The pre-game ramble: Pork Vale

The Pork Valians potter down to the Ricoh while we celebrate the triumphant return of Matty Roper. He’s infiltrated the Vale media team and gained their trust. Hopefully Sky Blue-tinted sabotage awaits…

Hello once more, football fans. I’ve returned from International duty and am looking forward to the match a tremendous amount. It continues a run of seeing every minute of every home game so far – a somewhat inconceivable feat given my lack of season ticket and the fact we’re in League Two. But what can I say? Addictions are hard to kick.

As a special treat, tomorrow I will be in hospitality with my fellow Lamptey boys marking our ragtag podcast’s first lustrum (unbeknownst to Joey and Paul, this is what I will be celebrating). If the photos from the club website are any indication, the entire experience is going to be positively “Cov”, no doubt culminating in a room full of miserable bastards denouncing the very existence of Jodi Jones.

I joke of course – we can’t wait for the comfy seats. A win would make the day even better though. After a flying League Two intro for the new look Sky Blues, they’ve certainly followed that up with a pretty naff couple of weeks.

So, just how tricky will it be against the Porkatrons? Let’s take a look…

How are they getting on?

It’s looking a little dicey for Vale right now. Having grabbed an impressive away win over Crawley to get the campaign off to a strong start, they’ve been unable to build on it, losing the four subsequent league games and sitting second from bottom.

It should be noted that they’ve actually scored as many league goals as we have so far, having drawn blanks in the last three games. So don’t make the mistake of letting the early table dictate the narrative – a win for them at the Ricoh and they are only a point behind us. There are more similarities between the two teams than you may initially think.

We’re still within the formative period for players, squads, and league tables. Everyone is jostling for position, so whoever takes three points will often feel a disproportionate boost. We should probably all curb our early-season impulses a little.

Who could cause us trouble?

Michael Tonge is still around if you can believe it. He’s actually retained much of his quality too, standing firm as a strong pro in their midfield and showing that he’s capable of doing a good job for his former teammate/new boss Michael Brown.

Elsewhere, we don’t seem to have much luck against those with Coventry connections, so you can’t help but be mindful of Cov-born Marcus Harness who has made a decent start to the campaign on loan from Burton.

Then up top, Tom Pope catches the eye on account of his height and a career of being able to snatch goals. He’s made a return to Vale after a two-year stint at Bury and while he’s not scored yet this season, his one-in-three record with the club is noteworthy, especially if he faces the newly-formed partnership of Willis and Davies.

Sky Blues team news

Robins has had a week to think about things, and no wins in four games would usually prompt a boss into action. There’s an issue with this however: for the most part this season we’ve actually been the dominant team, and we’re also the strongest defence in the league. Ignoring the drama we create from the stands, just how much do you fiddle with things if much of the formula is starting to come together?

Clearly the attacking unit is where the concern is. We’re not awash with options, but we do have options. While Kwame Thomas has headed out on loan, players like Biamou, Nazon, Andreu and Ponticelli all wait in the wings for an opportunity to remedy our recent attacking lethargy.

Robins feels particular wedded to the 4-2-3-1ish formation we’ve employed so far, but there are some people (yours truly included) who feel that may not be the ideal shape for this bunch of players. Our lack of two genuine wingers being a specific concern for me. Now, you could shove Nazon out there and he’ll do some good work, but do you really want The Duck doing all his good work out wide, while those in the goalscoring positions remain impotent?

Beavon seems to be the clear choice for replacement given McNulty’s busy performance last weekend. I don’t have major issues with Beavon, as I do feel he can offer something – but it has to be on the right terms and not at the expense of better players. Tony Andreu isn’t going to fancy sitting on the bench again, and I can’t imagine he will.

Clearly we don’t want to panic right now. There’s no need while there’s so much to learn about the players. But I do want to feel confident in the threat they offer, and a McNulty/Beavon combo doesn’t instill much in me.

In more upbeat news, Stevenson, Haynes and Rodney are all “knocking on the door” for a return. That certainly improves our ability to adjust things if needed.

Prediction

Things are still up in the air, and none of us really knows what this team is capable of. We’re not dreadful – we’ve been the superior team in most games this season – but there’s been a lack of incisiveness recently and there’s always a risk of that mindset impacting team confidence.

Armed with little more than home fan optimism and an eagerness to get to bed, I fancy us to grab the win in some form.

Coventry 1 – 0 Pork Vale

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