March 19, 2022

Total Cov Blog #39 - Derby County 1-1 Coventry City, 19.03.2022.

Total Cov Blog #39 - Derby County 1-1 Coventry City, 19.03.2022.

It’s been a while since we’ve had an early kick off, so it didn’t bother me as much today as it has done earlier this season when it felt like we were kicking off at 12:30pm nearly every week! The Sky Blues were away to Derby today in what promised to be a good game - Derby are still fighting to survive in the division after all their points deductions, and Coventry City are still mathematically able to finish in the Play Offs. I decided not to make the trip to Pride Park today on account of two things, A) - I’ve already been there, so it won’t benefit my attempt to do the 92, and B) - The game is on Sky so I can put my feet up to watch it.

After our defeat in midweek at home to Hull, I had pretty much given up hope of a Play Off push though - throughout the season it’s always felt possible, and despite some recent poor form the players have kept on giving us hope in the form of late goals and performances like the one at home to Sheffield United last week, but now I just don’t think it’s a realistic expectation. We’ve done incredibly well to be where we are, and I’d love to be proven wrong, but we’ve got a tough run of games ahead in April and I think that this will cost us in the end - if we play anywhere like we did on Wednesday at any point between now and the end of the season it’ll definitely be over! I think I upset some Hull fans the other night in my latest blog, mostly because I didn’t think they were a better side than us. I stand by my opinions - on Wednesday we lost because we weren’t at the races and not because we were outplayed by a better side as they seemed to think. It did make me laugh that some people thought I presented a biased view though - I’m a Coventry City fan writing a blog about my team and focusing more on us than our opposition, of course I’m biased!

After missing our last two games due to COVID, Mark Robins was back on the touch line today (great to see!). He had selected a strange looking line up today though - I assumed he would be sticking with our usual formation, but it looked as though Ben Sheaf would be continuing at centre half after a less than convincing performance there against Hull (Sky Sports had us down as starting with a back 4, but we haven’t gone with one all season so I very much doubted that!). Jake Bidwell was in to start ahead of Ian Maatsen who dropped to the bench, and we’d only gone with one striker (Matty Godden) in favour of a box midfield. Gustavo Hamer and Jamie Allen would be in the central midfield roles and Jordan Shipley would partner Callum O’Hare in the attacking midfield roles. I was hoping to see better performances from Fankaty Dabo and Dom Hyam today, especially with no like for like replacements to call upon on the bench if they weren’t playing particularly well. The changes made to the starting XI would at least give us some decent attacking options on the bench (Gyokeres and Maatsen, as well as the usual suspects Tavares and Waghorn), but I couldn’t help but feel that our back line might let us down today if Derby came out swinging, and there was every chance of that! They gave us a good game in the reverse league fixture at our place earlier this season.

The first half started with Derby very much on the front foot. They pressured us right from the get go and instantly won 2 or 3 corners in the opening minutes. It was a little worrying given how quickly we had conceded in midweek, but we held firm and even had a half chance of our own inside 10 minutes - Matty Godden had to stretch to reach a ball on the volley, he made contact but it wasn’t clean and Ryan Allsopp was able to get a hand on it. There was a cause for concern for the Sky Blues just moments later, as Jake Clarke-Salter went down with an injury and couldn’t continue. Ian Maatsen was introduced at left wing back and Jake Bidwell would slot into the back 3, but this left us with only one natural centre back on the pitch and this had the potential to spell disaster for us! Clarke-Salter will be a big miss if he’s out for an extended period of time now.

I noticed throughout the first half that we were sloppy in possession again - not quite as bad as we had been against Hull, but it was frustrating to watch. Fankaty Dabo got caught in possession towards the half way line, leading to a Ravel Morrison shot from the edge of the area which Simon Moore was required to tip over the bar for another Derby corner. The home side looked hungrier than us and looked much more up for the game - Moore was called into action again to deny Tom Lawrence with a header at the back post, and right winger Malcom Ebiowei was a constant thorn in our side. Ebiowei went down in the box at one point to no avail - it was a very clear dive, no contact at all, however no free kick was given in favour of us.

And then just before the half hour mark, up stepped Matty Godden to deliver a real moment of quality for the Sky Blues. The ball was clipped forward by Jake Bidwell to Callum O’Hare who had made a good run, O’Hare knocked the ball down first time to Godden who returned it first time. O’Hare then headed the ball to his left and Godden, who had continued his run after playing the ball back to O’Hare, got on the end of it and drilled a shot past Allsopp to put us 1-0 up. It was a lovely goal, beautifully worked and whilst it was against the run of play, it was a moment right out of the top drawer!

