Where We Are
After a surprisingly inept performances against Notts County last Saturday we find our play-off hopes hanging by a thread. We’re getting very close to the territory of having to win 5 or 6 games in a row to keep the dream of promotion alive. Steven Pressley has essentially written off our chances of making the top 6 with his remarks in the media this week, once again it feels like another one of those ‘building seasons’ that Chris Coleman always talked about.
Nathan Delfouneso is a doubt for tomorrow’s game against Bradford (if it goes ahead) which has led Pressley into the loan market to freshen the ranks. Chuba Akpom has arrived from Arsenal for the rest of the season, the young striker filling the space in the squad of the quickly departed Rory Donnelly. In addition Pressley surprisingly added a left-winger to the squad in the shape of QPR’s Mike Petrasso. I say surprisingly in that we already had 5 wide players in the squad in the form of Carl Baker, Franck Moussa, Mark Marshall, Dylan McGeouch and Billy Daniels. However most of those 5 are more naturally central players who are also naturally right-footed. Petrasso finally gives us a left-footer to balance out our options out wide and his 28-day loan spell allows Mark Marshall and Dylan McGeouch to gain match fitness.
Elsewhere in the side there is still the continued absence of Callum Wilson from our attacking ranks. This means that 3 changes are likely for tomorrow’s fixture against Bradford, Petrasso in for Daniels, Akpom in for Delfouneso and Fleck in for Barton looking like the most likely choices.
Last Time We Met
Our last encounter with Bradford was a tempestuous and exciting affair broadcast live in front of the Sky Sports cameras. After taking a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes, Coventry shot themselves in the foot with poor defending against Bradford’s long-ball approach which cost the team 2 very cheap goals. Just before the break Callum Wilson fired the Sky Blues emphatically back into the lead only for a Jordan Clarke handball (defending yet another long-ball) to hand Nahki Wells the opportunity to earn a point for the Bantams in the final minute of play.
Emotions boiled over between the two managers with Bradford’s Phil Parkinson taking exception to Pressley’s over-exuberrant goal celebrations and Pressley responding aggresively to a verbal tirade from the Bradford manager. This spilled over into the post-match comments with Pressley describing Bradford’s approach as ‘dark-age football’. The two managers have reportedly made amends for their falling out but the animosity and contrasting managerial approaches may make Saturday’s touchline another conflict zone.
How Are They Doing?
If the league had begun directly after that encounter Bradford would be second bottom of the table. The Bantams are on a miserable run of form with 1 win in their past 20 games, albeit with plenty of draws mixed in. It says a lot about their form in the opening two months of the season that they aren’t currently mired in a relegation scrap. Their star striker of the past two campaigns, Nahki Wells has been sold to Huddersfield and they’re struggling for attacking impetus aside from direct balls towards James Hanson. Whilst it would be harsh to describe them as Aidy Boothroyd style hoof merchants as they have a threat from their wide players, they are at their most effective when they can play off and around James Hanson in attack.
So Hanson is their key man in attack, he’s a classic target-man who is effective at winning headers in the opposition half. Put it simply we have to defend against him better than we did in the reverse fixture at Valley Parade. Aside from winning more aerial battles against him we must also press with greater effectiveness than we have done recently as this will cut off the service to Hanson.
Elsewhere in the side Kyel Reid a left winger is a pacey player who ran rings around Cyrus Christie in our last encounter and is someone we need to double up against defensively. In addition they have Mark Yeates who plays on the right and makes up for a lack of pace with a ludicrous amount of skill on the ball, however he’s out of favour with Phil Parkinson who prefers the more workmanlike Garry Thompson.
In defence they are without former Middlesbrough centre-back Andrew Davies with a long-term injury who is someone who would otherwise surely be playing at a higher level now. They will be able to select another former Middlesbrough injury-prone centre-back in the form of Matthew Bates who is a classy ball-playing centre-half and similarly would be at least a Championship player where he able to shake off his injury problems. Their right-back Stephen Darby is a former Liverpool youth-teamer who’s finally found a home after drifting around Leagues One and Two, he has been the dictionary definition of consistency since joining the club in 2012.
With the game in doubt due to the weather this may all be superfluous come 2 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. Assuming it does go ahead we’ll witness two sides who are both lacking in confidence. The Sky Blues took a shellacking against Notts County last time out and Pressley will surely be demanding a reaction from his players. The worry is that we’ll have to be bedding in new signings who’ll be adapting to our style of play and will produce a disjointed performance with players seeking match experience. Fortunately Bradford are on a shocking run of form which has only been prevented from being a crisis due to the amount of draws they’ve snatched over the past few months.
It won’t be a pretty match, especially on what’s likely to be marshland of a playing surface and the worry is that this plays into the hands of a direct Bradford side who know they can exploit the long ball against us. However I predict that we’ll get away with a draw tomorrow afternoon, 1-1.