The Sky Blues travelled to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday looking for revenge after handing Darren Ferguson’s men a share of the spoils at the Ricoh Arena earlier on in the season. Nathan Tyson notched a brace on that occasion to peg Coventry back to a 2-2 draw, Adam Armstrong and John Fleck finding the net for the home side.
With Tony Mowbray’s men still in with an outside chance of making the play-offs, the travelling supporters were hoping for a positive result. In regards to Donny, they were determined to salvage their League One status for at least another week as they battle against the drop. With survival instincts kicking in, the home outfit secured a vital victory courtesy of goals from Tommy Rowe and Andy Williams.
Doncaster got things underway shooting towards their own supporters, but it was Coventry who made the brighter start as they burst forward almost immediately. Jacob Murphy used his pace to good effect in order to delve into the area, but his initial low cross evaded everybody in the box. Romain Vincelot then picked up the loose ball in a wide position and he saw a similar delivery hooked away from danger.
Despite the positive start from City, the home side soon began to look the better of the two sides. With 7 minutes on the clock they fashioned their first chance on goal after some intricate passing. Tommy Rowe worked the ball out to Riccardo Calder but he could only flash his powerful effort wide of the far post. This opening undoubtedly offered the hosts a reason to believe and they responded by pressing relentlessly, ensuring that Coventry couldn’t settle into any kind of rhythm.
Although The Sky Blues were struggling to gain any control on proceedings, they did carve out a couple of opportunities with around 15 minutes played. Sam Ricketts was at the heart of the first chance as he squared a ball into Adam Armstrong’s path but the striker’s effort from close range was deflected behind for a corner. John Fleck then set his sights from range during the next attack but Remi Matthews gathered the ball at the second attempt after spilling the low drive.
A corner was then won by Doncaster in the 21st minute and it led to the opening goal of the affair. Former Coventry forward Gary McSheffrey whipped in a tempting delivery towards the front post and Tommy Rowe met it with conviction to head past Reice Charles-Cook. The Sky Blues almost levelled as Adam Armstrong directed a Murphy cross on target via a feint touch but Matthews was equal to it as he quelled the danger with a sprawling save.
With McSheffrey leaving the field due to injury with 27 minutes on the clock, it looked as if Doncaster would miss his quality of delivery. However, substitute Nathan Tyson put in a pinpoint cross from the left wing to allow Andy Williams a chance on goal. The forward then made use of the space in the Coventry goalmouth to plant a header into the bottom right corner to spark joyous scenes in the home end.
The remainder of the first half then petered out in terms of action, but the hosts looked in full control of the match. Coventry searched for a route back into the tie but Rovers harried them on numerous occasions, forcing mistakes from the visiting team. Upon the half-time whistle, Ferguson’s men headed down the tunnel to a round of applause following a spirited first 45 minutes.
With Doncaster in a commanding position, they came out for the second half in an adventurous mood. Their positivity in forward areas saw them amass pressure on City’s back line with a succession of early corners. The away side managed to clear their lines on the first few occasions, but Andy Butler tested Charles-Cook on 54 minutes after heading the ball into the ground.
Marcus Tudgay and Vladimir Gadzhev were introduced into the fray on 58 minutes and the aforementioned played a part in Coventry’s next attack. He, Armstrong and Andy Rose combined well to open up Rovers’ defensive line, but Murphy couldn’t profit as he fired over the crossbar from 25 yards. Aaron Phillips was the next to spark a move forward and his cross was headed into Matthews’ gloves by Armstrong.
With time running out for Coventry, they looked to make the most of any extra space in midfield as the hosts dropped into a more defensive formation. Mowbray’s men could only muster a few half chances, however, and Doncaster looked comfortable in holding onto their lead. The margin could have been widened on 74 minutes as James Coppinger’s cross was headed on target by Tyson, but Charles-Cook was alert to deny him.
In the final few moments of the game, The Sky Blues went close to registering a consolation goal but Matthews wasn’t to be beaten. Tudgay rolled the ball to Maddison in the 83rd minute and the midfielder flashed a ferocious effort towards the bottom corner from range. The keeper got down quickly to parry the ball away from danger, however. John Fleck then had City’s final attempt on 89 minutes but it sailed wide to ensure Doncaster ran out 2-0 victors.
For those of you who also travelled to Southend earlier in the season and watched us get turned over, I’m sure you’ll agree that we looked clueless on that day. Well, the performance in this fixture proved to be as bad, if not worse. I know that playing sides who are scrapping for safety is never an easy task, but there is no excuse to be outclassed in every department. Shall we just erase this one from the memory bank?
Bar a few rare ventures forward, City failed to threaten a defence lacking any real quality. When the team was announced, I was relishing watching the pace of Jacob Murphy, Jodi Jones and Adam Armstrong picking off Doncaster on the counter. However, they all looked isolated throughout and a lack of service meant that Remi Matthews was nothing more than a bystander in the home goal. Our inability to threaten enabled Rovers to keep their first clean sheet in 17 games.
Our recent performances against Millwall and Bradford City were excellent, particularly the latter where our defence stood up to the physical rigours admirably. This is what frustrates me the most, how can we concede a couple of bread and butter goals just a few days later? I am certainly perplexed. Set pieces have been notorious for causing City problems over the years, but when will we learn to deal with routine balls into the box?
We can’t deny that there have been a lot of positives to take from this season, but witnessing us fall out of contention for promotion with a whimper has made for painful viewing. Our play-off dreams are now over but I can’t believe how spineless we looked in all departments in this outing. We were bullied physically all over the park and every loose ball was won by a Doncaster player. I hope Tony Mowbray has given each and every player an earful. We deserve much better.
Despite my anger and despair, I’ll still support the lads of course. Hopefully days like these will give the manager food for thought as he looked to build a side that can sustain a promotion charge next term. Having a host of players departing the club could prove to be a blessing in disguise, but Mowbray will have a tough task on his hands assembling a deep squad with the budget available. Let’s just hope we can come out on top in the final couple of fixtures and take some confidence into the summer. It hasn’t been all bad.
On a side note, good luck to Doncaster as they look to finish above the drop zone. They’re a decent club with a good bunch of supporters. Hopefully we’ll face them next season.
Reice Charles-Cook – 5
Sam Ricketts – 4
Jack Stephens – 5
Aaron Martin – 5
Aaron Phillips – 5
John Fleck – 4
Romain Vincelot – 4
Andy Rose – 5
Jacob Murphy – 5
Adam Armstrong – 5
Jodi Jones – 5
Marcus Tudgay – 5
Vladimir Gadzhev – 5
James Maddison – 5
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts (C), Stephens, Martin, Phillips, Fleck, Vincelot (Gadzhev 58), Rose, Murphy (Maddison 69), Armstrong, Jones (Tudgay 58).
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Lorentzson, Lameiras, Fortune.
Doncaster Rovers: Matthews, Alcock, Butler, Evina, Lund, McCullough, Rowe, Calder (Middleton 79), Coppinger (C), Williams, McSheffrey (Tyson 27).
Unused Substitutes: Stuckmann, Mandeville, Stewart, McKenzie, Taylor-Sinclair.
Attendance: 6,364 (779 Coventry)