With The Sky Blues’ play-off push being handed a boost last weekend after a 1-0 win over Blackpool, Tony Mowbay would have been hoping his side could extend their winning run to two games. Swindon travelled to the Ricoh Arena in great form though, Luke Williams’ side winning four and drawing two of their last six fixtures.
Earlier in the season, the spoils were shared between the two sides as Coventry inexcusably threw away a 2-0 lead at The County Ground. The teams couldn’t be separated on this occasion either and a tightly fought contest played out to a goalless draw. As a result of earning a point, The Sky Blues are now just 2 points outside of the play-offs with Swindon sitting in 14th place.
After the referee blew his whistle to get the contest underway, it was immediately clear to see that both sets of players were pumped up for this fixture. The energetic and lively opening didn’t bring about too many chances, however, and neither team could settle on possession due to the intense nature of the respective pressing game.
Coventry were the first side to carve open an opportunity on 8 minutes as they worked the ball well out to the left side that Joe Cole was occupying. He then whipped in a tempting cross towards Marc-Antione Fortune but the striker couldn’t quite make contact with his head. The ball continued to be knocked around by both sides following this chance and possession was equally shared.
It was The Sky Blues who had the next effort on goal with 15 minutes played after Martin Lorentzson meandered forward from his full-back position. His inside pass to John Fleck then created space for the midfielder to exploit but he could only drag an effort wide from range. Swindon then had an opportunity themselves from a free kick in a promising position on 22 minutes but Nicky Ajose slammed it against the wall before City cleared their lines.
The Robins then forced Reice Charles-Cook into his first stop on 26 minutes as Jonathan Obika found space inside the area. His half-volley didn’t particularly test the Coventry keeper though as he dived to his left to hold on comfortably. Just 3 minutes later and the hosts nearly had a chance to open the scoring as Adam Armstrong played a first time cross towards Fortune who found room in an advanced position. Frustratingly for him though, his attempt to control the ball was poor and goalkeeper Tyrell Belford claimed it simply.
As the two sets of supporters continued to exchange chants from the stands, the players carried on matching each other down on the pitch. City did have a couple of chances after 38 minutes though as Cole saw a tame effort easily saved before Fortune’s attempt to lob Belford fell wide of the post with the advancing keeper stranded.
The ball then did find the net seconds later as Andy Rose headed home a Fortune cross but the celebrations were abruptly brought to an end as the flag was raised on the far side. Just prior to the half-time whistle, Swindon had a chance to take a lead into the break but Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill’s cross ricocheted around the box before travelling narrowly wide.
Coventry applied the initial pressure in the second half as Cole saw a few deliveries headed away from danger. The tempo of proceedings soon slowed though, as the away side looked to gain a foothold on the tie. Their possession led to a chance on 51 minutes as Michael Doughty’s delivery caused a spate of pinball in the home area. Obika then latched onto a loose ball to force a save from City’s keeper.
The Sky Blues fell under pressure from Swindon but the home back line resolutely thwarted any potential danger. With Cole and Fortune leaving the field on 58 minutes to be replaced by Jacob Murphy and James Maddison respectively, it looked as if Mowbray was looking to utilise the pace and guile to threaten Swindon. The substitutes made a quick impact as they combined brilliantly on 63 minutes to open up a crossing opportunity. Murphy’s low ball towards the front post was easily claimed by Belford, however.
An improved spell from Coventry led to Andy Rose picking up the ball out wide on 65 minutes and his deep cross was headed over by Sam Ricketts under pressure. Just 5 minutes later and Obika was causing problems again for the away side and he found Charles-Cook’s gloves after wandering past a host of opposition players. Up the other end, Maddison optimisticly appealed for a penalty after being felled in the next attack, but his shouts were waved away.
The game started to open up once more with 15 minutes remaining and Armstrong struck straight at the keeper on 76 minutes following a Sam Ricketts long throw. Swindon’s Fabian Robert then attempted an acrobatic scissor-kick on 79 minutes after getting under a clipped cross but it flew harmlessly wide of the post. Obika then took aim from 20 yards a few minutes later but Aaron Martin produced a superb flying block to take the sting off the effort.
Late pressure was put onto Coventry’s defence as the visitors looked to snatch all of the points, but despite their best efforts, they failed to breach an impressive City back four. Deep into stoppage time, home supporters were nearly celebrating a late winner but Darius Henderson couldn’t beat Belford. The striker was handed the opportunity to win it after the ball was pumped into the box but his half-volley was tipped over brilliantly by the Swindon keeper who preserved his clean sheet.
Another game at The Ricoh that we haven’t won, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Admittedly, going forward we simply did not do enough and Swindon’s defence enjoyed a relatively easy time as a result. The decision to drop Adam Armstrong into a deeper role has been greeted with some animosity from supporters and he was fairly ineffective in that position.
I’m not taking anything away from an away defence that performed admirably, but we didn’t do enough to trouble them. Especially in the second period when they were knocking the ball around conservatively at the back, our failure to press them allowed them to look comfortable. As a result, City never really looked like scoring but neither did Swindon on reflection.
With yet another defensive injury forcing Mowbray into change, I thought we coped well at the back in thwarting a potent goalscorer in Nicky Ajose. Aaron Martin and Jack Stephens built on their performance at Bloomfield Road by putting in another exceptional performance. We did well defending crosses also and Reice Charles-Cook wasn’t really tested throughout the entirety of the game.
In my opinion, that was a very good point today against a side that are in fine fettle. Of course, if we want to get into the top six then we need to produce the goods in front of goal, but we nullified a solid Robins team effectively. Our recent displays at the back have given me hope again that we can grind out points, but our failure to create needs to be amended if we want to realistically challenge for a play-off place.
Every single one of our supporters is under no illusions and we know we have an extremely tough run-in. With Gillingham, Milwall, Wigan and Bradford all left to play, we simply have to step up to the mark. If we can continue to defend in such fashion as what was on show in this game, we should be able to keep teams at bay. We are all asking the same question though – can we find our feet again in front of goal? The most optimistic fans amongst us perhaps think so, but I’m not so sure as what to expect.
All we can do now is stick behind the lads in sky blue and see where it takes us. We are only a win away from 6th and anything is possible. The atmosphere today was superb and the home section were positive throughout, and that is exactly what our players need. It is now imperative that we get as many points on the board as possible prior to facing our promotion rivals, and it will be a mammoth task, but not losing versus Swindon was vital and we are still in the race.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Sam Ricketts – 7
Aaron Martin – 8
Jack Stephens – 8
Martin Lorentzson – 7
John Fleck – 6
Romain Vincelot – 6
Andy Rose – 8
Joe Cole – 6
Marc-Antione Fortune – 6
Adam Armstrong – 6
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts (C), Stephens, Martin, Lorentzson (Henderson 71), Vincelot, Fleck, Rose, Cole (Murphy 58), Fortuné (Maddison 58), Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Hunt, Bigirimana, Tudgay.
Swindon Town: Belford, N. Thompson (C), Ottewill (Brophy 78), Turnball, Ajose, Doughty, L. Thompson, Obika, Sendles-White, Rodgers (Robert 73), Barry.
Unused Substitutes: Henry, Cooke, Hylton, Iandolo, Marshall.
Attendance: 12,322 (2,432 away)