The pre-game ramble: Accrington Stanley

It’s Community Day, you guys! Time to enjoy supporting the club amongst a baying mob of two million school children. Let’s do this flip.

I know it’s a little dramatic, but this is a massive game. Of course there’s loads of time left this season and a loss doesn’t spell the end of our promotion challenge – but we all want to feel great, right? Victory against Accrington Stanley to bring us to within two points of them will go a long way to cheering us up after last weekend’s git of a defeat against Forest Mean Rovers.

Like it or not, our recent form has been very good. Six wins in eight is a promotion-worthy return. But the hard truth is that to achieve promotion we have to continue that form until the end of the season, which is something we’re simply not used to.

It should come as no surprise that I want automatic promotion this season, and being five points away from the automatics in early February means that is still very much a reality. But we can’t be afraid of what it takes to actually get there. We must sustain promotion form until the end of the season. Twelve more wins in the next sixteen games will see us established into the top three – and that’s exactly what I’m demanding.

Looking at all the performance stats (except the actual points), we can see that we are one of the best teams in the league, albeit a little wasteful when it comes to finishing off games. But we don’t have to panic just yet. If we’d won last weekend we’d be in fifth right now and eyeing up second spot this weekend – that’s how close things are. Plus we have the classy Tom Bayliss thrusting forward; Marc McNulty scoring like a maniac; and Michael Doyle acting like a literal madman in the midfield. The ingredients are there for us to complete the job and go up – with just a little more conviction, we can get there.

Even with my unwavering belief, we can’t forget that this is going to be a really tough game. Stanley are a neat, potent side, and currently occupy one of the top three spots that we crave. But we have the home momentum and all the fans. It’s time to make these supposed advantages count.

How are they getting on?

They are looking really good. After what was a rough December when they lost all but one game, they’ve turned their form around and now find themselves on a run of six wins out of seven. That is really quite tasty.

Mind you, we can’t forget that we’re pretty much matching them with our own form, so should feel good about our own capabilities.

I know a tough test when I see one, and Stanley certainly represent that, but we can do this.

Who could cause us trouble?

Billy Kee is showing real talent up front. Accrington have scored 53 goals so far this season, with the impressive front man notching 18 of those. In fact, only Marc McNulty has scored more than Kee since the beginning of December. This is primed to be the battle of the strikers.

Elsewhere, Kayden Jackson and Sean McConville have both made it into double figures this season, which adds to an impressive attacking dynamic. These northerners really do have threats all over and we’ve got to be alert to this.

Sky Blues team news

We’re hearing chatter that there’s a virus affecting the squad this week which could disrupt the first team even further. Last weekend we suffered injuries across our defence, so we’re really all waiting to see who has recovered from their knocks/avoided the bug. Grimmer is out for a while, as is Tom Davies, but we’re hopeful that we still have enough cover to cope with that. My hunch is that we’ll go for a back four consisting of Willis, McDonald, Stokes and Haynes – illness permitting of course. Dion Kelly-Evans will be keen to jump into the team if any of those four are struggling. Dominic Hyam is also available if Robins puts his trust in height.

Elsewhere, we’ve got a bit of a dilemma. Robins had a winning dynamic brewing in midfield but has been fiddling recently by bringing Kelly and Barrett into the fray. On the face of it that worked against MK Dons, but Barrett has struggled for any real form since his introduction in place of Shipley, while Kelly disrupts a strong Doyle/Bayliss combination in the centre. To be honest, I’m really not sure which way Robins will lean. My suggestion would be to drop Barrett, but we’ll have to see.

McNulty and Biamou should start up front, with Clarke-Harris on the bench, and a possible return for Kyle Reid to the squad.

Prediction

While Accrington will prove a stern test, I’ve certainly appreciated our quality against the top teams this season as well as our recent home form. The players seem to be thriving at the Ricoh at the moment, and the hope is that they can maintain that in front of an inexplicable League Two crowd of around 30,000.

We’ve shown added determination during the big games recently. I really hope they can do the same again this afternoon. With so many eyes on them, there can be no better time to prove to the support that they’re finally ready to deliver league success.

Coventry 3 – 2 Accrington

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