Coventry City travelled to Priestfield Stadium on Saturday looking to halt a run of two consecutive defeats. Tuesday’s loss to Colchester United caused anger amongst City’s fans, but those who made the trip south would have been pleased with the all round performance. Despite both sides drawing a blank in front of goal, The Sky Blues probably deserved to nick the game and they came mightily close with seconds to play.
Gillingham’s fans would have undoubtedly been expecting a victory against a Coventry side in disarray. However, the home outfit failed to outshine their opponents and they missed out on the opportunity to tighten their grip on a top six spot. The Sky Blues now sit in 11th position and any chance of a play-off berth has been all but eradicated.
The referee’s whistle got proceedings underway and Gillingham looked to get the front foot immediately. Former Coventry loanee Dominic Samuel had the first opportunity of the game with 2 minutes on the clock, but he could only slice his strike wide after being found by a Ryan Jackson cross. The latter then caused problems again via a long throw-in on 5 minutes. Max Ehmer outjumped Sam Ricketts but his header was weak, allowing Reice Charles-Cook to gather comfortably.
With a subdued atmosphere in the away end, Coventry opened up their first half chance of the game with 12 minutes played. Jacob Murphy directed an aerial ball towards Marcus Tudgay and the striker brought it down on his chest expertly. He then fired a shot towards goal after swivelling neatly, but a defender got his body in the way to relieve any pressure. A similar attack up the other end just minutes later saw Andrew Crofts’ volley charged down before Romain Vincelot dragged wide for the visitors on the counter.
Some sloppy passing from City’s midfield was allowing the hosts to look comfortable in possession, but Tony Mowbray’s men looked to improve after 25 minutes. Patient build-up allowed Ricketts to draw a foul down the left wing, but Gael Bigirimana hit the wall with his initial attempt. He then fired the rebound well wide of goal after the ball fell fortuitously back into the Burundi international’s path. Some excellent Gills defending then denied Tudgay a close range header as Jodi Jones’ delivery looked very threatening.
The youngster who joined on loan from Dagenham & Redbridge continued to probe forward and he was at the centre of City’s next meaningful attack on 35 minutes. After pirouetting in midfield to take a defender out of the game, he played a pass out to Tudgay but his drilled cross was cleared away once more. Coventry continued to press but it was The Gills who had the final chance on the stroke of half-time. Jackson marauded down the right wing after disposessing Murphy, but his cross was blazed over by Aaron Morris who met it after peeling away from his marker.
With 50 minutes having surpassed, the hosts created the first chance of the half as Brennan Dickenson’s free kick caused havoc. His delivery found Ehmer at the back post and the defender headed the ball across the face to Crofts, but the midfielder could only fire wide. The Sky Blues then had a decent effort themselves on 57 minutes after neat build-up play but Tudgay watched his drive sail past the post.
Adam Armstrong was introduced by City on 61 minutes as he replaced the impressive Jones. With added firepower, Mowbray’s men enjoyed a spell of possession and they went close with two chances in the 69th minute. Murphy tore down the right wing to create the first opening but Vincelot poked wide. Bigirimana then curled a strike off target from range during the next attack as the Norwich loanee expressed his talents again.
A combination of Stuart Nelson’s fingertip and the top of the crossbar then kept Gillingham’s clean sheet intact as Coventry drove forward on 75 minutes. Some neat passing allowed Vincelot to receive the ball in an advanced position before he teed off Murphy. His dipping effort was then diverted away from danger but the referee pointed for a goal kick, sparking frustration in the away dugout.
With the game entering its final stages, both teams looked to grab a winner but it was Coventry who registered further attempts on goal. Armstrong whipped an effort just the wrong side of the post on 82 minutes before John Fleck saw a free kick well held by Nelson. One final gilt-edged opportunity fell to Coventry before the final whistle as an attempted Gllingham ricocheted off Armstrong into Tudgay’s path. The forward was then left with only Nelson to beat but he could only direct his strike onto the bar from 10 yards.
After Tuesday’s embarrassing performance at home to Colchester, I made the trip to Gillingham expecting us to be on the receiving end of a comfortable scoreline. To tell the truth, I was disappointed with the home side’s showing. For a team that are looking to gain promotion, they looked fairly harmless in front of goal. Defensively they did prove to be strong, but City failed to test their back line.
Although neither side really carved out any clear chances – apart from Marcus Tudgay’s last gasp miss – I was impressed with our own performance. Following defensive frailties costing us in our recent defeats, we looked very stable in that area. Sam Ricketts and Aaron Phillips thwared any danger our wide to good effect whilst the central pairing of Aaron Martin and Jack Stephens defended superbly too.
Whilst the first half was a fairly drab affair, the second period opened up a little and City profited to utilise the newly created space. Tudgay worked tirelessly as he always does and he provided us with an outlet up top, but he only really looked dangerous when The Gills committed more bodies forward. Jodi Jones was a bright spark yet again until he was substituted, putting in a number of excellent crosses that could have been converted into goals.
The decision not to start Adam Armstrong baffled many, but when he came off the bench he looked confident after his international goals. Despite being deployed in a wide position, he linked up well with his fellow attackers and his pace allowed us to use the channels more effectively. It was just one of those games of football where either side could have grabbed a winner, it’s just a shame that Tudgay’s effort wasn’t an inch lower.
I am now looking forward to Wigan away next weekend as the signs were positive. Clearly, the Latics will be a tough side to face but if we can nullify their attack, another point may well be on the cards. The ongoing frustration has to be our inability to find the back of the net, something that has cost us plenty of points during the second half of the season. Backed by a good crowd though, we could potentially cause an upset at the DW.
Let’s just see how many points we can chalk up from our final few fixtures.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Sam Ricketts – 8
Jack Stephens – 8
Aaron Martin – 9
Aaron Phillips – 8
John Fleck – 7
Gael Bigirimana – 6
Romain Vincelot – 8
Jacob Murphy – 7
Jodi Jones – 8
Marcus Tudgay – 7
Adam Armstrong – 6
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts (C), Martin, Stephens, Phillips, Bigirimana, Fleck, Vincelot, Murphy, Jones (Armstrong 60′), Tudgay.
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Hunt, Lorentzson, Cole, Fortune.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson (Garmston 72′), Ehmer, El-Abd, Samuel (Donnelly 13′), A. Morris (Williams 45′), Crofts, Norris, Dickenson, Wright (C), Oshilaja.
Unused Substitutes: G. Morris, Hessenthaler, Egan, McDonald.
Attendance: 7,200 (678 Coventry)