Where We Are
On the plus side we kept our first clean sheet since we beat Notts County at home at the beginning of November. On the down side we offered a severely limited attacking threat against one of the worst sides in the division on Sunday. The negative side of Sunday’s performance was arguably down to the decision by Pressley to field four central defenders across the back four which meant that we struggled to pin Shrewsbury back for sustained periods. The decision for Pressley looming over tonight’s team selection is whether to continue with this defensive set-up, which wasn’t 100% convincing, or to restore either or both of Blair Adams and Cyrus Christie to the defence in order to give the team some attacking impetus.
Aside from the defence, the midfield and attack struggled to provide penetration and get in behind the Shrewsbury defence. Petrasso worked hard out wide but made a much bigger impact when played behind Wilson in the final minutes, Wilson himself looked sharp playing a more withdrawn role and Chuba Akpom didn’t look interested in linking up with his team-mates. It feels as if we’ve had to start our season again following Leon Clarke’s departure and Pressley is clearly looking for his best options in attack, the likely return of Nathan Delfouneso for tonight’s fixture should give us some form of physical presence in attack.
With the team hanging just 3 points above the relegation zone we need to make our games in hand count in order to navigate ourselves away from choppy water. Pressley is now in the territory of having to make sure he gets his team selection right for these next few games. The players have to take the responsibility of upping the tempo that they have played at in recent games in order to avoid, or in preparation for, games where we must win.
Last Time We Met
In contrast to the two high scoring affairs of last season, Coventry narrowly edged past Walsall at the Bescot in November. In a game low on quality and chances, Franck Moussa tucked away a rebound early in the second half to win the points for City. Back then it was part of a run that included impressive victories over Sheffield United and Leyton Orient which was eventually curtailed by a 3-3 draw at Bradford followed by back to back heavy home defeats to Tranmere and Rotherham.
How Are They Doing?
Walsall are more or less having the season that we would be having had we not been deducted 10 points. Following a strong showing in the first half of the season the Saddlers are on a poor run of form having not won since the 25th January. They are predominantly a young team who have suddenly found themselves struggling to pick up wins. However manager Dean Smith has been here before with this team, overseeing a 15 game winless run last season before a late surge saw them miss out narrowly on the play-offs.
The dangermen for Walsall include former West Brom midfielder Sam Mantom who has been amongst the goals recently despite the club’s poor form. A red card on Saturday may rule him out of tonight’s fixture should Walsall’s appeal fail. Their top scorer is former Notts County and Chesterfield striker Craig Westcarr who has scored 12 in League One this campaign and who provides their focal point in attack.
Supporting Westcarr should be Romaine Sawyers and Milan Lalkovic. Sawyers, an attacking midfielder, is another former Baggie in the Walsall line-up and is having a breakthrough season following his release from West Brom in the summer. Milan Lalkovic, on loan from Chelsea, has had a mixed season playing out wide, at times he has been unplayable, in the good sense, at others he can be unplayable, in the bad sense.
Walsall and their fans may feel that this has become a grudge match for the club. There have been a number of Saddlers fans on social media who feel as if Coventry haven’t been punished harshly enough for our financial irregularities. In addition the club itself notably turned down a proposal from our board to groundshare for this season. Finally, Walsall are unhappy with the timing of the rearrangement of this fixture, believing it disadvantages their side by placing the game amidst a tough run of fixtures.
Sunday’s performance against Shrewsbury hardly raises any hope that we can go on a strong run of form until the end of the season to keep us out of trouble. However we’re up against a side that are on an almost identical run of form, but who have the benefit of not being troubled by the threat of relegation as we are. Whether that pressure will improve or worsen our performance levels for the final games of the season is hard to tell at this time but there’s pressure now on Pressley to make the right decisions in his team selection to secure a now long-awaited win.
All thing’s considered I predict a 0-0 draw.