After suffering a humiliating 6-1 defeat at the hands of Norwich City on Tuesday night, Coventry City’s attention switched back to their SkyBet League One endeavours as Northampton Town travelled to the Ricoh Arena. Since gaining promotion from the fourth tier as champions, the Cobblers have started life in League One with four consecutive draws. The Sky Blues were also without a win, picking up a disappointing two points from their opening four fixtures. Both outfits searched for that elusive first victory, however, in a tightly contested affair.
Coventry manager Tony Mowbray made changes to the side that crumbled at Carrow Road, bringing in Jordan Turnbull, Marvin Sordell and Marcus Tudgay at the expense of Sam Ricketts, Ben Stevenson and Kyel Reid. Despite looking to be in control during the first period, Northampton’s Harry Beautyman ensured his side would go into the interval ahead on the scoreline. The lead wasn’t to be held, however, as the Sky Blues pegged them back midway through the second half to secure a share of the spoils.
As the home fans expected an improved performance to what was displayed last time out, the Sky Blues got off to a bright start as they registered the first attempt on goal with 2 minutes played. The ball was worked into Marvin Sordell, and on his return from injury, he flashed an effort into the gloves of Adam Smith. With their next attack, Coventry fashioned another chance as an expertly placed Lewis Page cross found Marcus Tudgay. The bounce deceived him, however, and his close range poke sailed way over the bar.
Up the other end, Northampton looked to open the scoring and they went close on 6 minutes. Kenji Gorre showed quick feet to take on Dion Kelly-Evans and power his way into the area. From a right angle, the winger then rifled a shot on target but Cian Harries diverted it behind for a corner. The lively start continued and it was the home outfit who went close in the 10th minute, Sordell latching onto a miscued Chris McCann only to head straight at Smith. The goalkeeper was then forced into more vigorous action soon after, diving low to his left to deny Marcus Tudgay.
With a quarter of an hour played, Daniel Agyei thought he had given City the lead after carrying the ball to the opposition area from deep. As Zander Diamond attempted to put in a challenge, the striker shifted the ball into space before curling an effort an inch wide of the post with Smith transfixed. The Cobblers then responded by opening up a chance of their own just minutes later, but Alex Revell was thwarted by some exceptional Jordan Willis defending.
After the incredibly high tempo early on, the encounter soon began to settle down and chances became less frequent. Gorre and Gadzhev both missed identical half-volleys for their respective teams, but Northampton took the lead on 30 minutes. Gadzhev gifted possession to the away side and Matt Taylor eventually fizzed in a cross that was converted by Harry Beautyman. In the final 15 minutes of the half, only two sightings of goal were had and they fell to Coventry. Sordell saw a close range strike well blocked on 38 minutes before Tudgay glanced a header wide of the post on the stroke of half-time.
No sooner than the referee blew his whistle to get the second period underway, the visitors charged forward to win a corner. Taylor then swung in a tempting cross but Revell couldn’t find the target with his towering header. Following that early scare for Coventry, they started to dictate the tempo of proceedings by keeping possession will in the midfield area. Despite their control of the ball, the next shot on goal didn’t come about until 56 minutes. An arcing pass found Tudgay in a central position and despite losing his footing on the slippery surface, he propelled a vicious effort towards goal and Smith reacted well to make a flying save.
The home crowd were pleased with the application of their players as they searched desperately for an equaliser, but Sordell skewed a strike well wide following a McCann corner on 60 minutes. That miss was forgotten soon afterwards, however, as the Sky Blues hauled themselves level with 63 minutes played. Substitute Jodi Jones danced past his marker before floating in a pinpoint cross that left the Northampton defence reeling. Veteran striker Tudgay then showed great determination to beat his marker and head emphatically past the helpless Smith.
As the Cobblers looked to settle the game back down after conceding, they almost found themselves a goal down on 66 minutes as Jones stung the palms of Smith with a sweetly struck volley from 20 yards. The exciting winger then went close again just a few minutes later, but he couldn’t direct his shot on target after turning magnificently in the area. With 72 minutes on the clock, the Northampton goalkeeper raced off his goal line to deny Jones once more in a one-on-one situation.
