After The Sky Blues returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over ten-man Millwall, supporters of Coventry were hoping that they could follow that up with another positive result against Bradford City. The previous meeting between the two sides ended in a 0-0 stalemate at Valley Parade, but since then, fortunes have turned for the respective outfits as The Bantams have replaced their counterparts in the promotion picture.
On this occasion, the game turned out to be another tightly contested affair. The two sides jostled for possession throughout the entirety of the match and it looked poised to end as another goalless draw. However, an impact substitute in Andy Rose provided the match-winning goal in spectacular fashion as he rocketed a volley into the top corner from range just before the hour mark.
The ball got rolling under the floodlights at the Ricoh Arena and it was the visiting side who looked for a route forwards almost immediately. Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Lee Evans fired a strike towards goal but a deflection off of a Coventry defender allowed Reice Charles-Cook to save comfortably. With the away contingent of support generating noise early on, their team responded down on the pitch by edging possession of the ball. Despite their early impetus, chances proved hard to come by as The Sky Blues’ defence stood firm.
With 8 minutes on the clock a Joe Cole slip allowed Bradford to steal the ball in the centre of the park. Billy Clarke then elected to shoot from the edge of the area, but to his dismay, Aaron Martin covered excellently with a sliding block. Soon after, it was Coventry who looked to attack and James Maddison saw an effort deflected off target. Phil Parkinson’s side then broke down the other end after defending the resulting corner, but Jamie Proctor dragged his low strike wide of the far post after leading the charge.
Following that opportunity, chances began to open up at a lesser rate. Both sides crowded each other out in the midfield areas and entertainment was limited as a result. Bradford did flash a number of low crosses into the area but the home defence dealt with them expertly. The Bantams looked organised themselves, however, nullifying the threat of Coventry’s front line.
The next real chance fell in the way of The Bantams on 27 minutes as Tony McMahon robbed Joe Cole of possession. He then charged down the right flank before firing in a cross-cum-shot that narrowly eluded Proctor at the far post. Up the other end, Coventry spurned an opening themselves as Sam Ricketts blazed over following some clever work from Maddison.
As another lengthy period of tranquility ensued, fans of both sides began to fall quiet. Kyel Reid did conjure up a pinpoint cross on 43 minutes to find McMahon but his header was easily thwarted by Charles-Cook. Just a few minutes later, the supporters from Coventry were vociferous in their appeals as Ruben Lameiras was pulled down in the area. To their disbelief along with the Portuguese winger’s, the referee adjudged the incident to not warrant a penalty.
The second period began at a fairly slow tempo and neither side could muster an attempt on goal. That was until 53 minutes, however, as McMahon tackled Jack Stephens. With Bradford in a very promising position, the ball was rolled out to Proctor and the striker found Josh Cullen who fired over from 20 yards. Coventry then saw an effort of their own fail to hit the target moments later as Lameiras volleyed wide following a neat piece of trickery.
A corner taken by McMahon carved open the next opportunity as his delivery found Proctor, but the striker headed narrowly over for the away outfit. Tony Mowbray introduced Andy Rose and Gael Bigirimana during the break in play, and the aforementioned made an immediate impact. The ball fell invitingly into the midfielder’s path and he lashed a powerful volley into the top corner via the underside of the bar to spark celebration amongst the home supporters.
Just 5 minutes after Coventry had broken the deadlock, The Bantams should have levelled the scores. Proctor squared a pass into Billy Clarke following a McMahon cross, but the striker inexcusably sliced his shot wide with the goal gaping. The hosts then had an attempt of their own on the counter-attack but Ben Williams dealt with Rose’s low drive comfortably after Maddison found him lurking on the edge of the area.
The heroics of Charles-Cook then preserved Coventry’s lead on 68 minutes as Nathan Clarke’s long throw caused havoc in the box. Evans outjumped his marker to send a looping header towards the far corner, but the keeper scrambled across to tip the ball over the bar. With 78 minutes on the clock, Evans volleyed another drive towards goal but it was straight down the midriff of Charles-Cook who wasn’t tested this time around.
