Coventry City’s promotion ambitions took another blow on Tuesday night as they fell to a 2-0 away defeat at Oakwell. Tony Mowbray and his side were hoping to get back to winning ways after their home loss to Fleetwood Town in the previous fixture. However, The Sky Blues put in a dismal display and Barnsley cruised to a deserved 3 points.
The anxiousness amongst the City supporters is increasingly growing and that performance wouldn’t have lifted any worries. Fortunately, their side still remain in the play-off positions, but the recent form is a major cause for concern. The home side’s triumph now brings them level on points with Midlands outfit and Coventry desperately need to return to winning ways if they are to have any chance of a successful season.
The game kicked off in freezing temperatures at Oakwell and it was the hosts that made the more lively start. With less than a minute on the clock George Williams delivered a tempting cross from the left wing. Ashley Fletcher then peeled off his man to create space and his header forced Reice Charles-Cook to parry over in the Coventry goal.
Following that move, Barnsley continued to look the more threatening of the teams but neither outfit could stamp their authority. The next half chance fell to Coventry on 7 minutes as Stephen Hunt attempted to slide a through ball in to Adam Armstrong. With the striker speeding towards the ball, defender Marc Roberts got across swiftly to thwart him and the ball was cleared from danger.
However, just 3 minutes later and a goal was netted, but unfortunately for the travelling contingent of City supporters it fell to The Tykes. Lloyd Isgrove was the initial threat as he skipped easily through the Coventry defence before calling the keeper into action. The resulting corner was then taken by Conor Hourihane and it found Roberts who was unmarked in the area. It was then the defender’s header that evaded Charles-Cook’s reach and it flew into the top corner to spark celebration amongst home fans.
After taking the lead, Barnsley looked in full control of proceedings. The visitors’ confidence was extremely low and this was translated into an inability to keep possession of the football. Coventry did create the next opening of the game, however, as Armstrong’s long range effort was unconvincingly kept out by the Barnsley keeper. Hourihane then let fly up the other end with 21 minutes played but Charles-Cook flew across his goal to deny the midfielder.
With 25 minutes on the clock, John Fleck curled an effort wide after receiving the ball from a Chris Stokes pass. As the respective sides battled for control, Coventry searched for a route back into the game but they created very little to trouble the opposition defence. Hunt saw an effort well blocked by Roberts on 42 minutes before Armstrong fired wide on the turn with the half-time whistle looming.
The second period got off to an electric start as Barnsley were denied a free kick right on the edge of the Coventry area almost immediately after kick-off. A horrific Fleck pass fell straight to substitute Harry Chapman and he sprinted with intent towards goal. Baily Cargill then seemed to bring the forward down but the referee waved away the protests.
With the conditions worsening the game adopted a rather scrappy nature as keeping the ball proved difficult. The Sky Blues enjoyed a more promising spell early in the second half but Davies remained untested in the home goal. Charles-Cook was at his best on 58 minutes though as he acrobatically tipped over a curling Chapman strike. However, the Coventry keeper was at for The Reds’ second goal just 2 minutes later as he misjudged the flight of a Hourihane free kick. His failure to catch the ball then allowed Fletcher to smash home into an unprotected goal.
The game really disappointed from this moment on as Barnsley had wrapped the game up. Tony Mowbray’s City side couldn’t fashion many chances and the away fans quickly became agitated and restless. Fleck did see a powerful effort well stopped on 63 minutes but it was the hosts who looked comfortable. 7 minutes later and some poor Coventry defending allowed Chapman to run the length of the pitch. Unfortunately for the forward, he could only manage to bend an effort just wide of the far post.
James Maddison did have an impact for The Sky Blues after coming off the bench but he saw a long range effort smartly saved by Davies seconds later. As time ticked by, The Tykes managed the game exceptionally well and they continued to cause havoc with a host of crosses flying into the Coventry box. None of them could quite lead to a clear chance but the away side created one final opportunity in stoppage time. Darius Henderson’s physicality saw him bundle a ball towards Maddison and the youngster’s low drive was blocked on the line by Alfie Mawson.
This is getting very worrying now. We have gone from a side who were capable of blowing any form of opposition away to a team that look clueless. Confidence is noticeably low and understandably so, but that can’t be an excuse for a performance like that. If you went to Oldham away last season, it was as bad as that…
From start to finish, we looked void of any ideas and the home fans enjoyed an easy ride. I usually aim to be as kind as I can with the player ratings, but tonight’s showing caused me to stoop to a new low with nobody marked above 5/10. It’s extremely frustrating and it’s painful to witness our season falter in the way it currently is doing.
The only representatives of the club who deserve any credit are the supporters who made the trip. Standing there freezing to death isn’t pleasant at the best of times, but to watch your team get outplayed in that manner makes it even worse. I usually look for the positives out of every game despite the result, but there isn’t any that I can pick out from this one.
Going forward we were lacklustre. The howling wind made the game difficult for both teams but we were remarkably poor. At times throughout the game we were desperate, playing hopeless balls forward into a vicinity of space as opposed to aiming for a sky blue shirt. This allowed an organised Barnsley back four to mop up any sniff of danger and Adam Davies was a spectator in the home goal.
Defensively we were shoddy also and The Tykes skipped through us far too easily on a number of occasions. Chris Stokes and Sam Ricketts struggled to deal with the pace of Barnsley’s wide players and they were offered no protection from the midfield. It was comical at times and the goals conceded highlighted that. The first came from a simple set piece and the second was an awful error of judgement from Reice Charles-Cook.
In my last blog post I said that automatic promotion was still a slight possibility, but we can now kiss that goodbye. The play-offs are of course still achievable and we still sit 6th. However, if we continue to perform to such low levels then we could nosedive. It’s a precarious situation, we have to be extremely careful now but we know what the players are capable of. The lost confidence just somehow needs restoring.
There are now 13 games remaining of a long, hard season and we have to stay behind our team regardless. We have come a long way since the summer and despite an awful sequence of results we are still in with a reasonable chance of promotion. Let’s just see what happens. Hopefully the players can start producing again.
Reice Charles-Cook – 5
Chris Stokes – 5
Baily Cargill – 5
Jack Stephens – 5
Sam Ricketts – 5
John Fleck – 4
Romain Vincelot – 5
Stephen Hunt – 4
Jacob Murphy – 5
Marcus Tudgay – 5
Adam Armstrong – 5
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Stephens, RIcketts (c), Cargill, Vincelot (Rose 53’), Fleck, Hunt (Maddison 61’), Murphy, Tudgay, Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Lameiras, Lorentzson, Ramage.
Barnsley: Davies, Bree (Smith 72’), Roberts, Mawson, Williams, Watkins, Isgrove (Scowen 45’), Hourihane (c), Fletcher, Brownhill, Winnall (Chapman 45’).
Unused Substitutes: Townsend, Tuton, Nyatanga, Khan.
Attendance: 9,344 (535 City)