The Sky Blues travelled to Rochdale with nothing left to play for apart from pride on Monday afternoon, but they limped to a 2-0 defeat. A double from Ian Henderson was enough to ensure that Keith Hill’s men would run out comfortable victors on a day where Coventry registered no shots on target. Ben Stevenson was also carried off on a stretcher late on to add further misery to City’s Easter weekend.
With the Coventry fans in fine voice during the opening exchanges, the Sky Blues began brightly down on the pitch as they pressed high. Joe Bunney did whip in a dangerous cross for the hosts on three minutes, but it was cleared to safety by Farrend Rawson. Although they worked the ball forward on a number of occasions early on, Mark Robins’ men failed to test Conrad Logan in the Rochdale goal.
City’s early promise then soon evaporated as Dale began to test the visiting defence, Jordan Willis being forced to make a last ditch challenge to deny Ian Henderson. The experienced forward was linking up well with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing down the right and the pair combined to hand Rochdale a 1-0 lead after 18 minutes. Kyel Reid was dispossessed initially and that gave Mendez-Laing the opportunity to skip past Chris Stokes and cross. His delivery was pinpoint and Henderson headed home from close range to spark celebrations at Spotland.
From that point onwards, the first half transformed into a dull affair. Keith Hill’s side are chasing a play-off position and they looked content on ensuring a vital set of three points was won. Possession was subsequently kept by the hosts and the Sky Blues’ inadequacies in the final third meant Dale looked comfortable. Mendez-Laing did spurn a chance from six yards midway through the half and Jamie Allen tested Lee Burge on 45 minutes, but entertainment was in short supply.
Following the restart, it was Rochdale who settled back into their rhythm and Henderson tucked away a finish which wrong footed Burge on 52 minutes. Mendez-Laing claimed the assist once more and it was evident that the duo were on the same wavelength. Just six minutes later, the artful winger evaded the challenges of the Coventry defence before flashing a low strike narrowly wide of the far post.
It took until the 66th minute for the Sky Blues to create a real opportunity as Jordan Willis volleyed over from inside the area. A chorus of “we’ve had a shot” then rang around the away end – a sign of just how poor Coventry’s display was. As the game wore on Rochdale continued to threaten and Callum Camps forced Burge into a flying save on 73 minutes. In the dying embers of the match Ben Stevenson received treatment for a nasty looking head injury and he was forced off, but Dale couldn’t inflict further damage with City down to ten.
Overall, it was an abject performance. When Rochdale went one goal up I was hoping we would make a real game of it, but we played straight into their hands and it turned into a snoozefest. Mendez-Laing was unstoppable all afternoon and he almost single-handedly tore apart our back four on numerous occasions. Chris Stokes had a very difficult afternoon attempting to keep tabs on him, but we were far too weak in midfield.
Under Robins so far we have looked more aggressive within our play, meaning we have been harder to beat. Today, we simply rolled over and handed the opposition three points. I know that Rochdale are a competent side that are eyeing a top six spot, but it was evident that they didn’t have to get out of second gear to win. We were naive in our play, possession was often wasted and it frustrated the travelling fans.
Of course, the result didn’t mean anything as we are a relegated side anyway, but some pride needs restoring. Over recent weeks that has happened and the players deserve great credit for that, but we’ve got to be better than what we showed today. The lack of creativity within our side is a real concern and this game highlighted how desperately we have needed a goal scorer all season. George Thomas is beginning to mould himself into a very useful player, but we can’t rely on him solely.
Despite there not being much pleasant viewing down on the pitch, our supporters were in fantastic spirits. I’m not sure whether we resorted to mocking our own downfalls just to keep some sanity intact, but the atmosphere was brilliant. We have been through a lot and we will probably have to endure plenty more rough rides, but it’s the camaraderie we have that keeps this club alive. Two games now remain in a season we won’t want to remember, then we can start again next term with the (often false) hope of success.
Play Up Sky Blues.
Lee Burge – 5
Jordan Willis – 6
Jordan Turnbull – 6
Farrend Rawson – 6
Chris Stokes – 4
Gael Bigirimana – 5
Ben Stevenson – 5
Callum Reilly – 4
George Thomas – 5
Kyel Reid – 5
Kwame Thomas – 5
Marcus Tudgay – 5
Ruben Lameiras – 5
Dion Kelly-Evans – 5
Rochdale: Logan, Rafferty, McNulty, McGahey, Andrew (Vincenti 90+7), Camps, Mendez-Laing (Lund 86), Keane, Allen, Bunney (Cannon 76), Henderson (C).
Unused Substitutes: Wilson, Rathbone, Morley, Kitching.
Coventry City: Burge, Willis (C) (Di. Kelly-Evans 75), Turnbull, Rawson, Stokes, Bigirimana, Stevenson, Reilly, G. Thomas, Reid (Lameiras 54), K. Thomas (Tudgay 54).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Foley, Gadzhev, Folivi.