Without a win to their name so far in SkyBet League One, Coventry City hosted Bury at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday night. The travelling side came into the fixture on the back of two narrow defeats; a loss against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup being followed by a 2-1 reverse at Gillingham. Tony Mowbray’s Sky Blues had been left frustrated in their opening league outings, only registering a single point at home to Shrewsbury Town last time out. A 3-2 triumph over League Two Portsmouth in the EFL Cup showed that City are capable of scoring, but they were yet to find the net in League One prior to this encounter.
The last time the two sides met in Coventry, it was the home side who ran away with an emphatic 6-0 victory. With that in mind, David Flitcroft’s Shakers would be looking to prove a point by avenging that humiliating loss. The away supporters would’ve been delighted at the full-time whistle as they picked up a point, but some would argue they perhaps deserved the victory. It was certainly another disappointing display by Coventry and that’s now three games without a goal for Mowbray’s men.
Both sets of supporters would be hoping that their side could make a positive start, but the first few minutes of the encounter proved to be very scrappy. The Shakers did create an opening on 4 minutes after working the ball well down the right flank to win a free kick. Neil Danns floated the ball in from wide and Tom Soares rose highest to divert the ball across goal via his head. To his dismay, however, none of his team mates were on hand to connect with the ball as it skidded perilously across the Coventry area.
With Bury encouraged by the early opportunity, they continued to propel aerial deliveries towards the imposing figure of Tom Pope. The Sky Blues’ defence did stand up to the challenge initially, but they failed to create too much themselves. Their first real sight of goal came about with 18 minutes played after Marcus Tudgay found Ruben Lameiras occupying a pocket of space on the edge of the box. The Portuguese winger then shimmied past his marker before dragging a low strike wide of the far post.
Over the course of the next 10 minutes, the visitors had a number of opportunities to take the lead. Reice Charles-Cook elected to come and punch a deep free kick that was lumped forward on 20 minutes, but he missed the ball and it dropped just wide his goal. Greg Leigh then motored forward during the next attack but the left-back failed to hit the target from 20 yards. A bout of head tennis then ensued with 26 minutes played and the ball eventually dropped into Antony Kay’s path. Fortunately for the Sky Blues, the Bury captain sent his volley over the crossbar from 12 yards.
Another error of judgement from Charles-Cook on 38 minutes almost cost the hosts very dearly. After dawdling on the ball in his own area he was very nearly dispossessed, but he got away with it rather fortuitously. A surging run from Tom Pope then opened up Coventry’s defence on 42 minutes but the striker failed to pick out Danny Mayor who ghosted into the area unmarked. The final chance of the half also fell to Bury as they flurried forward, but Mayor saw a controlled effort well saved from Charles-Cook.
The second period began with a very sombre mood amongst home supporters, but they were almost celebrating on 49 minutes as Coventry created an opening. Substitute Jodi Jones whipped in a deep corner towards the back post and Jordan Willis attacked the ball with purpose. Unfortunately for him, his header dropped wide of the target as Ben Williams remained rooted to his line. Just 3 minutes later and it was Bury who surged forward again, Jacob Mellis slicing a strike off target from 20 yards.
A few seconds before the game reached the hour mark, some brilliant combination play between Jones and Dion Kelly-Evans earned Coventry a corner. Vladimir Gadzhev elected to fizz the dead ball towards the front post but Cian Harries failed to head on target despite finding space. Fantastic build-up involving Chris McCann, Tudgay and Jones then led to Kelly-Evans racing through on goal, but he could only find the side netting from inside the area.
As patience began to wear thin amongst the home fans, Bury looked to exploit the young Coventry defence and Kelvin Etuhu went close on 72 minutes following a blistering counter. Just 4 minutes later, the Sky Blues had a couple of clear chances themselves but they couldn’t breach the away goal. An exceptional mazy run from Jones allowed him to skip into the area before finding Gadzhev with a perfect pass. The Bulgarian midfielder’s goal bound effort was then blocked heroically by Nathan Cameron before Kyel Reid struck a rebound agonisingly past the post.
In the final 10 minutes of the tie, it was the visitors who looked the more likely to snatch a victory. Tricky winger Zeli Ismael had an initial shot blocked on 81 minutes before firing a low drive wide of the far post. Pope then found the clutches of Charles-Cook on 85 minutes and the keeper was forced into a one-on-one save to thwart Etuhu almost immediately afterwards. Cameron then nodded a header wide with 89 minutes on the clock, but it was Coventry who spurned the final opportunity in stoppage time as Tudgay sent a volley inches wide.
Undoubtedly, that was the most lacklustre performance we have seen so far this season. It’s difficult to judge and worry too much after only three league games, but we have an awful lot to work on. Physically we were outdone by Bury for the majority of the game and the likes of Tom Pope caused us real problems. However, on a positive note we defended admirably again and if we continue to keep clean sheets it gives us that platform to build upon.
Our lack of options in the final third proved to be our Achilles’ heel as we failed to stretch the away back line. Ruben Lameiras failed to impress and he was very ineffective with the ball, being bullied off it by the opposition defenders. George Thomas also looked out of his depth and he failed to have any impact on the game. Marcus Tudgay characteristically tried to get a hold of the ball and bring others into play, but he found life difficult against the likes of Nathan Cameron. It was just a tedious evening of football to tell the truth.
When Kyel Reid and Jodi Jones were introduced they looked very direct, but they often held onto the ball for too long and any potential chances passed by. In the middle of the park, Chris McCann and Vladimir Gadzhev complimented each other well, but they didn’t create enough in the opposition half. A few half chances were carved out over the course of the game, but Ben Williams wasn’t tested to the level that he should’ve been. At times we played like the away side and it was all too easy for the Shakers.
Despite our early frustration, we can’t dub the season as being over already. There’s still 43 games remaining and the squad is yet to be fully constructed. In an ideal world we would be sitting here with maximum points and a complete set of players, but the reality is that we aren’t. I’d argue that in the midfield areas we have very strong personnel and defensively we look adequate too, it’s just the lack of a goal scorer that’s hindering us. Hopefully Marvin Sordell returns soon and if we draft in some more options, all hope isn’t lost. Let’s get behind the team and assess the situation after 10 games or so.
Reice Charles-Cook – 6
Cian Harries – 8
Sam Ricketts – 8
Jordan Willis – 7
Ryan Haynes – 6
Chris McCann – 6
Vladimir Gadzhev – 7
Andy Rose – 6
George Thomas – 5
Marcus Tudgay – 6
Ruben Lameiras – 5
Dion Kelly-Evans – 6
Jodi Jones – 7
Kyel Reid – 7
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Harries, Ricketts (C), Willis, Haynes, McCann, Gadzhev, Rose (Di. Kelly-Evans 35), G. Thomas (Reid 56), Tudgay, Lameiras (Jones 45).
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Page, Finch, Stevenson.
Bury: Williams, Jones, Leigh, Etuhu, Kay (C), Mayor, Pope, Danns (Mellis 13), Soares, Hope (Ismail 56), Cameron.
Unused Substitutes: Richubka, Clark, Dudley, Barnett, Maher.
Attendance: 9,098 (222 away)