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Opposition Preview - Coventry City (Away)
Written by ad_wilkin on Monday, 29th Apr 2024 11:37

Town come into this one knowing what they need to do. Four points out of their last two games will see them promoted to the Premier League.

They’ll be facing a Coventry side who have had a phenomenal FA Cup run taking Manchester United all of the way to extra-time and penalties, coming back from 3-0 down and but for a toenail would have won 4-3 in the final minute of that extra-time period.

They have just missed out on the play-offs with costly defeats to Cardiff City (2-1), Southampton (2-1) and local rivals Birmingham City (3-0) having put sixth out of their reach.

Their FA Cup run also means that fixtures have piled up. Having faced Manchester United on 21st April, they have then had games against Hull (3-2 defeat) and Blackburn Rovers (0-0) before this Tuesday night clash.

Those results mean they have nothing to play for. It also means Town should boast a fitness advantage coming into this one.

Last meeting (Ipswich Town 2-1 Coventry City)

Coventry visited Portman Road in December having recovered from a bad run of form with back-to-back wins against Millwall and Plymouth. However, things did not get off to a good start for them.

Following an early Conor Chaplin sighter in the third minute, Sam Morsy won a duel in the middle of the park and poked the ball to Nathan Broadhead. Some quick footwork from Broadhead got him into some space and played a lovely through ball to George Hirst, who had found himself in between two defenders and rushed onto the ball, making his way into the penalty area and calmly side footing past the keeper.

Fifteen minutes in, another ball in behind caught Coventry out again, this time it was a lofted Morsy pass picking out the run of Broadhead, who controlled beautifully on his chest and was clean through but somehow managed to side foot it wide and past the post.

Town were in the ascendancy and created another chance when Wes Burns was first to the second ball after Cameron Burgess floated one up towards Chaplin, but unfortunately the Welshman’s fizzing strike flew just over the crossbar.

Broadhead then headed over from a deep free-kick before Coventry created their first real chance of the game. Yasan Ayari found space into the box and pull a ball back from the byline. No one made first contact, but it made its way all the way through to Jake Bidwell at the edge of the box whose left-footed effort was better than Burns's similar early attempt and forced Vaclav Hladky into a good save with the Czech keeper diving to his left to push the ball away.

Town’s second goal was yet another that started right from the back and went on to claim multiple goal of the season awards. I’m sure you’ve all watched it 1,000 times or more, but I'll describe it for you again anyway.

From Hladky to Luke Woolfenden to Harry Clarke and back to Woolfenden. Woolfenden, Morsy and Clarke then played a nice triangle of passes before Chaplin, who had drifted into the right wing position, allowed them to break the press.

From Clarke’s ball forward, he pinged a left-footed first-time pass wide across the pitch into Leif Davis, who was in acres of space marauding forward.

Davis advanced infield with the ball before clipping it to Burns on the opposite side of the pitch. From there it was all about the Welshman, who controlled the ball and shaped to cross as Clarke made a strong overlapping run.

However, instead of crossing, Burns dropped his left shoulder sending Jamie Allen to the shops before cutting inside with another couple of touches and then bending the most beautiful strike of a ball I have ever seen into the top corner with the outside of his boot.

The direction as it left his boot made it look like it had absolutely no chance but then the spin took over and it curled inside the post and deftly fell into the side-netting to spark scenes of shock and delirium.

Another excellent front-to-back passing move saw Davis slip Burns in again. This time the ball was a bit deeper and Burns had to hook the ball back to Chaplin in the box. Chaplin hit it first time but snatched at it and it flew across the goal, ending up at the feet of Broadhead. His little lay-off found Davis but the left-back got under his shot and it spooned up into the sky.

The second half was a lot less eventful. Chaplin struck a free-kick into the onrushing man in the wall for penalty shouts, but replays showed it hitting the defender on the chest. Harry Clarke fired wide of the near post from a fair distance out before Coventry won a penalty against the run of play.

Good link-up play between Callum O’Hare, Ben Sheaf and substitute Tatsuhiro Sakamoto saw the Japanese player step away from Clarke in the box and drop to the floor from the barest of grazes to his left foot.

It was Matty Godden who stepped up for Coventry but his firm side-footed effort struck the crossbar and bounced back down the right side of the line from a Town fans perspective before a combination of Massimo Luongo and Davis got the ball clear.

With everyone else having a go, minutes later, Luongo fancied a shot from range himself, but it was parried away by Brad Collins.

Town managed the game well defensively but in the final minute of stoppage time Coventry got the goal they had been threatening. Sheaf found himself in space on the right side of the pitch and whipped in a deep cross which was ‘headed’ into his own net by Brandon Williams.

I say ‘headed’ because the challenging Ellis Simms had given him an almighty push in the back as he jumped for the ball and most of the Town fans were waiting for the whistle to blow for a foul.

Fortunately, it didn’t matter but it was another sign of poor officiating which clubs in the Championship fall victim to week in week out.

It was another controlled performance at Portman Road with excellent attacking football on display and solid defensive work limiting Coventry to very little in terms of chances. More of the same for the away fixture please.

What’s Changed

In short, not a lot. Ayari’s loan was cut short and veteran defender Kyle McFadzean was moved on.

Twenty-four-year-old Dane Victor Torp was the only player to come in joining from Norwegian side Sarpsborg 08. He made an instant impact with a goal on his debut in the FA Cup against Sheffield Wednesday and has featured regularly since then due to an injury to Sheaf.

