Coventry City were left humiliated on Saturday afternoon as they fell to a 4-1 defeat against an Oxford United side who were in poor form prior to kick-off. Marcus Tudgay did salvage a late consolation for Mark Venus’ men, but the Yellows dominated the play from start to finish at the Kassam Stadium – former City man Chris Maguire getting on the scoresheet on a disappointing day for the travelling fans. Michael Appleton’s Yellows rise to 16th with the win whilst City drop to 19th – just one point above the relegation zone.
The previous meeting between the two sides came back in October as the Sky Blues prevailed at the Ricoh Arena. Marvin Sordell found the net on that occasion and midfielder Ben Stevenson rocketed a strike into the top corner from 30 yards to seal a 2-1 win. They never looked like contenders this time around, however, as the hosts ran riot on home soil. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Lee Burge, the margin of defeat could’ve been much greater for Coventry.
Although both sets of supporters were in fine voice, it was the Oxford contingent who were given encouragement from their side’s start. Coventry looked sluggish and the Yellows profited to create the first chance of the affair after three minutes, Kane Hemmings being denied by a smart Lee Burge save. Just four minutes later, Michael Appleton’s men made their positive opening count as they opened the scoring. A long Curtis Nelson clearance was flicked on by Chris Maguire and Hemmings latched onto the loose ball to fire a strike into the bottom corner.
Going a goal down didn’t seem to spark Coventry into life and they continued to gift possession to the opposition far too easily. A few more Oxford attacks were mounted before the Sky Blues’ first charge forward on 18 minutes led to an opportunity. Marvin Sordell cut inside to find Ben Stevenson but his effort was blocked. Five minutes later, Gael Bigirimana was dispossessed in the centre of the field and Maguire sent an audacious effort just wide from 45 yards – a sign of United’s confidence.
As Oxford continued to press for a second goal, Alex MacDonald almost doubled the lead as he flashed a low strike just off target on 26 minutes. It was 2-0 on 30 minutes, however, as Jamie Sterry inadvertently put the ball beyond his own goalkeeper. Hemmings caused the initial problems as he won the ball deep in the Coventry area. After bypassing Jordan Willis, his effort was then saved by Burge but it ricocheted off Sterry’s thigh before trickling over the line.
Whilst discontent from the visiting supporters filtered down onto the pitch, a dejected Coventry side suffered further misery as Maguire made it 3-0 from the penalty spot on 36 minutes. The former City man was hacked down by Lewis Page in the area and he confidently converted the spot kick. Burge then pulled off a miraculous save to deny Hemmings from point-blank range on 42 minutes, and despite a brief resurgence from the visitors towards the end of the half, Mark Venus’ men went in 3-0 down.
With a three-goal deficit to chase, the Sky Blues attacked immediately at the start of the second period and Sordell called Eastwood into a routine save on 46 minutes. Five minutes later, an inviting Page cross found Andre Wright in the area but the striker’s glancing header dropped inches wide of the far post. Ruben Lameiras was the next to fashion a chance for City on 53 minutes as he picked out Page on the left. The full-back then turned past his marker before curling an effort just over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Despite the slightly more encouraging outlook from the Sky Blues, it was Oxford who found the net once more on the hour mark. Maguire unlocked the away defence with some tidy footwork before pulling a low pass back to MacDonald. He then made no mistakes with the finish as he emphatically beat Burge with a driven low strike from 18 yards. Two minutes later, Maguire had a shot of his own after being teed up by Joe Skarz, but the visiting keeper got down smartly to tip it wide.
With the game now dead and buried, Coventry opened up a chance on 69 minutes as Sordell marauded forward. After evading a challenge, the former Burnley man let fly but his strike was dealt with unconvincingly by Eastwood. Oxford were back on the front foot after that, however, and a Hemmings cross was cleared from danger as Maguire lurked with intent in the area. The high spirits of the home supporters was lowered somewhat during the following exchanges, though as Wes Thomas and Joe Skarz were stretched off due to injury.
