Sky Blues’ unbeaten home record will be tested by more consistent Brewers
15 January ~ Relative success has resulted in a readjustment of expectations for Coventry City fans. We are so lacking in experience of supporting a team in a title race that we don’t really know how to react. A degree of bullishness is required but, equally, no one wants to tempt fate with overconfidence.
Saturday’s match against League One leaders Burton is the second of a crucial double-header at the Ricoh this week, the first of which resulted in a slightly disappointing 1-1 draw with third-place Walsall on Tuesday, when victory was tantalisingly near.
With an unbeaten home record intact and a five-goal demolition of Crewe Alexandra fresh in the memory, it would perhaps be churlish to complain; but it was the continuation of a recent trend which has seen stalemates against the likes of Chesterfield, Oldham and Doncaster in games that might just as easily have produced maximum points.
It is hard to envisage the Sky Blues finishing in the top two if they cannot string together a run of wins like that which Burton are currently on. The Brewers have won six of their last seven games and appear unaffected by Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink’s departure. The reappointment of Nigel Clough seems to be a rare example where bringing in someone who "knows the club" is a sensible move, not just one fuelled by nostalgic yearning.
Burton’s strong performance so far has been in no small part down to their sturdy defence, and it will be crucial that Tony Mowbray selects his frontline carefully. He has had something of an embarrassment of riches at his disposal this season, and a tendency to tamper with the front four has occasionally proved costly.
The extension of Adam Armstrong’s loan until the end of the season serves as a major fillip, while the surprise signing of former Reading winger Stephen Hunt provides another attacking option after loanee Ryan Kent returned to Liverpool. Joe Cole, too, is beginning to show that he can be more than just a status symbol. The additions of Peter Ramage and Andy Rose, and the extension of Gael Bigirimana’s loan, all add experience and depth to the squad, although another defender is arguably still required.
At face value a draw would be a good result for the Sky Blues against the league leaders, but there is a sense that Mowbray has built a squad that could reasonably be considered the strongest in the division on paper. Two points from a possible six against Walsall and Burton would feel like a blow to any embryonic aspirations of automatic promotion. Tom Furnival-Adams