In Russell Slade’s first home fixture as Coventry City boss, another promising performance ended in disappointment as Max Clayton rescued a late point for Bolton Wanderers. The Sky Blues had taken a first half lead courtesy of Marcus Tudgay but Zach Clough equalised for the visitors in the second period before debutant Stuart Beavon hauled City back ahead. As the home supporters anticipated celebrations at the full-time whistle, Bolton threw men forward and they spoilt the party a minute into stoppage time.
After the improvements shown during the Peterborough United fixture, I came into this game with a sense of renewed optimism and it was warranted during the first half. It wasn’t the most entertaining opening 45 minutes I have ever seen, but we once again looked organised and compact. For me, that is the main focus as we attempt to pull away from danger and we restricted a Bolton Wanderers side that is brimming with talent. Nathan Clarke came in for Jordan Willis and he looked comfortable in marshalling former City man Gary Madine.
Jordan Turnbull also put in arguably his best performance in a City shirt and I am gutted we failed to see the game out. We have now dropped four points in a matter of days and that is criminal, but I left the Ricoh feeling much more positive about our survival bid. As we displayed against Peterborough, our players are capable of matching some of the better teams in this division and that stands us in good stead – it’s just imperative that we keep working on our game management. Ryan Haynes’ foul on Madine was needless and I’m still yet to be convinced with him defensively, but he provided a threat marauding forward.
As for the three debutants, all of them put in a good shift and they have endeared themselves to the supporters I’m sure. Beavon will gain the plaudits for his relentless work-rate and he deservedly opened his goal scoring account with an emphatic finish. He is a fantastic forward and for his small stature, he uses his body very smartly, drawing fouls and running defenders ragged. Tudgay seemed to link well with him too so perhaps that partnership could be an option, but I would still prefer a more natural goal scorer alongside him.
Although they were feeding on scraps for the majority of the second half, both worked hard and that is the minimum expectation. Substitute Ruben Lameiras had a chance to square the ball to George Thomas late on to make it 3-1 but he failed to play the pass and that was a key moment. I am still unsure as to what the Portuguese midfielder really offers this side bar a few tricks and flicks. Thomas did look promising down the right once more, however, and a run in the starting eleven may see him develop into a good player for us.
Our midfield four looked compact for most of the game and Bolton’s technically gifted men found it difficult to break through them. Callum Reilly was composed alongside Andy Rose and that pairing could blossom if Ben Stevenson does get sold during the transfer window. Kyel Reid wasn’t as effective as he was on Saturday, but he did his defensive duties well and he was vital in thwarting Sammy Ameobi. Going forward he played his part in a few promising attacks and he chipped in with an assist for the first goal which was good to see.
I am just much more content with what I am seeing lately and whilst I know we still have a lot of work to do, Slade is exciting me. His passion for the game is infectious and it looks as if it is rubbing off on what was a previously dejected group of players. Hopefully we can stop shipping late goals and then I will believe we have enough to secure our League One status. Our next league fixture away to Chesterfield is a real ‘six-pointer’ and if we can claim victory it would be a huge boost for us as it would haul us out of the bottom four.
We keep saying that January will make us or break us in terms of recruitment, but I am confident the new manager can wheel and deal efficiently. His first movements have been promising as we look to add more experience and physicality to the ranks and that will be crucial. Stopping the run of losses was very important, but we have to pick up a couple of wins in the near future. Once we do that, I will be even more encouraged but we have to keep emphasising that there are plenty of challenges ahead.
Rumours are circulating regarding potential incoming and outgoing players, but we now face a waiting game to see what happens. With no fixture next weekend due to Port Vale’s progression in the FA Cup, Slade will have a whole weekend to work with the squad and prepare for the Checkatrade Trophy clash with Brighton & Hove Albion U23’s. The real business then gets back underway and I am buzzing for it – that is a welcome change as I was incredibly downbeat not so long ago. Slade has my backing.
Lee Burge – 7
Jamie Sterry – 7
Nathan Clarke – 8
Jordan Turnbull – 7
Ryan Haynes – 6
George Thomas – 7
Andy Rose – 7
Callum Reilly – 7
Kyel Reid – 7
Marcus Tudgay – 7
Stuart Beavon – 8
Ruben Lameiras – 5
Gael Bigirimana – 5
Ben Alnwick – 7
Mark Beevers – 7
Josh Vela – 6
Jay Spearing – 7
Gary Madine – 6
Derik – 7
Liam Trotter – 5
Andrew Taylor – 6
Sammy Ameobi – 7
James Henry – 6
David Wheater – 7
Zach Clough – 7
Max Clayton – 7
Jamie Proctor – 5
Coventry City: Burge, Sterry, Clarke, Turnbull, Haynes, G. Thomas, Rose, Reilly, Reid (Bigirimana 82), Tudgay (C), Beavon (Lameiras 77).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Di. Kelly-Evans, Stevenson, Gadzhev, Jones.
Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Beevers, Vela, Spearing (C), Madine, Derik (Proctor 82), Trotter (Clough 59), A. Taylor, Ameobi, Henry (Clayton 59), Wheater.
Unused Substitutes: Turner, Moxey, C. Taylor, Thorpe.
Attendance: 10,339 (1,721 away)