Following a lengthy stoppage in play, proceedings resumed and Maguire was on the charge again as he saw a deflected shot career off target with 84 minutes on the clock. The Sky Blues’ only bright spark going forward – Sordell – manoeuvred the ball into a shooting position before forcing the home keeper into a smart save on 88 minutes. In stoppage time late on, substitute Marcus Tudgay had a chance to gain a consolation for Coventry as Sordell was fouled in the area. The seasoned striker then stepped up to caress the penalty past Eastwood to conclude the scoring.
If you went to Oldham a couple of seasons ago when we lost 4-1, you will agree with me that that night was one of the most embarrassing in recent history. This was arguably a more inept display and we never looked like competing. I was worried when we fell a goal down early on, but I didn’t expect us to be on the end of a thrashing at that point. It soon became evident, however, that too many of our players were having incredibly poor games.
On some occasions, you can perhaps carry one or two passengers, but we had eight or nine. We looked lifeless, clueless and devoid of any idea of how to stop an Oxford side that aren’t exactly setting the league alight. Our retention of the ball was horrendous and gifting the opposition possession frequently allowed them to gain confidence very quickly. Once the second goal went in, you already sensed that there was no way back for us and the fans’ frustration soon became evident.
Choruses of boos and jeers were hurled towards the players, and whilst I don’t believe in doing that myself, I fully understood why people were reacting so angrily. I was seething inside, but it made me come to the realisation that we are perhaps asking too much from an inexperienced group. A few more positive results glossed over the fact that we are lacking quality, and today’s display makes me very fearful going forward. Confidence will have undoubtedly dropped, and with high-flying Bolton Wanderers up next, we could be back in the bottom four very soon.
With a lack of investment and little experience, we have to prepare for a difficult season in the third tier. Glimpses of quality have been shown of late and I do believe we have enough to at least secure our status in this division, but we can’t afford to perform like that if we want to do that. Defensively we were abysmal. I know Jordan Willis was carrying a slight knock, but I have never seen him and the rest of the back four play so poorly. They were offered little protection in front of them, however, with our midfield losing the key battles in the centre of the park.
That is where we lost the game really – our midfielders failing to have any influence. Ben Stevenson is a very talented footballer, but he struggled immensely during the first half and he was withdrawn as a result. Vladimir Gadzhev is still yet to impress and Gael Bigirimana wasn’t his usual self. We honestly played as if our players hadn’t met each other before – it was painful to watch. Our goalkeeper and Marvin Sordell were the only two who can say they have had a decent afternoon on a personal level. We simply weren’t good enough.
The motivation for the players has to be getting a result at Bolton on Tuesday night now. It is a tough place to go and play football, but they owe us supporters after today. It’s crazy how we can match the league leaders in every department bar finishing a week ago, and then go and get trounced at Oxford. When I say that I don’t intend to disrespect Appleton’s team, but it baffles me. We have got to be better – a lot better in fact. Let’s forget today and move on.
On a final note, I would like to wish Wes Thomas and Joe Skarz all the best with their recoveries from the injuries suffered during the game – hopefully both aren’t as serious as initially feared.
Lee Burge – 6
Jamie Sterry – 5
Jordan Willis – 4
Jordan Turnbull – 4
Lewis Page – 5
Ben Stevenson – 4
Gael Bigirimana – 4
Vladimir Gadzhev – 4
Andre Wright – 4
Ruben Lameiras – 4
Marvin Sordell – 6
Cian Harries – 5
Callum Maycock – 4
Marcus Tudgay – 5
Oxford United: Eastwood, Skarz (Ruffels 81), Lundstram (C), Nelson, Maguire, MacDonald, Hemmings, Edwards, Hall (Thomas 59) (T. Roberts 68), Ledson, Dunkley.
Unused Substitutes: Buchel, Taylor, Raglan, Welch-Hayes.
Coventry City: Burge, Sterry, Willis (C), Turnbull, Page, Stevenson (Harries 45), Bigirimana, Gadzhev (Maycock 68), Wright, Lameiras (Tudgay 68), Sordell.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Agyei, Jones, Reid.
Attendance: 9,199 (1,477 away)