Russell Slade certainly experienced a baptism of fire as he watched his newly inherited Coventry City side slip to a 4-1 defeat away to Bristol Rovers. I know he’s used to working under difficult circumstances, but I hope he realises just how difficult this job is going to be. We have now lost seven league games in succession and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon. Bar a brief spell in the second period, we were outdone all over the field and it was painful viewing yet again.
Bristol Rovers were never going to be an easy team to go and compete with away from home, but our defending was utterly hopeless on a number of occasions. Billy Bodin deserves credit for firing in three goals, but we gifted him the hat-trick and I doubt he will get a simpler opportunity in his career. His first and second goals were carbon copies of each other, both coming after drifting inside without a challenge before curling into the far corner from the edge of the box.
One player that has come under more severe criticism than most is Lewis Page and the West Ham United loanee was abysmal. He was the main culprit for three of Rovers’ four goals as he was bypassed far too many times. I am usually the first to try and defend players, but he doesn’t deserve it after today’s performance. Delivering a few decent crosses up the other end fails to make up for his naivety at the back and I can imagine Slade will drop him for the Peterborough United clash on New Year’s Eve. I certainly would.
We struggled to match the physicality of the hosts and I thought both of our centre-backs struggled too. The home side’s ploy was to pump the ball up to the forwards before feeding on the scraps and they succeeded almost every time, particularly in the first period. Another goal was conceded from a set piece as well which was disappointing and we need to take control of those situations if we want to haul ourselves out of this mess.
The midfield was bypassed during a first half that was contested primarily in the air, but Rovers were dominant in that area in the second period. I don’t know what has happened to Gael Bigirimana recently but his levels of performance have plummeted drastically. Granted, the style of today’s game probably didn’t suit him but his positional sense leaves us exposed quite often and that heaps further pressure on our already flailing back four.
In the final third we were unlucky at times with Andy Rose striking the bar and Marvin Sordell having a few powerful efforts blocked, but we didn’t threaten at all apart from the period after we pulled a goal back. The latter worked hard and did some of the dirty work well, but Marcus Tudgay offered no support whatsoever. Kyel Reid was the only real bright spark with his pace and energy, but George Thomas also deserves more minutes – he offered a damn sight more than Tudgay did.
To tell the truth, unless Slade can work miracles in the transfer window I think we are destined for the drop. Our supporters are dejected, the players are low in confidence and ability and it is going to take a lot to get the fire burning again. If we can get in some experience and physical presences then maybe we can scrap our way out of trouble, but it is going to be a difficult five months or so.
For me, the most depressing thing to take from the afternoon is how downbeat our fans are. I have never seen us be so muted away from home and that is a sign of how we all feel. Many didn’t even have it in them to vent their frustration as they were stunned into silence, that is the stark reality of where we are at the moment. Jamie Sterry came over and apologised to the travelling fans at the end of the game and he deserves great respect for that, but it seems we are fighting a losing battle.
Until somebody comes in and invests (very unlikely) in this team the downward spiral will continue. When you go to games expecting to be on the end of a hammering it is sad enough, but we are all fearing for the future of our football club and that is a horrible feeling. Whilst the players do warrant criticism, I feel sorry for some of them who simply aren’t ready to play in this division and they are out of their depth physically. A lot needs to happen on and off the field if the Sky Blues are going to change their fortunes. January is absolutely pivotal with regards to this season – we need help.
Lee Burge – 7
Jamie Sterry – 5
Jordan Turnbull – 5
Jordan Willis – 5
Lewis Page – 3
Andy Rose – 5
Gael Bigirimana – 4
Chris McCann – 5
Kyel Reid – 7
Marcus Tudgay – 3
Marvin Sordell – 6
George Thomas – 6
Daniel Agyei – 5
Bristol Rovers: Puddy, Brown, Hartley, Lockyer (C), Leadbitter, Montano (Lawrence 79), O. Clarke, Lines (Mansell 84), Bodin, Taylor, Gaffney (Harrison 60).
Unused Substitutes: Roos, J. Clarke, Colkett, James.
Coventry City: Burge, Sterry, Turnbull, Willis (C), Page, Rose, Bigirimana (G. Thomas 57), McCann, Reid, Tudgay (Agyei 75), Sordell.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Di. Kelly-Evans, Stevenson, Jones, Lameiras.
Attendance: 11,200 (902 away)