After Saturday’s defeat to Rochdale at the Ricoh Arena saw The Sky Blues fall to a third straight defeat, supporters were hoping that it wouldn’t become four losses on the spin on Tuesday night. Micky Mellon’s Shrewsbury Town provided the opposition and they managed to heap further misery on Coventry’s season.
Despite the visitors taking an early lead, The Shrews scored twice to pull themselves ahead before the interval. The second half then proved to be awfully nervy for the hosts but they held their own defensively to secure a vital 2-1 win to pull them further away from the relegation zone. Coventry, however, missed out on the opportunity to force themselves back into the play-off places.
The referee got proceedings underway beneath the floodlights at Greenhous Meadow and the game got off to a frantic start. Coventry City created the first opening of the game on 3 minutes as Adam Armstrong and Marc-Antione Fortune combined well down the right wing. The aforementioned then saw an initial shot blocked but Joe Cole’s eyes lit up as the ball rolled into his path, however, he could only blaze over from 20 yards.
Just 2 minutes later, the visitors grabbed an early lead after another positive forward move. Controlled build-up saw John Fleck pick up the ball in a pocket of space and he rifled a low effort on target from range. Mark Halstead then found the strike too hot to handle and he parried into Aaron Martin’s path and the defender slotted the ball home.
As the energetic start to the game confined, Jacob Murphy sliced a shot wide of the left post on 8 minutes. However, to frustrate the away supporters, Shrewsbury levelled the score almost immediately after. Larnell Cole powered into a dangerous position before rolling in Sullay Kaikai and the striker made no mistakes with the finish after expertly rounding Reice Charles-Cook in the Coventry goal.
With the slick surface allowing both sets of players to spray the ball around, The Sky Blues nearly regained the lead on 13 minutes. A low Fleck free kick deflected kindly into Chris Stokes’ path but the defender was denied by Halstead’s outstretched leg. The next move then also led to a chance but Fleck saw an audacious chip land on the top netting.
Chances were still coming thick and fast and City created another opportunity with 18 minutes on the clock. Determined work from Fleck caused the ball to fall to Fortune and he played an expertly weighted ball across the field to find Cole on the right. The former England man then rushed his effort slightly to shank wide of the post. Shrewsbury then had a chance of their own from the following move but Ian Black’s drive fell wide of the post.
As Coventry looked to regain the lead, they were knocking the ball around well on a slick surface but they couldn’t find a breakthrough. Murphy did manage to force Halstead into a near post stop on 27 minutes after playing a neat one-two with Fortune. The latter then sprayed another exceptional pass to Fleck 8 minutes later but the Scottish midfielder’s resulting shot was deflected harmlessly wide.
With 39 minutes played, Stokes was penalised for a blatant shirt pull on Shaun Whalley outside the area. Black then clipped the ball into a dangerous area and Whalley accurately headed into the far corner past a fully stretched Charles-Cook to spark euphoria amongst the home fans. With just seconds remaining of the first half, Black nearly extended The Shrews’ lead but he was denied by an acrobatic save from the Coventry keeper.
The second period started in a similar fashion to the first as both teams looked to attack from the outset. Coventry were awarded a free kick on 48 minutes but Cole could only strike against the wall before Kyle Vassell saw a stooping header drop wide up the other end. Charles-Cook was then called into action on 52 minutes as he brilliantly tipped a curling effort wide from Whalley.
From this point on, the Shrewsbury defence began to retreat into a deeper position and this allowed The Sky Blues more room to manoeuvre. Chances then began to fall for the visitors but Halstead remained relatively untroubled in goal. It was instead his Coventry counterpart that was tested again on 57 minutes as Shrewsbury broke with speed to allow Cole to fire on target.
It was then City who went close to equalising on 63 minutes as they were awarded a free kick just outside the box. Armstrong then got the ball up and over the wall but unfortunately for him it sailed narrowly over the crossbar. Just 5 minutes later, substitute Ruben Lameiras was denied by a routine save after interchanging well with Murphy.
As the anxiety increased amongst the travelling contingent behind the goal, their side carried on progressing forward but they found it difficult to break down an organised Shrewsbury defence. This was epitomised on 85 minutes as a Stokes cross fell to Lamieras but he was crowded out instantaneously and the chance passed by.
The final 5 minutes of the game was then extremely tightly contested as City’s commitment of piling bodies forward left space for The Shrews to counter attack. It was certainly a topsy-turvy finale but despite Coventry’s best efforts, the referee blew the final whistle soon after to signal another defeat for Mowbray’s men.
My initial thoughts when walking away from the stadium were ‘how did we not get anything out of that game?’ – a question that drives me insane. With no disrespect to Shrewsbury who managed to score the goals that ultimately gave them victory, we were the better team over the 90 minutes. However, goals are what matters and we gifted them both.
In terms of our use of the football, we were greatly improved in comparison to the recent performances. However, yet again, we were not clinical enough away from home and we have slipped to another unwanted defeat. The next game now becomes even more important as our promotion ambitions slowly become more difficult to fulfil.
There were positives to take from the game but currently we aren’t in a situation where that is satisfactory. We have to win football matches. The players and staff at the club will know that and they will feel hard done by after this one. All we can do is dust ourselves down, prepare ourselves accordingly and go again at Blackpool on Saturday. Our bank of 3000 supporters could have an influence on proceedings, but let’s just hope we have a positive impact.
I was delighted to see that Tony Mowbray elected to start with another striker alongside Adam Armstrong. Admittedly, I was doubting the selection of Marc-Antione Fortune over Darius Henderson, but he played an absolute blinder and he was a constant menace. His presence created extra pockets of space for our attackers and we did create more as a result. It’s just a shame he couldn’t grab a goal that would have been so precious to the City faithful.
The return of Aaron Martin to the back four was also a positive for us and he could prove to be a key player in the final 11 games. Again, it’s just a shame that we couldn’t defend a simple set piece for what turned out to be the winning goal. Some of our fans are slating Chris Stokes for giving away an unnecessary foul, but regardless of that we have to prevent them from scoring there.
In regards to the second half, we were truly dominant. I’m sure that the home fans would have been gnawing on their fingernails relentlessly as they counted down the minutes. We spent the majority of the second period in the opposition half but we couldn’t fashion any real clear chances. Sometimes we perhaps could have been a bit more direct, but we had enough attempts to win that game.
Don’t get me wrong, I am truly devestated that we somehow didn’t manage to even get a point. However, that’s the first game for a while where we can argue that we shouldn’t have lost. The defeat to Barnsley was particularly disappointing in terms of our performance but this display was different. If we can take the positives from this one into the weekend and apply them, we have the capability of picking up three points. We live in hope – our season isn’t over just yet.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Chris Stokes – 6
Aaron Martin – 7
Jack Stephens – 6
Sam Ricketts – 6
John Fleck – 7
Romain Vincelot – 7
Jacob Murphy – 6
Joe Cole – 6
Marc-Antione Fortune – 9
Adam Armstrong – 7
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts (C), Stephens, Martin, Stokes, Vincelot (Maddison 73′), Fleck, Murphy (Henderson 68′), Cole (Lameiras 62′), Fortune, Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Lorentzson, Rose, Tudgay.
Shrewsbury Town: Halstead, Black, Vassell, Whalley, Kaikai (Clark 82′), Brown (Sadler 25′), Grimmer, Ogogo, Knight-Percival (C), Cole, Smith.
Unused Substitutes: Burton, Wellens, Mangan, Akpa-Akpro, Grandin.
Attendance: 6,023 (1,196 Sky Blues)