The pre-game ramble: Wycombe Wanderers

Freezing Friday night football at the Ricoh beckons. Who wants to go out for Christmas drinks anyway?

Yuletide greetings to all people with rare accents. It’s been a while since I’ve rambled, on account of my day job eating quite substantially into “me” time. Fortunately, that’s subsided and I’m ready once again for a chunk of Sky Blue Christmas cheddar.

Back in October we were eighth and everyone was getting quite snippy about the whole thing. In my infinite wisdom I attempted to assuage that negativity by pointing out that we’d actually been pretty dominant all season, albeit a little sloppy.

Two months on and we’re not much further forward. Sure, we’ve increased our league position by one place to a just-about-bearable 7th, and remain in this perennial state of only “one win away from things being OK” – but we continue to be wasteful with our chances to progress, and if anything appear to be getting gradually worse.

The frustration is the limbo we find ourselves in; being unable to trust the team from one week to the next. The task is clear: finally make the transition into concerted automatic promotion challengers. We desperately need to be the big boys because we’ve seen what happens when you become too used to a league. There’s a snag though. To do that you need to win games, and not just occasionally – multiple, consecutive games. We’re still to work out how to do that.

Interestingly, our visitors to the Ricoh this evening are starting to get into that habit. Welcome Wycombe. I wouldn’t mind being better than you.

How are they getting on?

They’re fourth and pretty good. Obviously that is in the context of League Two, which appears to consist exclusively of dreadful football teams (Coventry City included).

Within the realm of uselessness that we currently exist within, Wycombe at least seem to be offering some semblance of consistency and should provide one of the sterner tests. They’re now fully immersed in “victory-mode” – winning four out of their last five in all competitions. We have to revise that stat slightly for their league performance as it’s three wins in five, unbeaten in their last three, and only one defeat in that time. Still, all very reasonable.

On top of that, they’re second only to goalscoring maniacs Luton in the For column, smashing a gosh-darn tasty 39 league goals to date. In fact, as far as direct comparisons to City go, they boast a better record in almost every department except goals conceded, having let in 29 in 22 games – twice as many as our inexplicably resilient defence.

I started this piece being a league snob, but the thought has just occurred that they are actually going to take some beating.

Who could cause us trouble?

They’ve got some names. If you were there for the Checkatrade semi-final last season you’ll remember Akinfenwa coming on and immediately bullying our defence with his inherent massiveness. They eventually got to grips with him, but you do wonder what sort of impact he’ll have on some of the kiddies.

Elsewhere, Craig Mackail-Smith and Nathan Tyson made up a familiar looking attacking unit in their last game, and while the (meaningless) combined age stat for those three straddles a century, these are players that will have no qualms with sticking the ball in the net if we don’t give them due attention. They’ve already done it 19 times between them this season.

Beyond that, young QPR loanee Eberechi Eze has seen plenty of game time, nabbing 5 goals in the process and turning plenty of heads with his performances. So much so there’s been talk of him getting a return to QPR for some first team action there. Look alive, people.

Sky Blues team news

It’s all a little up in the air at the minute. We know broadly who our best players are, but that same collection of players doesn’t seem to click when on the pitch at the same time. So Robins is now searching for answers against his better judgement – at least I can only assume that’s what’s happening.

Having won last weekend there’s a strong possibility that he’ll stick with the same line up. We don’t really have the luxury of fiddling with something that has worked for us, especially when we’re four months in and still searching for a sustainable first eleven that can perform for more than twenty minutes at a time.

Realistically, we won the other day in spite of the poor performance. Vincenti and Shipley put in mixed performances, as did Stokes at left back – while debutant Bayliss did well to showcase his quality intermittently throughout the game. There were signs that things weren’t quite functioning though, and they still came away with three points. The argument now is that there will be some confidence amongst that group. I can’t say I’m convinced that’s a strong enough argument to stick with that eleven, but it’s fair logic so I’ll accept the reasoning.

One big reason for changing is that we have a new face*. The ultra straight-haired Reading wide man Josh Barrett has joined on loan until the end of the season**. The good news is that some Reading fans are saying that he should be in their first team. The bad news is that Forest fans once tried to persuade me that David McGoldrick was a disgrace to football. Ultimately, we are just going to have to wait and see. I’m fine with that logic too.

* Not yet, we don’t.
** Not yet, he hasn’t.

Naturally, Nazon is pushing for a recall. We’ve seen more than enough to know how this goes – if he does start the game, he won’t apply himself quite as vigourously as Robins or our fans deem acceptable, and he’ll end up being removed after an hour.

But maybe, just maybe, we’re in no position to keep someone of his quality on the bench for most of the game.

Prediction

We are at home against a team that on paper is very capable of beating us, and may actually attempt to. From past experience this has always been to our advantage. However, that past experience usually included the dynamism and pace of Nazon and Jones on the break.

I sense it’ll be tricky, so this prediction is based on what I demand more than what I can be sure will happen: ie. VICTORY WILL BE OURS.

Coventry 2 – 1 Wycombe

Total
2
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