Stevenage FC 0 Coventry City 1

After a tough couple of weeks on the pitch, Coventry left Hertfordshire on Saturday evening with an important 3 points following a hard fought victory. It was the club’s first away win since August yet the performance was of a side much more used to away victories.

The same XI who lost at home to Brentford just 6 days earlier lined up again. The drafting in of a 16 year-old onto the bench seemed to emphasise the lack of squad depth currently at the club as out-of-position Adam Barton continued on the right after a less-than-convincing 45 minutes the week before. Barton’s performance was hardly one of much improvement as he struggled to get into the game for extended periods, but against inferior opposition compared to Brentford this level of performance was all that was required.

Coventry’s first half performance saw them create the best opportunities without ever really being dominant. Stevenage always felt like a counter-attack or a set piece away from taking the lead. Particularly impressive for Stevenage was the ex-Arsenal youngster Luke Freeman in attack who got in behind our back line a few times and forced a couple of last-ditch tackles from Jordan Clarke to prevent more serious danger being created.

Ultimately Coventry lacked a cutting edge in attack, luckily a sloppy pass from Stevenage’s Robin Shroot played Leon Clarke in perfectly for a well-taken finish around half an hour into the match. Coventry were somewhat awkward in attack during the first 45 minutes, unable to really string together long periods of possession although Stevenage were very resilient in defence. It often appeared though that the fluidity that we have seen from this side at times this season wasn’t there, only John Fleck seemed to be playing at his usual very high standard in comparison to his midfield colleagues, except for one or two overhit ‘hollywood’ passes.

The second half was probably the better of the two for Coventry. The Sky Blues were much better in possession and had several long spells in possession in the Stevenage half. This should have been the route to a second goal to make the result more comfortable but players seemed reluctant to take the opportunity to shoot when in good positions. Coventry’s best opportunity though was a nailed-on penalty after Callum Wilson was clean through on goal only to be floored by the clumsy defending of Stevenage centre-back Jon Ashton. Any other referee would have seen cause for at least a penalty if not also a red card for Ashton for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

This refereeing mistake did not decide the match though as Coventry were always comfortable with their one goal advantage and were the team most likely to score the game’s second. Stevenage were physical but could not convert it into sustained pressure with Joe Murphy rarely tested throughout the 90 minutes. Three points well deserved at an important juncture in the season, time now to look forward to a big month containing fixtures against Sheffield United, Leyton Orient, Wolves and Walsall.

Player Ratings:

Joe Murphy 7 – Not overly worked in terms of shots on goal but made light work of those he did face as well as being comfortable collecting crosses.

Cyrus Christie 6 – Was our out-ball for most of the match and threatened Stevenage whenever he received the ball. A typical performance for Cyrus though as there was little end product as he often decided to cut inside rather than taking the opportunity to cross.

Andy Webster 6 – At his usual level for us once again. Neither impressive or lacklustre, solid, composed but could be more dominant aerially.

Jordan Clarke 7 – Such an important player for us and proving himself to be top-quality centre-back in this league. Stood up to the aerial threat of Oumare Tounkara, covered the defence well either when Stevenage got in behind or when Christie was beaten by his man. Bags of composure and clearly not a player playing out of position.

Blair Adams 6 – Not an outstanding performances, but defended decently and supported the attack well. Suffers from not being properly protected by Moussa but there was still little threat on Stevenage’s right-hand side.

Adam Barton 5 – Started poorly, doesn’t appear too sure where to play and most things he tries always seem to be just short of succeeding. Talented player who needs a run of games and could improve in this right-sided position but you get the sense that once Baker is back he’ll be restored to the starting XI. Had a good spell at the start of the second-half after a fairly poor first-half.

Conor Thomas 6 – Quiet game for Conor today, provided shape in midfield and supported the attacks when called upon. Had a great chance to open the scoring with a well-saved long-range shot.

John Fleck 7 – The pivotal player for this team, his passing and defensive positioning are impeccable and is a joy to watch. A type of player of whom I have never seen before in a Coventry shirt. Guilty at times of being overly ambitious with his passing but his importance is doubly so as his passing and positioning allow Cyrus Christie to attack with greater freedom.

Franck Moussa 6 – Not at his best today, flickered in and out of the match. When he was in the match his dribbling and freedom to move anywhere across the pitch caused Stevenage no end of problems, however his end product could be better and when he’s not in the match he’s nigh on invisible.

Leon Clarke 8 – Got the goal today but we also saw a real full-blooded performance for a player some acuse of being lazy. At the centre of every attack and would have scored more had the been players willing to cross him the ball. Also important in bringing Callum Wilson into the game.

Callum Wilson 6 – Another player who was below the level they’ve displayed so far this season. Caused some problems for Stevenage, particularly when he should have won a penalty for us in the second half. However when he got in behind the Stevenage back-line his attempts to finish weren’t great.

Subs

Jordan Willis 6 – Not on long enough to make much of an impact on the game but had to be shifted to right-back after Cyrus had to go off with an injury. Made a few important challenges in the closing stages.

Louis Garner 5 – Touched the ball about twice but there’s some promise there. Gave the Stevenage left-back a few problems with his skillful running but was very lightweight, it seemed as if a strong gust would have knocked him off the ball.

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