Struggling Southend visit the Ricoh on a bank holiday Monday
31 August ~ It is perhaps a sign of the times that Coventry’s home fixture against Southend has been moved to Monday night not for the benefit of Sky Sports, but to accommodate Insomnia, the UK’s largest video gaming festival. The announcement came just three weeks ago, leaving those Southend fans who had pre-arranged transport and accommodation out of pocket.
Supporters were justifiably angry that they had not been given more notice, and a bank holiday evening fixture is hardly favourable for those traveling by train, or who have work commitments the next day. The Ricoh Arena is, of course, no longer operated by the football club, and the more profitable event presumably took precedence. Whoever is at fault, the lack of notice was surely avoidable and does little for the home club’s reputation.
We are not yet out of August and Sky Blues manager Tony Mowbray is already referring to a squad that is “perilously close to the bare bones” following injuries to playmaker James Maddison and right-back Jordan Willis. While disconcerting for fans, the situation is perhaps indicative of the reality of operating in League One with a modest budget, and at least one additional player is expected to sign in the coming days.
Willis is likely to be replaced by fellow academy graduate Aaron Phillips, who offers a more dynamic attacking threat, while promising Norwich loanee Jacob Murphy should start in Maddison’s absence, with Rubén Lameiras moving inside.
Coventry were brought down to earth last week following a 2-1 defeat to neighbouring Walsall which ended a season-opening run of three consecutive league wins, but spirits remain high and there is an acceptance that the Saddlers are no pushovers. A ten-day break from competitive fixtures following first-round League Cup exits should also benefit both sides.
Newly promoted Southend are yet to win this season despite some resolute performances and a pair of respectable draws away to Fleetwood and Doncaster. Phil Brown should persevere with a safety-first approach by deploying a defensive 4-5-1 in order to limit the attacking threat of in-form Adam Armstrong and deny space to Coventry’s nimble front four.
The visitors have been fortified by the temporary signings of former loanee Stephen McLaughlin from Nottingham Forest and Brighton defender Glen Rea, both of whom may provide handy options from the bench. Having only scored once so far, Southend will look to Irishman Noel Hunt for goals, although you imagine Brown will prioritise defence and would privately be very happy to secure another point away from home to one of the division’s bigger fish. Tom Furnival-Adams