Preview: Stevenage FC

Where We Are

Last Sunday’s defeat to Brentford was our second in a row, the first at our official home ground for the season. The past few weeks have been dominated by talk surrounding the emergence of Joy Seppala to a select number of fans and journalists yet it doesn’t feel like the moment most Coventry followers had been waiting for. We’re in the relegation zone and need a win to convert our poor recent form into a blip rather than a trend.

On the injury front there is no good news in regards to the returns of Carl Baker and Billy Daniels. This means that Adam Barton, whose performance last week on the right didn’t inspire confidence, will continue in the position due to a lack of other options. Well there are options but Pressley appears reticent to throw in Leon Lobjoit who played on the right in pre-season or play the untested James Maddison who has impressed in the under 18 side.

Things right now do not feel overly positive like they did a few weeks ago but there still remains the sense that the playing side remains in the right hands and there has been relatively little panic. A win tomorrow is important in restoring some confidence amongst the less experienced members of the squad and also generally would nip any losing mentality right in the bud. The absence of a genuine right-sided option is the main cause for concern though at this moment in time.

Last Time We Met

In one of the classic games of last season, Coventry took the trip down to Broadhall Way and dominated most of the game in a performance that felt destined to set us up for a play-off challenge. Despite falling behind to a penalty Coventry were largely in control of the contest and scored 3 late goals to claim all 3 points including McGoldrick’s last goal for the club, a chip from half-way inside the Stevenage half.

For us it marked a change in fortunes and prospects for the season, from relegation contenders in October to play-off chasers come January. For Stevenage a promising start was fizzling out due to poor home form, after looking capable of challenging for the play-offs in the early months of last season their challenge fell away and dwindled into mid-table mediocrity. Since we last played Stevenage they changed managers from Gary Smith to their old manager, Graham Westley, one of football’s ‘characters’.

How Are They Doing

In what was supposed to be a glorious return to Hertfordshire for Westley, things have not started very well. His final games last season petered out, he promised a squad clear-out in the summer but has struggled to get the team going this season. Their only win so far has been against Notts County and they have taken some heavy beatings in their past few outings. It is either a great time to play them with their confidence low or this is the game they set out for recovery.

Their key men look to be in midfield. Greg Tansey is a midfielder with a penchant for wonderful long-range goals and is definitely someone to watch when the ball is just outside our area. Out wide they have Filipe Morais who has impressed during his appearances against Coventry last season and more of a skillful sort of winger. Lucas Akins is the other main type of winger, he’s fast but is also relatively good beating players for skill as well as pace. Additionally they’ve got Luke Freeman, an ex-Arsenal youngster, who has been linked with a move to the Championship for over a year now, he can either play out wide or up front.

Furthermore they have added two more wide players just this day in the form of Francois Zoko and Bruno Andrade. Zoko looked decent against us when he played for Notts County but can’t have produced enough end product to justify his wages as he was released a few weeks into the season. Andrade has played very well in League 2 for Wycombe so could be a dangerman when he appears, most probably from the bench if at all.

Of course Westley’s sides are heavily dependent on defensive solidity and their back four will be of the big, strong and ugly mould. More importantly through they will also attempt wind-up tactics as well as time-wasting in all forms from the first minute of the game, it will be important for our players not to rise to these tactics as opposed to when we came up against his Preston side last season who should not have been able to take points from us.

Prediction

The main issue prevented full confidence in me for taking three points is the presence of Adam Barton on the right-side of midfield. Not only because of his performance against Brentford, which perhaps could be put down to a lack of match training and recent injury problems, but also because we’re up against a Graham Westley side. Barton has never been someone whose responded well to rough, physical opposition and tends to retreat into his shell on these ocassions. Also this side as a whole has a poor record against teams who are physical and can exploit set-piece opportunities.

For this very reason I predict a 2-2 draw.

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