The final 10 minutes of the tie proved to be very open as the two respective managers urged their men to attack. In the 82nd minute, a Chris McCann corner was almost turned into the Northampton goal by a visiting defender, but the ball fell rather fortuitously past the post. The cobblers then had a golden opportunity to seal a late win on 86 minutes but Jak McCourt somehow failed to hit the target after Reice Charles-Cook’s save from Taylor fell into his path. Some end to end entertainment was then served up in stoppage time but no further goals were added, meaning both sets of fans would have to settle for a point.
Another game at the Ricoh, another draw. Whilst it’s better than losing of course, we need to start transforming them into victories. Throughout the affair, we looked a lot more promising than we have done recently, but the final touch was missing on numerous occasions yet again. A number of opportunities were opened up but we just couldn’t put them away. Did we deserve to win? Some would say yes given the balance of play, but Northampton proved difficult customers. I think the draw was a fair result.
Rob Page’s men now have an unbeaten run stretching back 29 games and it’s no coincidence. Whilst we undoubtedly looked the more effective side in possession, they worked extremely hard to rustle the Coventry feathers. Adam Smith was called into a couple of fine saves, but the majority of the remaining City chances were had from long range. On another day we would’ve claimed all three points, but the Cobblers’ fans will undoubtedly argue that they had enough clear-cut opportunities to snatch it.
Despite only finding the net on one occasion, I thought we looked much more incisive going forward. The front three of Marvin Sordell, Marcus Tudgay and Daniel Agyei certainly kept the away defence on their toes with a mixture of pace and power. I think we have missed Sordell immensely over the last few weeks and he looked very proactive, even if some of his touches were sloppy. With him and Agyei fully fit, we could cause a real nuisance, but Tudgay has definitely staked a claim for a starting spot next time out. Despite having his critics, he was key in linking up play and he got himself on the scoresheet too.
Lewis Page also showed vast improvement and he looked excellent with his deliveries into the area. Defensively we looked reasonably comfortable as a whole, but we were caught out on a few occasions as the Cobblers countered with speed. Vladimir Gadzhev had a fairly disappointing afternoon, and his mistake started the move that led to Northampton’s goal. He looks very capable at starting attacks, but he is rather suspect defensively. Chris McCann, however, put in a phenomenal performance to show City supporters why he was held in such high regard at Wigan Athletic.
We now move on to the EFL Trophy game versus West Ham United’s ‘B’team on Tuesday night. To be quite honest, I couldn’t care less about the competition, but I’d like us to get a win to get the ball rolling. The signs were there today that maybe the formation is starting to click into place, so hopefully we can use this result as a platform. A trip to Fleetwood Town is next on the agenda as far as League One is concerned and they will be in high spirits after securing a 2-0 win away to Southend. With only a trio of points to our name as it stands, we’ve got to go there looking for our first win.
Reice Charles-Cook – 7
Cian Harries – 7
Jordan Willis – 7
Jordan Turnbull – 7
Lewis Page – 8
Vladimir Gadzhev – 6
Chris McCann – 9
Dion Kelly-Evans – 7
Marvin Sordell – 7
Marcus Tudgay – 9
Daniel Agyei – 7
Jodi Jones – 7
Kyel Reid – 6
Gael Bigirimana – N/A
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Turnbull, Willis (C), Harries (Bigirimana 71), Page, Gadzhev, McCann, Di. Kelly-Evans, Sordell (Reid 67), Tudgay, Agyei (Jones 57).
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Ricketts, Haynes, Lameiras.
Northampton Town: Smith, Moloney (Phillips 76), Buchanan (C), Diamond, Zakuani, Revell, Gorre, McCourt, Beautyman (Hooper 67), O’Toole (D’Ath 60), Taylor.
Unused Substitutes: Cornell, Nyatanga, Sonupe, Richards.
Attendance: 10,022 (1,608 away)