he signed professional terms with the club in the summer of 2011 after a brief spell on loan to Braintree Town.
Upon penning his first contract, Bentley initially played second fiddle to Paul Smith but he cemented his starting berth during the 2013-14 season. He went on to keep 19 clean sheets during his breakthrough campaign and he was subsequently linked with a move to Leeds United. Premier League clubs then began to monitor him in the summer of 2014, but he remained at Southend.
Last season, he was a crucial figure in the club’s promotion to the third tier. He won a trio of awards at the end of season awards, and he was also named in the League Two team of the year. This term has been more of the same from the keeper, putting in impressive performances and forcing attention from other clubs.
Starting life in football at then Premier League side Fulham was tough for the steely midfield enforcer. He rose through the youth academy before signing a deal with The Cottagers, but he only went on to make a handful of first team appearances. Loan moves to Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Swindon soon ensued.
In the summer of 2008, he made the move to Swindon permanent by signing a two-year deal. He was then deployed in various positions during the 2008-09 season before being used sparingly the year after. In 2012, the midfielder opted to switch allegiances once more as he joined The Shrimpers.
He has now made over a century of appearances for Southend and he’s become a favourite amongst fans. The 30-year old is a superb ball winner, but he isn’t limited to the physical side of the game. He also possesses great guile on the ball and his passing ability is exceptional, and he isn’t afraid to strike from range either.
Another product of the Southend academy, Payne is now lighting up Roots Hall with some phenomenal displays. After spending four years with The Shrimpers as a youth player, he was handed a professional deal in the summer of 2013 and he has never looked back.
In his first full season, the forward clocked up 15 appearances in all competitions and this laid the foundation for his career. Last term he was a mainstay in Phil Brown’s side and he went on to score 8 goals in 38 games. Despite his tender age, Payne staked a real claim to push on with Southend following their promotion.
The 21-year old has started this season brightly too and his potential still excites many. Sitting in behind the main strikers, the number 10 has a huge part to play in orchestrating is team’s forward ventures. A naturally gifted technical player with frightening pace, he could cause Coventry some issues.
From The Home Camp – Tony Mowbray:
“Southend have had a run of results which Phil won’t be happy with but every game is a tough match.”
“It will be interesting to see how Southend set up against us at home. We’ll do what we do and see if we can cause them problems.”
“It will be interesting to see how they set up against us, of course. It’s one thing to go to Peterborough and get a clean sheet but to play at home in front of their home fans will be interesting to see.”
“But we’ll do what we do and see what happens. Every away game is a tough match so we have to go to Southend and be as a positive as we can and see if we can get a result.”
After recently falling short against Burton at the Ricoh – losing our unbeaten home record in the process – we’ve got to bounce back against a Southend side that will be low in confidence. We are slowly letting our grip on the top two spots loosen, and the gap between us and 7th placed Sheffield United isn’t getting any wider either.
I featured on a football league podcast during the week and I stated on there, we have to aim for automatic promotion. There is no doubting that we have a squad capable of achieving just that, but we have to find the consistency we had during the opening few months of the campaign.
Of course, injuries haven’t aided our cause but we can’t blame them. As Mowbray stated in a recent interview, we should be sitting top of this division. Too many points have been thrown away due to silly mistakes, but unlike the Coventry City teams of the past, I think we will learn from them. We have a top manager and a top team, let’s start a fresh unbeaten run beginning with Southend.
In regards to The Shrimpers, I believe they will pose another threat despite their recent mishaps. Prior to the season getting underway, I predicted them to be sucked into a relegation scrap. What they have shown so far though is that they are a solid team. Phil Brown is another experienced manager and he has his team playing some neat, effective football.
Theoretically, we should win the game though. If we perform in the attacking third in a similar way to the Crewe victory, Daniel Bentley could have his work cut out in stopping us from finding the net. Defensively though, we have to stay focussed and organised. Noel Hunt is a clever, experienced player and he will be looking to exploit our weaknesses.
I do fancy Southend to find the net at the weekend, but I am confident we will gain maximum points. Another mammoth following of City supporters could have a huge say in matters. I’m just hoping we make the long journey home in buoyant mood.
My Score Prediction:
Southend United 1-2 Coventry City