Bradford were dealt a significant blow just 4 minutes later as substitute Steven Davies received a red card after kicking out at Stephens. This made a comeback less likely, but the introduction of James Hanson on 86 minutes illustrated Parkinson’s intent. His side pumped a number of aerial balls into the home box but none of them were converted as The Sky Blues held on to claim a home win. Charles-Cook was called into action deep into stoppage time as Evans fired a low free kick on goal, but the keeper pulled off another fantastic sprawling save.
Two wins in succession, the last time we achieved that feat was way back in November. On paper, I would have been happy if we had collected 2 points from the fixtures against Millwall and Bradford, so to come out on top on both occasions is an achievement. Despite being only 6 points shy of the play-offs now, it looks as if we have left it too late.
In regards to the match, it certainly wasn’t a great spectacle. I think it is fair to say that Bradford aren’t renowned for an entertaining brand of football, but to be fair to them, they did attempt to play a possession based game. However, this left Jamie Proctor isolated up top with Aaron Martin and Jack Stephens marshalling him tightly. The pace of James Meredith and Kyel Reid did cause Coventry problems down the left wing, but their deliveries failed to lead to a goal.
The Sky Blues kept the ball well themselves too, but for the majority of the fixture they couldn’t break down an organised Bradford back line. James Maddison and Ruben Lameiras were tightly marked throughout and they consequently didn’t influence proceedings in the way they would have liked. However, Joe Cole was given room to manoeuvre and he rolled back the years with another solid performance.
One thing that did surprise me was Romain Vincelot playing in a more defensive role of centre-back in a 3-5-2 formation. I don’t know whether Tony Mowbray placed him there to deal with Bradford’s physicality, but whatever was behind his reasoning, it worked. Aaron Phillips was also given more licence to join attacks as a result, and he put in another fine performance. The young full-back is fighting for a fresh contract, and the last couple of displays wouldn’t have done him any harm.
As the minutes ticked by, I said to a fellow supporter that it would either be a mistake or a moment of brilliance that would decide the game. Fortunately for us it happened to be the latter, and what a strike that was from Andy Rose. From that point onwards, we defended admirably and I was thoroughly impressed with the resolve we showed. Reice Charles-Cook put in one of his best performances and he commanded his area with great confidence, along with pulling off a few of his usual acrobatic stops. Perhaps that penalty save at Wigan has restored some of his confidence.
As we go into our next fuxture, a trip to the lowly Doncaster Rovers, we will be confident of picking up another victory. However, our tendency to underperform against struggling sides has proved costly this season so we know it won’t be easy. Darren Ferguson’s men are fighting for every point as they search for survival, but if we can stay compact defensively, we should have enough in the tank to frustrate them. Let’s continue to finish the season as strongly as possible, who knows where it will take us?
Reice Charles-Cook – 9
Sam Ricketts – 7
Aaron Martin – 8
Jack Stephens – 8
Aaron Phillips – 7
Romain Vincelot – 7
John Fleck – 7
Joe Cole – 8
James Maddison – 6
Ruben Lameiras – 7
Adam Armstrong – 6
Andy Rose – 7
Gael Bigirimana – 6
Marcus Tudgay – 6
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts (C), Martin, Stephens, Phillips, Vincelot, Fleck, Cole (Rose 58), Maddison (Tudgay 69), Lameiras (Bigirimana 58), Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Lorentzson, Murphy, Fortune.
Bradford City: Williams, Darby, N.Clarke (Hanson 86), Burke, Meredith, McMahon (Morais 69), Cullen, Evans, Reid, B.Clarke (Davies 69), Proctor.
Unused Substitutes: Cracknell, Morris, Thorpe, McArdle.
Attendance: 10,241 (1,386 away)