That’ll do won’t it? Another away win, another comeback, and another example of why this Coventry City side might well be different to all the rest.
It wasn’t a great showcase for League One quality or even the fluid Coventry City football we’ve been salivating over recently, but what it once again demonstrated was a shift in mindset that is starting to embed itself within the sky blue-inclined.
Let’s not confuse things. We didn’t play that well. It was a disjointed and mistake-ridden display with a defensive performance that lacked any semblance of composure. We were messy, shaky and made a meal when facing some fairly standard attacking. We were lucky that Burton – the creative Mark Duffy aside – were devoid of any real incision to capitalise on our nerves.
In attack we failed to achieve the same zip we’d shown in our play during most of August – our approach seemed to be based around slowing the game as much as possible, and gaining territory when there was open space ahead of us. At least that’s how it appeared – whether they meant it to be that way or not, who knows.
But we still found a way to win. And that’s the crucial part.
It may seem as though the stuff above is just criticism for criticism’s sake, but the positive really is that we won. Nothing more complex. Of course it was gritty and determined, but Burton struggled to score themselves because they lacked the clinical wherewithal to do so, not because we were defensively rigid. We were manic.
I raise all this not because I just want to slag them rotten; it’s because I want to keep on winning. And to keep winning you have to constantly improve. Constantly review. Constantly ensure that your standards are being met. And when they’re not met, you make sure you win anyway. But don’t assume you’re going to get away with playing in the same manner every week.
It’s about choosing the “You’re better than that” critique rather than the “You’re shit” language we’ve had no choice but to use in previous years. The purpose is to set a standard at all times without needlessly getting on the back of players when we all know they’re still giving their all. Dropped quality levels and wins are better than the alternative – always.
We scrapped for the three points yesterday but it’s important not to pretend it was a win through quality. It’s was a win that builds our team confidence and belief that they’re moving in the right direction. Mowbray pinpointed this himself and he’s right. You focus the congratulations on the work ethic and the determination to pull through rather than pretend the style was anywhere close to earlier performances. I’m not sure we were quite at “Warrior” level, but we didn’t bottle a chance to go up to 2nd in the league and that’s already a massive mental improvement on anything we’ve seen over the last decade.
All told, it was a meaningful display on and off the pitch. The fans sounded immense and were a credit to what we’re trying to achieve. 1800 turning up in early September even though the game was on TV showed that we mean business this year. The players launched themselves into everything (even though it wasn’t at all structured), and given all the concern about Armstrong being absent, Tudgay proved his value as the focal point when we’re forced into a different style of play.
2nd place feels great, and the aim for this season is to stay there, or higher.
Secretly the aim for the season is to reach the play-offs, but let’s be quiet about that and keep our eyeballs on the top two positions. Even though we’d all be delighted with top six let’s just pretend we’re really after top two. It’s nice to have that buffer.
How the players did:
Burge – 5: Hmm. The trouble with performances like Burge’s is that they’re very easy to exaggerate and turn into something they’re not. His handling so far this season has been fine. The improvement he’s shown has impressed me if anything. Then for whatever reason he lost his way yesterday and had three or four limp-wristed moments. Ultimately they didn’t cost us but the one thing you hope comes from mistakes is the acknowledgement to learn from them. We can’t let it become a “thing” and I don’t think it will.
Stokes – 5: He’s had a strong start to the season and certainly gave it loads of welly yesterday, but I feel like I was watching a different match to many fans. I felt he looked very shaky and gave the ball away far more than he kept it. I’d love to see if his possession stats corroborate that. It is always going to be tough when he doesn’t have the support from the winger, but his performance on the ball wasn’t his best.
Johnson – 6: Reda is a boss and you would always prefer him in the team than not, but his judgement was off at times. The steamrolling headers are awesome and he managed it plenty of times, but when he buggered it up it left a fragile defence exposed.
Martin – 6: Returned to the team, smashed the ball into his own net, then calmed himself and performed fine. The goal we scored wasn’t his, but he’ll feel good about how well he let that ball hit him and trickle towards the line.
Ricketts – 6: They say he’s a right back. That isn’t really true. He’s a centre back and ideally would be in the middle with Réda. There were no real issues with his performance – he kept the ball well and was decent positionally. Gives no forward option at all unlike the spirited Aaron Phillips and willing Jordan Willis.
Fleck – 7: It was a similar performance to Southend from Fleck. Noticeably classy first half, but fell away in the second and was unable to get the control back. Against Southend that decline came in the form of giving the ball away a lot – yesterday it was a simply a quieter half rather than a poor one and he still made plenty of valuable contributions.
Vincelot – 7: Hairy Romain is just so darned dependable. Mowbray said it was his kind of game and he’s right about that as well. He was rugged, imposing, and smashed in a gorgeous one-incher to snatch us the victory.
Murphy – 7: Proved his worth by regular carrying the ball long distances on the break, stretching the Burton defence and disrupting their shape by dragging players everywhere. He rarely offered any meaningful work in defence aside from a few token fouls which caused Stokes grief. Looked knackered near the end but did plenty of selfless forward running and was our biggest threat.
O’Brien – 6: Nifty touches on the right in the first half, drove on well with the ball, punctuated by some obligatory Jim O’Brien passing decisions. Solid performance one again.
Lameiras – 6: Very tidy footwork and some attractive moments when he was involved including a gorgeous reverse ball for the goal. The issue comes when he’s not in the game and tries to force it. Always seem to be giving it a go and did the same yesterday. Misses Maddison.
Tudgay – 7: Probably the best all round performance I’ve seen from him to date. His hold up play was important, he got his foot in and nicked plenty of balls from the defence, and rose well to offer a viable aerial target. His goal was coolly taken and he should have really scored a second if he hadn’t mistaken himself for Eric Cantona.
Antoine-Fortune – 5: Clearly lacking sharpness, but seemed to have a bit of strength. Tried to get involved but wasn’t really his day. Looking forward to see if he’s got a turn of pace.
C.Thomas – N/A:
Haynes – N/A: