Preview: Crawley Town

Where We Are

Our reward for beating Barnsley in the cup is a glamour tie away at Arsenal in a fortnight’s time. Hopefully the prospect of facing Arsenal’s youth team won’t distract the side from the more important business of maintaining our play-off push in the league.

Our next game against Crawley will be a useful measure of our progress this season, with the fixture being a reverse of our opening day of the season encounter. Then an inexperienced Coventry struggled to assert themselves upon Crawley Town and a long season loomed over us. We now sit in 10th place looking like outside bets for the final play-off position. Should we win and dominate Crawley tomorrow it would be a welcome reminder of how much this team has improved this season.

We may have to do so without a number of key first-team players. Leon Clarke is a doubt for tomorrow’s fixture and may be rested to protect his fitness further down the line. Callum Wilson remains injured and we’ll be without him for a few months. Conor Thomas is in contention to start but might be rested with future matches in mind. This leaves us with a selection dilemma in midfield and attack. After Moussa and Daniels’s performances against Barnsley it’s highly likely that both will start out of position, Moussa in attack and Daniels on the left. However the loss of Leon Clarke may result in either the two being paired up front or Denzel Slager retaining his starting position from last week. Should Conor Thomas not make the game then that may give Adam Barton a final chance to impress before his seemingly inevitable exit.

In transfer news it seems as if Chris Dagnall is close to signing a permanent deal having been released by Barnsley on Friday. For the immediate future this would most likely see Dagnall paired with Moussa up front for the Crawley game and longer term he’d be keeping Wilson’s spot in the starting XI warm for him. Elsewhere we’ve been linked with two Scottish players in Dylan McGeouch, a central midfielder from Celtic, and Blair Spittal, a left-winger from Scottish 4th tier side Queen’s Park. Apart from knowing very little about either it seems like McGeouch would replace Barton and Spittal would be one of those ‘development squad signings’.

Last Time We Met

Pressley in action on a frustrating afternoon in Crawley.

Pressley in action on a frustrating afternoon in Crawley.

Our opening day fixture was against the Sussex side where we lost 3-2 despite recovering from a 2-0 half-time deficit. We saw glimpses of what was to come in that fixture with Moussa and Callum Wilson both on form and on the score-sheet. At the time though the encouraging signs of the performance were no consolation to what many fans felt was an indication of a season full of near misses.

Our overall record against Crawley is straightforward, having played them for the first time in our history last season the home side always wins. After beating them 3-1 at the Ricoh Arena in November 2012 we lost a meaningless end-of-season encounter 2-0 back in Crawley. August’s meeting between the two sides continued the trend, one which we’ll be hoping continues at our unwanted home.

How Are They Doing?

Despite a promising start to the campaign, Crawley somewhat surprisingly sacked their young manager Richie Barker and replaced him with that up-and-coming young buck John Gregory. Fresh on the back of failures in Israel and Kazakhstan the former Villa manager was a shock choice by the Crawley board. Gregory’s immediate impact has been mixed, winning 2, drawing 2 and losing 2. Crawley will arrive in Northampton fresh off the back of a cup defeat to Bristol Rovers on Wednesday night where they squandered a 1 goal lead to lose 2-1.

Crawley’s goalkeeper is a player that Coventry’s makeshift attack will have to look out for. Paul Jones, who impressed during his time at Exeter and Peterborough, is one of their best performers and is fully capable of winning points for his team all by himself. Their defence is probably their greatest strength with Kyle MacFazean, Mark Connolly and James Hurst key performers in that area of the pitch for them.

Their weakness is largely in attack where they are one of the league’s lowest scorers. Things have picked up recently under Gregory but the mis-firing Jamie Proctor and Emile Sinclair have been disappointing for much of this season for Crawley. They’ve recently reverted to a more ‘direct’ style under their new management and that has restored Gary Alexander to the first team and the robust centre-forward has shown some decent form in the past few games.

In addition wide-men Mike Jones and Nicky Adams could prove to be thorny customers against our leaky defence.

Prediction

We’re on a strange run of form at the moment where we only seem to turn up to games after the opposition have scored. Games against Barnsley, Peterborough and Rotherham saw us thoroughly out-played until the opposition put the ball into the net. From then on we’ve been able to assert ourselves on our opponents, which perhaps suggests that our pressing game is only working when the opposing side are less willing to attack us.

Nonetheless I find this run of form worrying despite the fact that we have been winning these matches. What I would like to see tomorrow is a ’90 minute performance’ one where we race out of the blocks and assert our dominance before the opposition can pause for thought. However tomorrow looks like it will see a make-shift starting line-up and that could result in a disjointed performance.

However I am going to be optimistic and spring for a 2-0 victory to the Sky Blues.

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