Coventry City’s 14-game unbeaten home record came to an end on Saturday as they lost narrowly to league leaders Scunthorpe United at the Ricoh Arena. On an afternoon that provided great entertainment, Graham Alexander’s men found a decisive goal during the second period as Josh Morris tucked home his 15th of the season. The Sky Blues were left feeling frustrated at the final whistle and fans were forced to reflect on missed chances and some questionable decisions from the referee.
The result sees Scunthorpe stretch the gap at the summit of the table to five points and a healthy goal difference of +21 means they are in a very commanding position. Coventry, meanwhile, remain in 18th position but they are now only two points above the relegation zone in SkyBet League One. The Sky Blues now face Morecambe in the FA Cup on Tuesday night before travelling to Oxford United next weekend.
Following a minute of silence to commemorate the lives of those who died in conflict, the Ricoh Arena burst into life as both sides looked energetic early on. Despite Scunthorpe making the initial waves forward, it was the hosts who fashioned the first chance of the affair on five minutes. Marvin Sordell found Andy Rose inside the area, but the midfielder’s deflected effort found the hands of Luke Daniels.
Up the other end, Coventry had goalkeeper Lee Burge to thank as he made a superb save with 10 minutes on the clock. The chance opened up as the ball fell rather fortuitously to Paddy Madden inside the area. His powerful volley was thwarted expertly, however. With a quarter of an hour played, the Sky Blues went close themselves as Andre Wright saw two strikes blocked in succession after he latched onto a Daniel Agyei cross.
In the 19th minute, end-to-end football led to an attempt for each side. City defender Jordan Turnbull firstly dragged an effort wide of goal after marauding forward. A sweeping Scunthorpe counter then forced Jamie Sterry to hook a low delivery away from danger as Duane Holmes lurked at the back post. Three minutes later, it was the away defence who came under pressure once more as Sordell called Daniels into action.
As the half wore on, it was Mark Venus’ men who began to look the more threatening and a golden opportunity was carved out on 35 minutes. Gael Bigirimana found the run of Agyei and the Burnley loanee cut inside exquisitely. Composure was lacking, however, as he sent a bending effort off target from 20 yards. Deep into stoppage time, Sordell – who looked a constant threat – drifted inside past two defenders before forcing the visiting goalkeeper into a smart low stop.
In the early stages of the second period, the Iron looked to exploit the wide areas and they propelled long balls into the channels. City’s defence seemed to cope with that route efficiently initially, but they almost fell behind on 50 minutes. Madden whipped in a cross from the right and former Leicester City forward Tom Hopper headed over under pressure from Willis. Coventry attempted to settle the game down again following that scare, but they were pressed into mistakes by the opposition.
With 55 minutes on the clock, the home supporters were silenced as Scunthorpe hauled themselves ahead. Another Madden cross – this time from the left flank – found Morris at the near post and he deftly flicked a finish into the corner to spark euphoria amongst the away fans. Just five minutes later and the exciting midfielder caused problems once more. A mazy run allowed him to get a shot away from range but Burge was equal to it.
After that spell of Scunthorpe pressure, the Sky Blues regained a foothold and they took charge of proceedings. Substitute Ruben Lameiras profited from neat build-up to register a strike on 63 minutes but it was smothered comfortably by the goalkeeper. The Portuguese midfielder then went agonisingly close to levelling the scores with 71 minutes played as he poked a Sordell pass inches wide of the far post. Just seconds later, Jamie Sterry wasted an opening as he elected to head a pinpoint Lewis Page cross on goal, but he failed to make clear contact with the ball.
In the final stages of the contest, it was the Sky Blues who continued to threaten as they desperately searched for an equaliser. However, a loose pass gifted Hopper a shooting opportunity on 85 minutes but he skewed his low drive wide. Although they kept possession well, Coventry could only muster a long range effort in the 87th minute as Bigirimana sent a strike just over from 20 yards. That proved to be it as the referee blew his whistle soon afterwards to signal defeat for the aggrieved Midlands club.
Despite the result, that was probably one of City’s best performances this term. Many expected Scunthorpe to come to the Ricoh and waltz their way to three points, but they certainly knew they were involved in a game. On another day our spurned opportunities would have been converted and we would have been celebrating a victory, but it’s back to the drawing board for Mark Venus and the players as Morecambe visit on Tuesday night for the FA Cup first round replay.
In the first half, I thought we were fantastic. Despite being the highest scorers in the entire Football Leaghe, the only real clear-cut chance the visitors had fell in the 10th minute and Lee Burge reacted brilliantly. Apart from that, we remained incredibly organised at the back and you could see why we have the best defensive record at home in the division. Jordan Willis and Jordan Turnbull look to be maturing as a partnership every passing week and the full-backs are growing into their roles also.
The goal we did concede early in the second period was basic, however, as a simple cross found its way to Josh Morris. Allowing him the space to finish was criminal and after that point it was always going to be difficult for us. Despite that, we created the better chances and the lack of a goal scorer was evident. Daniel Agyei missed a promising effort in the first period and plenty of opportunities went begging in the second. It’s a difficult result to take, but I can’t fault the effort and desire of the lads. It wasn’t a bad performance at all.
Many supporters around me were lying the blame solely with the referee upon the full-time whistle, but you can’t do that. It wasn’t his fault that we failed to find the net. As the game approached the latter stages, frustration drew us into fouls – some very soft – and the man in the middle bought every one of them. The visitors were clever to draw these infringements from City, but I just think the officials have to be wiser to the gamesmanship.
Credit has to go to Graham Alexander’s side, however, as they remained very professional throughout. They weathered the storm at times but you can see why they get results. We found it very tough to break them down and the talisman in Morris will always lead to goals. Overall, I’m not too disheartened after that. There is a lot of pluses to take – particularly the defence and midfield – but we’ve got to start putting away our chances.
Lee Burge – 7
Jamie Sterry – 7
Jordan Willis – 8
Jordan Turnbull – 8
Lewis Page – 7
Ben Stevenson – 7
Gael Bigirimana – 6
Andy Rose – 6
Andre Wright – 6
Marvin Sordell – 7
Daniel Agyei – 6
Coventry City: Burge, Sterry, Willis (C), Turnbull, Page, Stevenson, Bigirimana, Rose (Reid 74), Wright (Jones 65), Sordell, Agyei (Lameiras 57).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Harries, Gadzhev, Tudgay.
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Wiseman, Wallace, Mirfin (Goode 42), Dawson (C), Madden (Williams 85), Van Veen, Morris, Bishop, Holmes (Smallwood 76), Townsend.
Unused Substitutes: Anyon, Adelakun, Mantom, Clarke.
Attendance: 9,737 (767 away)