He’s a more attacking option than both Sheaf and Eccles and provides strong running, good passing and long-range shooting. In the Eliteserian he played as an attacking midfielder and a left winger in addition to his central midfield role. To compare him to a Town player, he would be Coventry’s version of Jack Taylor.

Key Players

Callum O’Hare

O’Hare was just coming back from injury the first time these two sides met but since then he has been getting regular minutes in the number ten spot, often rotating with Kasey Palmer.

He’s on nine goals and four assists for the season and with his contract up in the summer it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a player that Town are looking at to provide competition for Chaplin.

He’s an excellent passer of the ball, good at drawing fouls and doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities, always pressing and putting in tackles. He’s not afraid to take on his man and is excellent at receiving the ball in the final third as Coventry regularly look to play through him.

His threat may be dampened a bit in this one as injuries have forced him out to play on the right wing in recent games.

Haji Wright and Ellis Simms

The upturn in the form of both Wright and Simms has no doubt been a big factor in Coventry’s climb up the table.

In the first Coventry blog I focused on how Wright had the highest xG in the league but wasn’t putting away his chances. This has improved although he is still underperforming his xG of 17.69 with 15 goals.

Simms was another who had a poor goal return at the start of the season with only two goals in his first 25 games. He has scored 16 in his next 23 including hat-tricks against Maidstone (FA Cup) and Rotherham as well as braces against Wolves (FA Cup) and Huddersfield.

Both strikers took a bit of time to settle and fit in to Mark Robins's style of play but both are reaping the dividends right now and both will be looking to cause problems in this one.

Josh Eccles

Coventry have quality throughout their squad, and this was certainly the hardest blog to narrow it down to just pick a few players to look out for.

Eccles's midfield partner Sheaf has also had an excellent season and Milan Van Ewijk looks like he’s trying to become Coventry’s answer to Town's Burns but I’ve gone for all rounder Eccles as not only is he strong in the tackle and excellent at winning the ball back, but he has also provided one goal and five assists for his team.

He’s neat in possession and most of his metrics are very similar to Morsy and Luongo, both attacking and defensively. If I were to swap either of those two out for anyone else in the division, it would probably be Eccles

The Teams

O’Hare, Wright and Simms were all on the bench midweek against Hull but came back in to face Blackburn. With this being a dead rubber, it will be interesting to see how much rotation Mark Robins goes with.

Someone who definitely won’t be starting is Liam Kitching who was sent off against Blackburn for a last man foul. Although watching it back it looked like there was minimal contact.

Brad Collins had a busy game against Coventry making eight saves but managed to keep a confidence boosting clean sheet having been at fault for Hull’s first goal in the prior game. He’ll keep his place in goal.

The full-backs have been rotated so Joel Latibeaudiere and Jake Bidwell could come back in. However, with Kitching’s suspension, it’s likely that one of them could be pushed inside to partner Bobby Thomas in the centre of defence. That’s likely to be Latibeaudiere with Van Ewijk starting at right-back.

In midfield, Sheaf missed the Blackburn game with a calf injury and is unlikely to be back for this one which means Liam Kelly and Eccles are likely to start in midfield with Jamie Allen the other option.

O’Hare, Kasey Palmer, Wright and Simms were all withdrawn against Blackburn and those four will likely be the ones ahead of that midfield with O’Hare on the right, Wright on the left and Palmer in behind Simms.

For Ipswich the biggest doubt will be over the fitness of Davis. He occasionally has to sit out the odd game because of the sort of knock he picked up on Saturday night and my gut feeling is he’ll miss out on this one.

That leaves at toss-up between the young but naturally left-footed Cameron Humphreys or the more experienced Clarke. Kieran McKenna usually opts for Clarke off the bench in big games, so it will likely be him deputising on the left with the rest of the backline remaining the same.

In midfield against Hull, Morsy and Luongo struggled at times, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jack Taylor to come in to freshen things up.

If Davis is out, then the introduction of Taylor would also provide more balance to the left-hand side with him getting in more advanced positions down that side than Luongo would.

Ahead of them it’s all about fitness. Burns and Hirst both managed 60 minutes against Hull so whether they can go depends on how they feel after getting through that.

Omari Hutchinson has to start; the only question is around which position that is in. I think this could mean Chaplin being dropped with Broadhead, who missed out on Saturday with a slight knock coming back in.

Depending on Hirst’s fitness, Kieffer Moore could come in from the start against a short Coventry backline, but it’s feasible that Hirst could also go again.

Action Areas

Coventry are depleted and will be playing their fourth game in 10 days, so this one could be all about the fitness. Their injuries also see O’Hare likely playing out of position and a makeshift defence. Making the most of set pieces and getting crosses into the box could be crucial for Town taking the advantage in this one.

The Sky Blues will still possess threats with all of their front four in good goalscoring form. Simms is a striker with a similar profile to Hirst and will look to hold the ball up but also threaten running in behind, attributes that will require both Woolfenden and Burgess to be on top of their games.

Palmer oozes class on the ball and can strike from range with Wright no doubt looking to test Axel Tuanzebe one on one.

Yet again, it’s certainly not going to be an easy task with another away game against a team in the top half of the table. However, the FA Cup drama and the build-up of games looks to have really hit Coventry. They’re likely to be tired and demotivated.

They still possess players of quality but if Town play to their best they should be okay. Town will also have a much stronger bench than the Sky Blues and that could be an important factor.

I went for a 2-1 victory against Hull and I'm going for another 2-1 for this one as well.

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