Coventry City travelled to Boundary Park to take on Oldham Athletic in their final fixture of the 2015/16 campaign. When the two teams met at the Ricoh Arena back in December, a last gasp header from former City striker Daniel Philliskirk salvaged a point for The Latics. Since then, The Sky Blues disappointingly dropped out of the play-off picture whilst John Sheridan galvanised his men to League One safety.
With Tony Mowbray’s team selection consisting of debutant Cian Harries amongst other youngsters, the visitors were preparing for life without a number of players. Despite a weakened side on paper, Coventry ran out fairly comfortable 2-0 winners following a positive second period. Oldham did play their part in an entertaining encounter, but their efforts were in vain as Romain Vincelot and Adam Armstrong found the net without reply.
With the healthy contingent of away fans in fine voice the game got underway. Despite it being a tie that wouldn’t have too much effect on league standings, a high energy was on display as both sides battled for authority early on. Oldham fashioned the first opening on 3 minutes after Dominic Poleon showed determination to keep the ball in play out wide. The attacker then managed to pick out Carl Winchester but his effort was tame and Reice Charles-Cook dealt with it comfortably.
Just a few minutes later, the Coventry keeper was on hand again to charge out of his area and head a long ball into the stands with Jonathan Forte bearing down on goal. Up the other end, Gael Bigirimana floated a corner towards the back post in a position that Jack Stephens was occupying. Unfortunately for the defender, he made a hash of his effort and Athletic’s nerves were cooled somewhat.
Following that warning, Oldham responded by keeping the ball more efficiently and this allowed them to control the tempo. Their passing was very expansive as they shifted the play frequently, but it was midfielder Liam Kelly who had the next sight of goal from a central position on 22 minutes. With their next venture forward, Charles-Cook was forced into his best stop of the affair as he acrobatically tipped over a Curtis Main header that looked destined for the corner.
The Sky Blues enjoyed a dominant spell themselves just after the half hour mark but their intent wasn’t rewarded with a goal. Adam Armstrong did go close on 36 minutes as he poked the ball around the oncoming Joel Coleman, but frustratingly for him, a defender sped across to make a vital challenge with the goal gaping. It was also the away side who opened up the clearest chance just before the interval but George Thomas couldn’t keep his strike down after Armstrong drilled the ball into his path.
After their flourish at the end of the first half, City began the second in vibrant mood and they looked to open the scoring. However, their controlled build-up was lacking the final pass and Oldham’s defence were untested. With Mowbray’s men probing forward, Forte profited on the counter attack as he flashed a cross across the Coventry box on 51 minutes. To the despair of The Latics’ fans, it happened to evade the cluster of bodies to trickle away from danger.
For the next 20 minutes of the affair, action was limited and both sets of supporters became muted as a consequence. Remarkably, the next chance didn’t come about until 74 minutes and it fell to Coventry. Substitute Jacob Murphy saw his initial corner flicked towards goal by Jack Stephens but Coleman made an instinctive reaction stop. The keeper was then called into action immediately afterwards as he miraculously clawed Vincelot’s powerful rebound away from goal.
Another pinpoint Murphy corner then led to deadlock being broken just a minute afterwards as Oldham’s defence was left wanting. The curling delivery was met by a looping Vincelot header and Coleman was unable to pull off any heroics this time around as it dropped into the top corner. As a result of taking the lead, the visitors sprayed the ball around the pitch with added confidence and the travelling supporters were urging their players on.
With an almighty amount of noise reverberating around the away section of the stadium, The Sky Blues doubled their advantage with 80 minutes on the clock. Murphy used his frightening pace to mount an attack and the winger then offloaded the ball to Armstrong. The Newcastle United loanee then outwitted his marker with a tidy piece of skill before firing under the keeper to reach his 20-goal landmark. With a two-goal cushion now in place, the final passages petered out and the full-time whistle was sounded to signal the end of the 2015/16 season.
I travelled up north anticipating a fairly dull match as neither team desperately needed a result to swing things in their favour. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the intensity out on the pitch, and despite a lack of quality for the large part, it was a well contested game. I have watched Oldham a few times this season and they implemented their usual pressing game, forcing us into errors particularly in the first half.
A host of misplaced passes and an inability to create too much meant that neither outfit looked like finding the net in the opening period. To be honest, the home side spurned the better of the chances and Charles-Cook was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers. City did play some neat football at times, but the ball just wouldn’t fall kindly and I felt sorry for Armstrong who searched for an elusive goal.
The second half, however, was a different story once it got going. Initially after the restart both sides tussled for possession, but after the hour mark we really turned up the heat. All three of the substitutes that were introduced into the fray added an air of freshness and we began to look far more convincing. Following Vincelot opening the scoring, we looked a constant threat going forward and I was delighted when Armstrong registered his 20th goal of the season. As a teenage striker it isn’t easy coping with the demands of third tier football, but he has been a real revelation and I’m sure he has a massive future within the game.
Another lad who look as if he could be very useful going forward is Cian Harries. We all know how physical this division is, but the 19-year old dealt with any threats competently. He is known for his ball playing exploits and he showed why he has that reputation with some brilliant distribution. Of course, he has a lot of time to develop mentally and physically, but the underlying attributes of a top player are there for all to see.
On a whole, individuals aside, it was a very professional away performance and I’m delighted that we could sign off with a win in front of our away fans. We are the lifeblood of this football club and our backing this season has been unprecedented. With the season now behind us and the fresh one soon approaching, I hope that the club moves forward on and off the field during the summer months. Everyone connected to Coventry is disappointed that we couldn’t fulfil promotion this time around, but we have to hold onto the positives.
The manager and the backroom staff have a difficult task in recruiting fresh faces over the next few months, but let’s back Mowbray and The Sky Blues. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season, and as a City fan I had never been given the hope of success. This campaign has rekindled the fire in a way, and I fully believe that we can continue to build if we stick together. Maybe we weren’t fully equipped to maintain the push this term, but hopefully we have learnt valuable lessons and next season will see us celebrating come May. We live in hope.
See you at Nuneaton for our annual pre-season meeting.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Cian Harries – 8
Jack Stephens – 8
Stephen Hunt – 7
Romain Vincelot – 8
Andy Rose – 6
John Fleck – 8
Gael Bigirimana – 8
Ruben Lameiras – 6
George Thomas – 7
Adam Armstrong – 7
Dion Kelly-Evans – 7
Vladimir Gadzhev – 7
Jacob Murphy – 7
Oldham Athletic: Coleman, Dummigan, J.Wilson, Gerrard, B.Wilson, Dieng (Croft 71), Kelly (C), Winchester (Jones 61), Forte, Poleon (Cassidy 68), Main.
Unused Substitutes: Cornell, Brown, Mills, Edmundson.
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Harries, Stephens, Hunt (Murphy 75), Vincelot, Rose (Di. Kelly-Evans 45), Fleck, Bigirimina, Lameiras (Gadzhev 60), G.Thomas, Armstrong.
Unused Substitutes: Addai, Jones, Stevenson, Tudgay.
Attendance: 4,928 (782 Coventry supporters)