The Sky Blues made the long journey to Wales on Saturday to face League Two side Newport County. With a youthful City side claiming victory over Rugby Town last time out, Tony Mowbray would be hoping his starlets could impress again at Spytty Park. The supporters who made the trip were also hoping for a more entertaining spectacle than the last time the two teams met, Coventry slipping to a 1-0 defeat at the same venue in 2014.
Upon arrival, City fans were greeted with some negative news as it was revealed that midfielder Romain Vincelot had moved to Bradford City for an undisclosed fee. Plenty of positives were to be had on the pitch though, as a young Coventry outfit secured a comfortable 2-0 win over their Welsh counterparts. A first half strike from George Thomas was added to by Jordan Willis in the second half to ensure the travelling fans had something to cheer about.
As the game got underway in humid conditions, both sides jostled for possession in the centre of the park. It was the hosts who enjoyed more of the ball in the early stages but Coventry fashioned the first chance of the affair from a set piece. Vladimir Gadzhev swung in a deep corner towards the far post and Marcus Tudgay peeled off his marker. The experienced striker then headed towards goal but his effort floated harmlessly over the bar.
Following that opportunity, The Sky Blues failed to gain momentum and it was Newport who soon began to look the better side. With 15 minutes on the clock Dan Butler received the ball on the left wing, but despite driving into a dangerous area, his low cross was easily claimed by Reice Charles-Cook in the away goal. County’s next attack then saw another chance open up but a strike from distance was deflected wide via a Coventry defender’s boot.
As the tempo began to slow down, Tony Mowbray’s men looked to gain a foothold by keeping hold of the ball. Despite improved retention, chances were few and far between and an ambitious George Thomas penalty appeal was all the away fans had to shout about. The young Welsh striker did have supporters off their feet again on 29 minutes as he took aim from 20 yards after showing tidy feet, but his low strike was well saved by Joe Day.
The pendulum continued to swing back and forth as far as the game was concerned, and so did the songs in the stands as both sets of fans enjoyed some good natured banter. However, it was the travelling Coventry supporters who were feeling happier on 43 minutes as their side took the lead. Bulgarian Gadzhev slid a neat ball through to Thomas and the forward remained calm to slot a finish into the far corner with Day at full stretch. The Sky Blues carried on probing forward for the remainder of the half, but a second goal proved elusive as Thomas went close once more.
At the interval, City made a change as Fabien Robert (trialist) replaced goal scorer Thomas. Despite a very slow start to the second period, he was attempting to make his mark and his movement caused Newport’s back like a few problems. It was his trickery that created the first opening of the half on 54 minutes as he found Andy Rose with a neat pass. The former Seattle Sounders man then rolled the ball to Gadzhev but his shot was high and wide.
Newport then spurned a chance themselves with 57 minutes played as a downwards header fell into the clutches of Charles-Cook. The goalkeeper then quickly released the ball and City broke forward, winning a corner in the process. Another enticing Gadzhev delivery was then met by Rose who towered above his marker. Day stretched to tip the ball onto the bar but as it dropped he was left stranded and Jordan Willis slid in to double Coventry’s lead.
With both managers now making a number of changes, the game lost a bit of rhythm and it became rather dull as a result. Newport did look to go forward and cause issues but their final pass was poor and the away defence mopped up easily. The next chance of the affair didn’t come about until the 74th minute as incisive play from Kyle Spence allowed him to charge into the area before being denied by a great challenge.
As the full-time whistle edged ever closer, the League Two outfit did look to make use of dead ball situations but they failed to capitalise. It was Coventry who continued to look the more threatening as their midfield and front line combined well to manoeuvre the ball into dangerous areas. A few half chances were passed by before substitute Devon Kelly-Evans hit the upright with seconds to play. That proved to be the final chance of the afternoon and the whistle was soon blown to send Coventry home victorious.
Despite the overriding anger marring my thoughts before the game somewhat after I discovered Vincelot had left the club, I soon returned to a calmer state. Of course we were all frustrated upon hearing the news, but after Tony Mowbray took the time to explain the situation to a group of us, I began to understand. The French midfielder wanted to leave, and with Bradford offering him double his salary, we couldn’t really stand in his way. It’s depressing that we always have to sell our best assets, particularly to fellow League One clubs, but the manager is adamant that he can replace him adequately.
Andy Rose and Vladimir Gadzhev started together as a central pairing in midfield and they both had positive impacts on proceedings. They were both suspect with their final ball on occasions, but they proved they can compliment each other. The front three of George Thomas, Marcus Tudgay and Marvin Sordell all looked to cause problems too, with the aforementioned having a few chances to add to the solitary goal he scored.
Defensively, despite being short of a few dominant figures, we looked relatively untroubled and the home side were limited to very few chances. Jordan Willis donned the armband and he played with real composure as part of a back three, helping Cian Harries and Darragh Leahy through the game. Both of those academy products also looked very capable, and although they aren’t ready for the rigours of third tier football just yet, they certainly have a lot of potental.
Another hot prospect is Kyle Spence and the winger looked impressive during his cameo appearance. He has had a superb pre-season thus far and I’m sure he will be determined to push for a place in the first team. His directness and willingness to beat a man means he is a real threat going forward. One player who certainly caught my eye again was Jacob Whitmore. The attacking full-back seems to be very confident on the ball and he looks disciplined off it.
Overall, it was a decent performance that allows us to take a lot of positives. We undoubtedly still need to recruit a number of players as our squad is looking very thin, but we have a basis of a capable team there. Unlike some of our previous managers, I trust Mowbray to get the best out of a fairly meagre budget. Hopefully we can bolster our team in the right areas and in a few weeks from now we’ll be celebrating a positive start to the season. Fingers crossed.
Newport County: Day (Trialist C 75), Barnum-Bobb, D. Jones (Angel 82), Butler, Bennett (Parselle 75), Trialist A (Myrie-Williams 62), Randall (Owen-Evans 67), Labadie (B. Jones 82), Compton (Jones 70), Rigg (Parkin 62), Trialist B (Meechan 75).
Unused Substitutes: None.
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Willis (Whitmore 59), Harries (Thompson 80), Leahy, Haynes (Shipley 85), Di. Kelly-Evans, Gadzhev (Maycock 80), Rose (Dev. Kelly-Evans 75), G.Thomas (Robert 45), Sordell (Spence 75), Tudgay (Stevenson).
Unused Substitutions: Skuza.