Following the opening goal, the Sky Blues grew into the game a little more and O’Hare had a chance himself not long afterwards, trying to place his shot into the bottom corner but Allsopp was able to tip it round the post. We didn’t exactly look comfortably ahead, but we were able to see it out until half time. I thought Derby had looked the better side overall, we had been a little slow on the uptake on too many occasions which had allowed them to win the ball from us and get in behind. It was still all to play for in the second half!

Derby again looked sharper than us after the break, with Ebiowei again looking to run at us and cause problems for our defence. Fankaty Dabo survived an early penalty shout after swinging a boot at the ball in the box and getting more of the Derby man - more on penalties shortly though. Ebiowei managed to get through our defence and pull a ball back across the box, the ball was cleared but fired back towards goal by Max Bird - it grazed Callum O’Hare’s fingertip as he tried to block it, arms clearly trying to avoid the ball, but the referee blew for a free kick for handball. It was harsh, and it provided Tom Lawrence with a dangerous shooting opportunity but thankfully the Sky Blues wall stood firm to block the free kick.

We had very little to shout about in the early stages of the second half, a couple of half chances falling for O’Hare and Godden off a free kick that we’d floated into the box, but that was it really. Derby were worrying us every time they got forward and they introduced Festy Ebosele, who had looked like a real quality player last time we had played Derby (a 1-0 win at home in the FA Cup 3rd round). Viktor Gyokeres was introduced just after the hour mark for the Sky Blues, with Jordan Shipley making way - Shipley had been a bit of a passenger throughout the game, so I was happy to see this change made. Hopefully it would spark a bit more attacking intent from us!

Derby continued to threaten and Ebiowei got in behind us again and played the ball to Tom Lawrence inside the 18 yard box, who skipped past one player and then came up against Ben Sheaf. Sheaf put a foot in and there was contact - mostly because Lawrence appeared to lean heavily into him. He was looking for the contact, quite clearly, and whilst there was a coming together between the pair it was very soft, but the referee pointed to the spot. It didn’t surprise me to see it given, it’s always the way - I do hope that the EFL take some retrospective action against Lawrence though as they did to Matty Godden earlier in the season when he bought a penalty against Fulham. It’s probably wishful thinking, as I haven’t seen anyone else retrospectively banned since Godden was, but a man can dream. Lawrence duly stepped up and smashed his penalty past Simon Moore to level the score line, and realistically Derby had deserved a game but I wish they hadn’t had to get it that way!

Following this, Viktor Gyokeres had a guilt-edged opportunity after the ball had broken to him. He was clean through, but smashed his effort well over the bar! We managed to get more of a foothold in the game once we’d conceded though, and began to get forward. Martyn Waghorn was introduced in place of Callum O’Hare - could he be the match winner against his former club?

Ryan Allsopp was required to make a couple of saves, firstly from a Dom Hyam volley which was a weak effort, and secondly from a Gustavo Hamer shot from range after some good hold up play from Gyokeres on the left. Neither effort caused Allsopp much of a problem, but it was promising that we’d been able to get at Derby a little more even if we had needed to concede in order to do so! Our best chance though dropped to Gyokeres again - Ben Sheaf had intercepted a pass on the edge of our penalty area, and then stepped out of defence to ping a lovely ball up to the centre forwards. Matty Godden got on the end of it, turning and playing Gyokeres in for another one on one with Allsopp - Gyokeres couldn’t beat him, Allsopp had been out quickly to narrow the angle for Gyokeres and in the end made a smart save. I couldn’t help but feel that had the move been the other way around, and Gyokeres had played in Godden, we would’ve gone 2-1 up there!

Derby had further chances of course - Lawrence had another go from a free kick, this one forcing Moore into a good save to tip the ball round the post for a corner. Ebiowei also tested our keeper with a free kick from nearer the touch line, but Moore was able to keep this out with relative ease. Derby came closest to a winner right at the death though, after a ball in from Ebiowei was met by Louie Sibley - his header beat Moore all ends up on its way to the far corner of the net, but it cannoned back off the post and we were able to scramble it away. I wouldn’t have begrudged Derby the winning goal had that gone in, they had looked the more threatening side throughout the game and I thought we had ridden our luck more than once!

A point apiece in the end - not what either side really wanted, but I’m happy with it on reflection. We had two glorious chances in the second half but Viktor Gyokeres really lacked composure on both occasions, we had been too sloppy in the first half and Malcom Ebiowei had run rings around us from start to finish. The result leaves us still chasing the Play Offs but as I had thought before the game, it’s probably a bridge too far for us now! Next up for the Sky Blues is Blackburn at home after the international break next week - I’m not normally a fan, but I think the week off might do is a bit of good. We look stretched at the moment with the likes of McFadzean, Rose and Kane missing, so hopefully we’ll come back stronger after a bit of rest.

Only 8 games to go now, we’re officially at the business end of the season!