Coventry City’s dismal away form continued on Tuesday night as Zach Clough scored the only goal of the affair to seal a victory for Phil Parkinson’s Bolton Wanderers. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the hosts, however, as the Sky Blues put in a spirited display that almost saw them earn a share of the spoils. Defender Jordan Turnbull had two efforts cleared off the line with the pick of the City chances.
The loss means it’s now three straight league defeats for Mark Venus’ men who sit in 20th position, just one point above the bottom four. Following a slender 1-0 loss away to Peterborough United in their last fixture, Bolton looked relieved at the final whilst and the triumph ensures they stay in the top three, just six points behind league leaders Scunthorpe United.
From the outset, it was clear to see which side are challenging at the top end of the table as Bolton kept possession with real composure. After just three minutes, Jay Spearing saw his intial delivery from a corner punched to the edge of the area by Lee Burge. Josh Vela propelled the loose ball back towards goal but it was simple for the visiting goalkeeper to claim. Just two minutes later, great combination play between Sammy Ameobi and Zach Clough allowed the latter to let fly from 20 yards but it was dealt with.
With seven minutes on the clock Burge was called into action again to deny Gary Madine. Neat build-up led to the chance and Vela’s ball across goal was turned on target by the former Coventry man but a miraculous save thwarted him from point-blank range. Soon afterwards on 11 minutes the scoring was opened, however, as Clough got on the end of a Madine flick to lob a pinpoint finish into the top corner from just outside the area.
After taking the lead, Wanderers continued to dictate play but it was the Sky Blues who had a chance to level on 20 minutes as Daniel Agyei saw a low strike well blocked. That opportunity seemed to instil some confidence amongst the Coventry ranks, but it was the home outfit who looked more dangerous going forward. Spearing tried his luck from range on 28 minutes but it was routine for Burge. Opposing goalkeeper Ben Alnwick was then called into a flying save five minutes later as Kyel Reid sent a fierce effort towards the top corner.
In the latter stages of the opening period, Coventry enjoyed a more positive spell but they were unable to trouble the home back line. Wanderers, however, mounted a few more forward ventures and Clough had a chance to double his tally on 35 minutes but he could only turn a Chris Taylor into the hands of Burge. Ex-Bolton striker Marvin Sordell then ballooned an effort miles over the bar just four minutes later with the final opening of the first half.
Despite their control in the opening 45 minutes, the hosts began the second half nervously as Coventry pressed and Mark Beevers’ misplaced pass back to Alnwick almost gifted the away side a leveller on 48 minutes. The Sky Blues looked rejuvenated and they beganto dictate the tempo of proceedings, but they were unable to find the net as Lewis Page called the Bolton goalkeeper into a low save with 54 minutes on the clock.
Although they were getting forward less frequently, Wanderers still posed a threat with Clough the most influential figure in attack. On 58 minutes he skipped past Cian Harries to find Ameobi in the area but the winger was denied by a fine Burge save. Just two minutes later, Clough sent a dipping free kick towards the bottom corner but the Coventry keeper proved to be the saviour once more as he acrobatically tipped the ball onto the woodwork.
With the Sky Blues searching desperately for an equaliser, Mark Venus introduced Jodi Jones and Ruben Lameiras from the substitutes bench and they made an immediate impact – forcing the home defence to revert into a deeper position. Jones saw a deflected low drive clawed away from goal by Alnwick on 69 minutes before Lameiras was thwarted by a fingertip save just three minutes later. Coventry then won a corner in the 77th minute after an incisive forward move, but Jordan Turnbull’s header was blocked bravely by Spearing who threw his body in front of the goal bound effort.
During the final ten minutes, the home defence were given a workout as the Sky Blues hurled bodies forward. Lameiras struck a low effort towards goal on 81 minutes but it was fisted away from danger. The Portuguese winger then bent one wide on 84 minutes before Derik Osede’s stunning sliding block denied substitute Jack McBean in the dying embers. One final clear-cut chance opened up for the visitors in stoppage time, but to Turnbull’s disbelief, Lawrie Wilson hooked the ball off of the line to secure three points for Bolton Wanderers.
I travelled to Macron Stadium expecting a very tough encounter – and indeed it was – but I was surprised with how well we performed considering our shambolic display last time out. During the first half you could clearly see why Bolton are challenging for promotion in this division. They boast a squad with great depth and quality and they oozed class in possession. We allowed them far too much room to operate in the centre of the field, however, and the duo of Jay Spearing and Zach Clough were metronomic in linking defence to attack.
Lee Burge was a very busy man early on and his save from Gary Madine’s effort was exceptional. The 22-year old goalkeeper has been heroic at times recently and he pulled off a number of phenomenal saves again to thwart a potent attacking side. The goal we conceded was poor, however, but it wasn’t Burge at fault. Instead, it was Jordan Willis who was beaten far too easily by Madine and Clough’s finish was testament to his ability – he is destined for great things, that’s for sure.
We then enjoyed a brief period of positivity towards the end of the first half which then carried into the second half where we were excellent up until the final third. Time after time this season, we have showed that we have the guile to create opportunities but we just can’t seem to find the net. Despite not being the biggest fan of Ruben Lameiras, his technical ability caused plenty of problems and Jodi Jones looked determined too. Kyel Reid was frustratingly inconsistent and Daniel Agyei was largely inconspicuous – Sordell struggled too versus his former employers.
The latter did work hard as he characteristically does, but nothing really came off for him. Saying that, he is left to feed of scraps for the large part as Reid and Agyei simply don’t offer enough quality with their delivery. On the overlap, Jamie Sterry and Lewis Page were menacing at times but we failed to convert from their balls into the box. I’m sure it’s not just me, but I would perhaps think of starting Jack McBean up top with Sordell on Saturday as he looked a handful during his all too brief appearance tonight.
Although we have not picked up anything again, the performance was full of desire and passion and that can only stand us in good stead. It’s evident that we aren’t blessed with a squad with the talent we possessed last season, but that spirit could prove vital in our quest for League One survival first and foremost. That’s something we will certainly need when we face MK Dons – a team in a similar position to us – at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday in what looks to be a real six-pointer.
Lee Burge – 9
Jamie Sterry – 7
Jordan Turnbull – 7
Jordan Willis – 6
Cian Harries – 7
Lewis Page – 7
Gael Bigirimana – 7
Ben Stevenson – 6
Kyel Reid – 6
Marvin Sordell – 6
Daniel Agyei – 5
Ruben Lameiras – 7
Jodi Jones – 7
Jack McBean – 6
Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Beevers, Vela, Spearing (C), Clough (Henry 74), Madine (Proctor 90), Osede, Taylor, Ameobi (Taylor 74), Wilson, Thorpe.
Unused Substitutes: Turner, Buxton, Moxey, Anderson.
Coventry City: Burge, Sterry, Willis (C), Turnbull, Harries (Lameiras 65), Page, Bigirimana, Stevenson, Reid (McBean 84), Sordell, Agyei (Jones 65).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Maycock, Gadzhev, Wright.
Attendance: 12,290 (479 away)