The Sky Blues recorded their first league win since November on Saturday afternoon as goals from namesakes Kwame and George Thomas fended off Gillingham. With both Russell Slade and Ady Pennock boasting an unwanted win percentage of zero going into the game, neither set of supporters were optimistic. A fantastic first half saw Coventry deservedly lead at half-time, but they survived a nervy second period as the visitors failed to add to Max Ehmer’s consolation.
With the two teams in poor form and devoid of confidence, it was no surprise to see both initially adopting a very cagey approach. Gillingham did register the first opening of the game with less then a minute on the clock as Bradley Dack fired wide, but nothing else of note occurred before City took the lead. Finding the net has been a real chore for the Sky Blues this season, but Kwame Thomas tucked away his second goal since a return from injury following great build-up. Callum Reilly whipped in a tempting cross and Marcus Tudgay showed great awareness to pick out his fellow forward who nodded home.
From that point onwards, City settled down and preyed on the Gills’ susceptibilities. When we doubled the margin of our lead on 21 minutes the Ricoh Arena crowd was left stunned. I was pleased that we remained on the front foot after pulling ahead and that positivity paid off as George Thomas slotted home calmly. Of course, due to the nature of our season thus far, I was questioning whether or not we would hold out. However, we controlled the remainder of the first period and restricted Pennock’s men to very few chances.
The second half had a totally contrasting complexion. As a City supporter, I am accustomed to the team giving us a few scares, but I was just overwhelmed that we managed to see the game out, as I had practically gnawed my fingers down to the bone. It was obvious that Gillingham were going to pour men forward in search of a result – they are in a rut themselves and they were desperate to ensure they weren’t sucked deeper into the relegation battle. When Ehmer stabbed home following yet another set piece, I feared the worst. But despite some tentative passages of play, we managed to secure three points and we can only hope it leads to greater things.
With regards to individual performances, I thought Reilly was outstanding. Being deployed on the left of midfield, he provided great cover for Ryan Haynes and he looked a threat going forward, too. The Burton Albion loanee didn’t impress many initially, but he has improved significantly over the last few weeks. Kwame Thomas deserves great praise as well, he worked himself into the ground and he could be a valuable option in the attacking department for the remainder of this campaign.
In the latter stages, Gillingham targeted Dion Kelly-Evans with long balls forward but the full-back dealt with the threat well. Although he is very small in stature, he stood up to the challenge. The rest of the back four looked solid too for the majority of the afternoon, particularly Nathan Clarke who donned the captain’s armband in the absence of Jordan Willis. Kevin Foley also offered extra stability in a defensive midfield role and he looked more suited to that than his previous right-back position. Home debutant Yakubu was also clever in his hold-up play and that aided us in seeing things out.
Overall, it was just great to leave the stadium celebrating a victory again. We are still confronted with an uphill task and staying in this division still looks unlikely, but that was better. Realistically we have to put a run of results together and I haven’t been confident of that all season. That was only our fifth win in League One and we now need another eight or nine to be in with a chance. Can we pull off a miracle? We can only wait and see…
Lee Burge – 6
Dion Kelly-Evans – 7
Nathan Clarke – 8
Jordan Turnbull – 7
Ryan Haynes – 7
Kevin Foley – 7
Callum Reilly – 8
Andy Rose – 6
George Thomas – 7
Marcus Tudgay – 7
Kwame Thomas – 8
Reece Charles-Cook – 6
Jodi Jones – 6
Yakubu – 6
Coventry City: Burge (Charles-Cook 45), Di. Kelly-Evans, Clarke (C), Turnbull, Haynes, Foley, Reilly, Rose, G. Thomas (Jones 65), Tudgay, K. Thomas (Yakubu 70).
Unused Substitutes: Rawson, Bigirimana, Reid, Lameiras.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Herd (Garmston 68), Ehmer (C), Oshilaja, Donnelly, McDonald (Parker 45), Dack, Byrne, Wright, Emmanuel-Thomas (Martin 45).
Unused Substitutes: Holy, Hessenthaler, Osadebe, List.
Attendance: 8,718 (582 away)