Coventry City looked to get back to winning ways on Saturday versus Scunthorpe at the Ricoh Arena. A lacklustre performance denied The Sky Blues a chance to close the gap on the top two, however. The defeat is now the third in succession for City and Tony Mowbray’s side have a lot of work to do to stay in the promotion race.
It proved to be defensive frailties that were exploited again and goals from Tom Hopper and Murray Wallace were enough to see off the home side. The referee’s performance was undeniably poor but he can’t take the blame for Coventry’s loss. The display was a long way off what this side can produce, however, and The Sky Blues were deservedly on the wrong end of the scoreline.
The game got underway in the winter sunshine and it was The Sky Blues who started the brighter of the two sides as they opened up a chance after 1 minute. James Maddison linked up brilliantly with Stephen Hunt and the aforementioned won a free kick on the edge of the area after showing tidy feet. Gael Bigirimana was then the surprise taker of the set piece but his strike flew a distance over the bar.
With 6 minutes on the clock, Scunthorpe won a corner which was floated into a dangerous area but Conor Townsend headed way wide. Coventry then saw penalty appeals waved away almost immediately at the other end of the field. Hunt orchestrated the attack with a neatly clipped ball that allowed Jacob Murphy to get in front of a defender. The winger then fell to the ground in the area under a clumsy challenge but referee James Linington was unmoved.
Shortly after that incident, the away side took the lead in the 9th minute to frustrate the Coventry supporters. It was a corner that caused the problem as Jamie Ness found Paddy Madden free in the box. He then headed the ball down and David Mirfin flicked it into Tom Hopper’s path and the striker smashed an effort past a helpless Reice Charles-Cook.
As the home section of support fell silent with disbelief, Maddison tried to even the scores shortly after the restart but his effort was tame. Scunthorpe looked to be in control at this point but Coventry nearly equalised on 16 minutes. Chris Stokes found Romain Vincelot with a low cross but his touch was heavy. The ball bounced kindly off a defender though and Adam Armstrong’s powerful drive brought a smart save out of Luke Daniels.
Two chances then fell in quick succession on 21 minutes as Luke Williams saw an effort well saved by Coventry’s goalkeeper following a precise Madden pass. The hosts then had an attempt on goal themselves but Murphy’s deflected effort was stopped by Daniels. Some more threatening passing from The Sky Blues allowed Maddison to receive the ball in a dangerous area on 24 minutes. He then pivoted on the ball to open up space before curling narrowly wide of the far post with the keeper transfixed.
Scunthorpe were handed the next opening of the game on 30 minutes as a poor attempt of a clearance by Peter Ramage let Hopper break through. The striker then cut in from the left wing but he could only fire wide as Madden screamed for the ball in the centre. Some scrappy exchanges then took place in the midfield area, resulting in little action. However, The Iron very nearly doubled their advantage in stoppage time as Williams struck the bar from range after intercepting a misplaced Stephen Hunt pass.
Tony Mowbray decided to make two chances at the break as Jim O’Brien and Andy Rose were introduced at the expense of Hunt and Gael Bigirimana. Their impact looked to be positive early on as they were involved in a forward move on 48 minutes. Eventually, the ball fell to Maddison and he played a one-two with Murphy before teeing up Armstrong. The Newcastle loanee was then somehow denied by a fabulous Daniels save that diverted the ball over the bar.
As Coventry continued to search for an equaliser, O’Brien was first to latch onto a loose ball with 52 minutes played and he then found Maddison who won a free kick. The initial set piece was wasted but the home team recycled possession to enable Murphy to try his luck from range. Daniels unconvincingly stopped the powerful strike before Scunthorpe hooked the ball away from danger.
The visitors began to allow The Sky Blues more possession but the majority of the Ricoh Arena crowd were left frustrated as their side created minimal opportunities. To add to the misery, The Iron grabbed their second goal of the afternoon on 60 minutes to stretch their lead. Neal Bishop initially sliced a shot into Madden’s path and he won a corner after his low cross was put behind. A delivery then found Murray Wallace at the front post and he guided the ball into the back of the net after shaking off a defender.
