After both sides lost their opening fixture of the SkyBet League One campaign last weekend, Coventry City and Shrewsbury Town both bounced back with EFL Cup wins on Tuesday night. Whilst the Sky Blues ousted Portsmouth after extra time, Micky Mellon’s Shrews edged past Championship outfit Huddersfield Town at Greenhous Meadow to progress into the second round. However, the celebrations didn’t last long as attention swiftly switched back to the league endeavours.
An extra portion of spice was added to the fixture as former Coventry midfielder Jim O’Brien made his return to the Ricoh Arena. The self-proclaimed ‘pitbull’, Gary Deegan, was also amongst the former City players now donning the blue and yellow stripes of Shrewsbury. The pair failed to have a real influence on the game as the two sides were forced to share the spoils in a 0-0 draw.
With the atmosphere around the club slightly improved after the win in midweek, the Coventry players got off to a bright start as Sam Ricketts fired a Vladimir Gadzhev corner wide after just 4 minutes. Possession was the order of the day for Tony Mowbray’s men and the early control proved to be the pattern of play for the entire half. The next chance didn’t come about until 10 minutes, however, as Ruben Lameiras showed great feet on the edge of the box. The winger then slid Gadzhev in but the Bulgarian could only find the side netting from a tight angle.
Some more patient build-up play from the hosts led to Kyel Reid being fouled in a wide position on 13 minutes. The resulting free kick was whipped in dangerously by Gadzhev but Lameiras couldn’t beat Jason Leutwiler in the Shrewsbury goal. With City in the ascendancy, they continued to prosper going forward and another opening was carved out with 19 minutes on the clock. Jodi Jones’ initial attempt at some trickery didn’t come off, but the ball broke kindly for Lameiras who hit a tame effort into the keeper’s gloves.
As the home supporters began to feel more relaxed watching their side dominate proceedings, that calm mentality seemed to be portrayed on the pitch. Fantastic interchange between Reid and West Ham United loanee Lewis Page allowed the latter to deliver a tantalising cross into the box on 26 minutes. Andy Rose met the ball with a glancing header but it drifted narrowly wide of the far post with Leutwiler rooted to the spot. Just 5 minutes later the Sky Blues went close again as Reid thumped an effort over the bar from a Lameiras corner.
With the Sky Blues failing to find the net, Shrewsbury registered their first attempt on goal in the 38th minute as Sam Ricketts gave away a blatant foul just outside his own box. Ivan Toney then elected to take the free kick but the Newcastle United loanee couldn’t keep his effort down. No more meaningful openings were created by either side for the remainder of the half, but it was City who would’ve went into the break more pleased with their performance.
Following the referee’s whistle restarting play, it was the Shrews who were fastest out of the blocks as Junior Brown called Reice Charles-Cook into action almost immediately. This seemed to inspire the away outfit and they were handed another opportunity from a dead ball situation on 50 minutes as Ricketts committed a foul. A clipped ball into the box was then headed down by Toney but Louis Dodds couldn’t hit the target after running onto the knock down.
Just before the hour mark, a rare wayward pass from Jordan Willis gifted Dodds another chance but he held onto the ball for too long before being dispossessed. Coventry then countered with blistering speed to fashion an opportunity themselves, but Reid’s deflected strike was parried away from danger from Leutwiler after the goalkeeper reacted impressively. From the resulting corner, Lameiras found Rose but his controlled volley span inches wide of the far post.
After the brief period of home pressure, Shrewsbury looked to settle the game down once more and they managed to do that. Jim O’Brien began to look like a threat in the away midfield, and his tenacity was causing City the occasional problem. The Scot fizzed a powerful strike wide of the post from range on 69 minutes, but that was all Salop could muster in terms of efforts on goal. Substitutions were then made from Coventry as they looked to regain control, but it didn’t quite go to plan for the Sky Blues.
Kwame Thomas replaced Reid with 75 minutes played, but he was stretched off just a few moments later following a hefty collision, meaning his side were forced to play with 10 men for the final passage. With that in mind, Mowbray reshuffled the pack and Coventry adopted a slightly more defensive approach. Despite that, they had a few promising attacks thwarted before Toney had a chance to win it for the Shrews late on. O’Brien cut inside to roll the ball into the striker’s path, but his fierce strike cannoned off of the bar with Charles-Cook beaten. That proved to be the last clear-cut chance and the game finished goalless.
I predicted a draw before the game, but City’s inability to find the net in the first period cost them the full set of points. Shrewsbury’s intentions were clear from the outset as they looked to hit the Sky Blues on the counter. Without the physical presence of Marvin Sordell, we didn’t particularly trouble the away defence, and despite the pace of our front three, they looked relatively comfortable in soaking up the pressure Mowbray’s men applied.
Contrary to the Portsmouth game, our first half showing was very promosing in comparison to the second where we lost a bit of momentum. It was frustrating viewing really as during the interval, the majority of fans around me were backing us to go on and win. No two halves of football are ever the same, but the way in which we failed to threaten was worrying in the latter 45 minutes. Despite seeing the lion’s share of possession, we gained nothing to show for it.
We have now played a couple of fairly weak opposition, but we only have a single point to our name. We may have shown positives in both league outings and we may have been unlucky in certain instances, but we haven’t really deserved to win either fixture in my opinion. Shrewsbury may have sat deep in order to claim a result, but they restricted us well and it proved to very effective. We can’t really sit here moaning that they parked men in front of our attackers, we need to realise that we are lacking in the forward areas.
Jodi Jones and Kyel Reid are frightening and they will torment most defences in this division, but they need to test the opposition goalkeeper more frequently. I am one of the few that believes that Sordell can be a potent finisher at this level, but we don’t really have another option in that area. Marcus Tudgay is brilliant at coming on to see out a game and Kwame Thomas is yet to be seen really, so fingers crossed we strike lucky in the loan market.
Defensively, despite that being earmarked as the weakest element to our squad, we have looked strong. Sam Ricketts looks much more more comfortable in a central position and Cian Harries has looked capable, as has Jordan Willis. We still lack that imposing, colossal centre-back, but Reice Charles-Cook was merely a spectator for the majority of that game. That is one major high point for us thus far, but will the better quality opponents find lighter work of us? That is yet to be seen.
I’m just aggrieved that we haven’t got more to show for our performances to date, but there is nearly a full season remaining to acquire those all important points. Our slow method of recruitment has left us limited during the opening weeks, but if we can bring the right players in we could be a threat. It is, however, a huge if and I fear that if we don’t, it could be a long old season. Fingers crossed that we can begin to find the net frequently. I trust the manager to get it right. There are a lot of positives to take, that’s for sure, and this young squad deserves our full support.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Cian Harries – 8
Sam Ricketts – 7
Jordan Willis – 8
Lewis Page – 7
Vladimir Gadzhev – 7
Ben Stevenson – 7
Andy Rose – 7
Kyel Reid – 7
Jodi Jones – 8
Ruben Lameiras – 7
Marcus Tudgay – 6
Kyle Spence – 6
Kwame Thomas – N/A
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Harries, Ricketts (C), Willis, Page, Gadzhev, Stevenson, Rose, Reid (K.Thomas 75), Jones (Tudgay 55), Lameiras (Spence 67).
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Haynes, Finch, De. Kelly-Evans.
Shrewsbury Town: Leutwiler, Riley, McGivern, Toney, Dodds, O’Brien, Brown, Sarcevic (Black 45), Deegan, El-Abd (C), Jones (Lancashire 45).
Unused Substitutes: Halstead, Sadler, Ogogo, Whalley, Mangan.
Attendance: 10,296 (530 away)