After going a fortnight without a fixture, Coventy City were looking to build on the 6-0 demolition of Bury last time out with another victory. Steven Pressley’s organised Fleetwood side didn’t arrive to make up numbers, however, and the former City manager left delighted as his group of players earned an away win.
In terms of entertainment the game was certainly lacking and very few moments of quality were on display. That was, to the home fans’ annoyance, until David Ball conjured up a piece of magic to seal victory for The Cod Army late on. City’s aim of promotion now becomes a more difficult task once more, but they will have the chance to bounce back immediately at Oakwell as they face Barnsley on Tuesday night.
The game got underway at a cold Ricoh Arena and the home support would be hoping for a positive display and three important points. It was The Sky Blues that started the brighter of the two outfits and Adam Armstrong registered the first attempt on goal after 4 minutes. The chance opened up after James Maddison found him with a neat pass but the Newcastle loanee could only fire over from 20 yards.
Steven Pressley’s men were matching Coventry in terms of possession and they stroked the ball around confidently on a slick surface. The pace of Amari’i Bell and Ashley Hunter were proving to be focal points in an otherwise ineffective Fleetwood attack. Despite their occasional venture forward they didn’t trouble The Sky Blues and it was Armstrong who spurned another opportunity on 10 minutes after being teed up by Maddison.
The visitors then had the best chance of the opening stages on 14 minutes as Jack Stephens gifted them a chance. Poor defending from the youngster allowed David Ball to steal the ball and he quickly found Hunter who sliced wide from inside the area. Romain Vincelot tried his luck for Coventry up the other end soon after but his low drive was gratefully grasped by Chris Maxwell in the Fleetwood goal.
Pressley’s men then started to perk up and they enjoyed a positive spell around the 20-minute mark. Eggert Jonsson saw a headed effort float just over the frame of the goal before Hunter’s powerful drive during the next attack came to nothing as it soared past the post. On 25 minutes, Reice Charles-Cook was called into action following a meaningful Fleetwood attack. Bell was the instigator again as he skipped past Jacob Murphy and Sam Ricketts with ease. He then drove a low cross into the area and it cannoned off Chris Stokes’ shin but Coventry’s goalkeeper was alert.
City then showed what they can do with 27 minutes on the clock as they pieced together a sensational counter attack. Some incisive, fast paced passing saw them work their way up the pitch impressively to allow Murphy a shot on goal which dropped the wrong side of the post.
The final 20 minutes of the first half then petered out with neither team looking too capable of scoring. Chris Stokes did have the best chance for The Sky Blues on 35 minutes after a corner from Maddison found him at the near post. His powerfully flicked header then looked likely to drop into the top corner, but Maxwell was on hand to claw the ball away.
The second period started slowly with the teams tied, but it was Coventry who carved out the first chance on goal on 50 minutes. Tremendous footwork from Murphy allowed him to shimmy his way through the away defence. His pass then found Maddison lurking in the area and the youngster’s bending effort was inches away from handing Tony Mowbray’s men the lead.
Despite that moment of promise, City were dealt a blow on 56 minutes as Fleetwood opened the scoring. Jimmy Ryan profited from a wayward John Fleck pass and he carried the ball forward with intent before sliding it to Ball on the right wing. It was his pinpoint cross that then found Wesley Burns and he finished emphatically with a diving header.
The atmosphere inside the stadium soon dropped and so did Coventry’s level of performance. Fleetwood’s confidence seemed to grow somewhat and they retained the ball well, but despite that, City nearly levelled on 61 minutes as Stokes’ cross only needed a touch. The away side then broke away with speed and Hunter brought out a save from Charles-Cook.
Mowbray then attempted to shake the game into life by making a triple substitution on 65 minutes. Marcus Tudgay made an almost immediate impact as he intercepted a loose pass to find Armstrong but a resolute defence stood in the way to block. With the next attack, Coventry did manage to equalise after an error of judgment from a Fleetwood defender let Armstrong sneak in behind. The striker then squared the ball to Tudgay and his effort was enough to beat Maxwell and spark celebration amongst home fans.
The Sky Blues looked rejuvenated after scoring and their search for a winner soon followed as Baily Cargill had the best chance after a Fleck set piece. With Coventry committing men forward, the away outfit were given room to attack on 83 minutes and they utilised it well. A long range drive from Ball powered into the top left corner with Charles-Cook at full stretch and the away fans went wild. The referee’s whistle was blown soon after to signal defeat for the hosts.
Well, from the euphoria of a dazzling display that ripped a Bury side apart to the despair of a defeat to a relegation threatened Fleetwood Town, that’s football. That was another frustrating day at the office and we’ve slipped up in a game that we should be winning. If we want to chase down the top two, we’ve got to come out on top in these matches.
I wouldn’t be so bemused if we had played to our capabilities, but we were undeniably shocking. The entire game was in truth. Fleetwood came to thwart The Sky Blues and their packed midfield stopped us from playing. Expectedly from a Pressley side, they did their homework on us and despite some poor game management whilst with us, his tactics were spot on.
John Fleck and Romain Vincelot were unusually passive and this made life a lot easier for the away team, but they were solid when defending. Apart from our goal which came from a defensive error, their back four were superb and Amari’i Bell was excellent at left back. His ability to skip down the wing and whip in dangerous crosses caused caused all sorts of issues.
Coventry were the polar opposite, playing very narrow and not getting the ball into wide positions. This played directly into Fleetwood’s hands and they looked untroubled for the entirety of the afternoon. A brief spell in the second period saw City look more lively after a trio of changes were introduced, but that proved to be all in vein. David Ball’s strike was then unstoppable and it capped off a dismal 90 minutes for the home supporters.
All is not lost though in what has been an exciting season so far. With 14 games left to play there is still 42 points up for grabs, but we desperately need to start picking them up more frequently like the first half of the campaign. People have already earmarked April as a deciding month with away encounters at Wigan and Gillingham catching the eye.
I’m still quietly confident that we can force our way into the automatic promotion spots, but only if we perform to our maximum from now until 3 O’clock on the 8th of May. Realistically, we might have to win 10 games between now and then to secure promotion but the play-offs will be an achievement if not. However, that’s not a certainty either and we can’t let our guard down.
I’ve said this time and time again, but if we can all stick together as a club, who knows what will happen? It’s when we start berating players and other fans that it all goes pear-shaped. Let’s not make that happen. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time, let’s embrace our exciting team and really galvanise them. Championship football IS still a possibility next season.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Chris Stokes – 6
Jack Stephens – 6
Baily Cargill – 7
Sam Ricketts – 6
Romain Vincelot – 6
John Fleck – 5
Joe Cole – 6
James Maddison – 5
Jacob Murphy – 5
Adam Armstrong – 6
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts (C), Stephens, Cargill, Stokes, Vincelot, Fleck, Murphy (Tudgay 65), Cole (Antoine-Fortune 65), Maddison (Lameiras 65), Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Ramage, Rose, Lorentzson.
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, Jonsson, Bell, Ryan (C), Burns (Ameobi 81), Nirennold, Sarcevic (Sowerby 78), Hunter (Cole 68), Ball, Nilsson, Davis.
Unused Substitutes: Gogic, Grant, Haughton,Harris.