A very slow tempo was then brought to proceedings and that was conducive to a dull final period. Coventry did occasionally break forward and Amstrong headed an O’Brien cross harmlessly over before Murphy shanked an effort way wide with 70 minutes on the clock. A Maddison corner then handed Vincelot a great chance on 78 minutes but the midfielder misjudged his header.
The final 5 minutes proved to be eventful as Armstrong pulled a goal back for The Sky Blues via the penalty spot after Maddison tumbled. Any hope of a comeback was soon quelled, however, as Vincelot was shown a second yellow card for a poorly timed challenge on Ness. The game then wound down and the referee’s full-time whistle signalled defeat for Coventry.
Our ‘blip’ continues. That was another shoddy display and our season is now derailing at an alarming rate. This game was pivotal in our season, a win potentially getting it back on track. However, we put in a dismal display that was arguably worse than the 3-0 defeat at Southend last weekend.
My confidence is slowly seeping away and if we aren’t careful, we will throw such a brilliant start away and fail to achieve our aim of promotion. The atmosphere around the club has transformed from being unusually positive to sombre and downbeat. Perhaps the expectation was too much for our young squad, but there has to be an inquest into what is happening currently.
A couple of set pieces have downed us and our own incapabilities at the back have handed the opposition three points once more. Peter Ramage was particularly poor and he doesn’t seem to be the answer. The blame doesn’t lie solely with the back four though, the attacking players didn’t do enough either. Adam Armstrong was marked out of the game and he made little impact, along with Jacob Murphy. James Maddison did attempt to make forward ventures but every time he received the ball he was hacked down by an opposition player.
Teams are starting to work us out and thwart our once potent attack, and if they can do that efficiently, we look likely to concede at the other end. Our one-dimensional approach has now led to goals drying up and it’s becoming a major problem. Of course, the absence of John Fleck over the last two fixtures has had huge ramifications but that starting team today should be good enough to beat a lowly Scunthorpe outfit.
The thing that disappointed me the most though was the atmosphere. It’s quite alarming really that we are now berating the players from the stands. Who would have expected that a few months ago? It’s a sign of the times though as the optimism that had built up is slowly being dismantled. Injuries haven’t helped us at all, but this run of poor results doesn’t look like ending anytime soon.
Luckily for us, the teams around us also dropped points today which keeps us in the frame at the top. It’s now becoming critical that we win the next game, though. What we are all hoping for is one win to kickstart our season once more, but it needs to happen soon and then we need a string of victories. I am still adamant that we won’t get another chance like this to get out of the third tier, and if we don’t improve I’m fearful that our propitious start will go to waste.
Whilst I understand people being frustrated at the moment (I am too), the worst thing we can do is boo the players in my opinion. As difficult as it may be at the moment, we need to encourage our players to get out of this predicament. The season isn’t over yet, and although the play-offs look more likely, automatic promotion isn’t out of reach. It’s an unpredictable league, let’s hope results start to go in our favour again.
Riece Charles-Cook – 6
Chris Stokes – 6
Sam Ricketts – 6
Peter Ramage – 4
Martin Lorentzson – 6
Romain Vincelot – 6
Gael Bigirimana – 5
Stephen Hunt – 6
James Maddison – 6
Jacob Murphy – 5
Adam Armstrong – 5
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Lorentzson (Phillips 77), Ricketts (C), Ramage, Stokes, Vincelot, Bigirimana (O’Brien 46), Hunt (Rose 46), Maddison, Murphy, Armstrong
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Haynes, Lameiras, Fortune.
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Wiseman, Mirfin, Williams (Clarke 89), Madden, Bishop, Dawson (C) (King 81), Townsend, Hopper (McSheffery 71), Wallace, Ness
Unused Substitutes: Anyon, Laird, Henderson, Wootton.
Attendance: 11,138 (430 away)