The pre-game ramble: Stevenage
Things are feeling pretty flat for the Sky Blues right now. Even a shoot-out win against League Two Burton couldn’t do much to elevate fan feeling to “pleased”, because the rest of the match was so bloody awful.
But on the bright side, we’re into September and still in two cups, unbeaten at home, and have only lost once. Those are the sort of stats that can quickly alter a perspective. Imagine if we actually started playing well?
The Stevenage match is another home one, but this time it’s bright and early and on tele. The more opportunistic members of our team may see this as the perfect chance to get the campaign moving, and for them to show what they’re really made of, especially in front of Simon from Blue Peter.
How are they getting on?
Stevenage are unbeaten in their four league games this season. Good stat.
Stevenage haven’t won in 3. Bad stat.
Stevenage have only lost once in ten league games. Good stat.
Depending on which preview you read, and which perspective you take, you can pretty much do what you like with early season patterns.
So far, they’ve had a couple of 1-0 away wins at lowly Leyton Orient, and Oldham, who ain’t doing much themselves. It’s a good start, but it doesn’t tell us a great deal about their performances just yet, and things can soon change. We certainly shouldn’t be in the realms of worrying about teams high in the table. We’re all still finding our feet.
One thing we should take notice of however is momentum, which is an all-important factor at any level. Regardless of who they’ve played up to now, they were in the play-offs last year, and that’s surely the aim again.
They’re also building some momentum on the road. It was halted by a Johnstone Paints defeat to Dagenham midweek, but they’ve had two away games in the league so far, and they’ve won them both. That shows a certain bottle for the job – something that can’t be said about us.
Who could cause us trouble?
Defensively, they’ve got two very useful players in Mark Roberts and Jon Ashton. Both have been subject to transfer speculation over the summer, and they hold the club’s last two player of the season awards, so it’s a solid base which we’ll have to be clever to beat. It’s also extremely noteworthy that Stevenage had the second-best defensive record in League One last season, behind runaway champs Charlton. That was no accident.
Big Patrick Agyemang joined on deadline day and having come on last weekend in their draw to Shrewbury and then started in the week in the JS Trophy, he might be just about ready to start his first league game.
I always look out for genuine wingers, given our tendency to struggle against them, and Stevenage have one of those in Filipe Morais. He’s another new boy, but this guy started out at Chelsea, and actually came on in Jose Mourinho’s first game for the club. Clearly he hasn’t reached the heights he may have expected back then, but he’s definitely a decent player.
Also look out for Lucas Akins, a midfield summer signing from Tranmere. He didn’t play in the disappointing defeat to Dagenham during the week, but has notched a couple of vital goals for his new club already.
Sky Blues team news
The players will admit it themselves; most (except Steve Jennings) were crap the other night. Richard Shaw’s task is to work out who were the worst, who might get better, who were simply having an off-day, and who can come in to make things better.
David McGoldrick seemed to earn plaudits for elements of his display against Burton, which is as good a reason as any to keep him in the team, you’d think. They also hauled Cody McDonald off early, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll return to the line-up or be replaced by the ever-lively Stephen Elliott.
Gary McSheffrey put in a sporadic but potentially threatening performance on the left-hand side of the 4-4-2. His fate in the starting line-up would appear to rest on the choice of formation.
Adam Barton has again been nicked off us for another under 21 game. Fair enough, take players who are at a club enjoying a break, but this guy is first team for his club – we should be able to have some say in whether he goes and sits on the bench for his country’s Under 21 side. That said, apparently they’re trying to get him back early.
Cyrus Christie showed real signs of rustiness during the week, but may be forced to continue rather than rush Jordan Clarke back (as they appeared to do last weekend). As a matter of fact, it was around this time last year that young Cyrus had his best moment for City, winning the Man of the Match award in front of the Sky cameras in a victory against Derby. Soon after, The Mirror tried to make out that Newcastle were going to sign him. That’s good observational journalism, right there.
Saying that, a week later he then had a bit of a shocker against Ipswich, again on the box. Swings and roundabouts with him, really.
I don’t think we’ve built up anywhere near enough cohesion in our line up to make any predictions that are solely based on performance. Right now, it’s essentially eleven players in a formation, all trying to play in the position they’ve been told, as best as their natural ability and understanding will allow.
Stevenage on the other hand, are a team.
But we’re still at home – our embarrassingly enormous home – and we haven’t lost there yet. So this is going to be another draw to send us all bandy. 1-1.