Change the destinations on your sat-navs people, Accrington will have to wait another year as Tony Mowbray’s Sky Blue army are heading for Wembley!
Don’t get ahead yourselves? We’re only three points above the relegation zone? We’re terrible at home? We’ve only won three games in a row once in four seasons? Our opponents Doncaster are one of the best away teams in the division?
This week has been fun, so much so that the fact that we were beaten in the last minute to the loan signing of Sam Ricketts has barely been commented on when otherwise it would have been used to condemn the way this club is being run. It’s all about perception and perception in football is driven by results.
For much of this season we have believed that this group of players was a poor one that was beyond all hope, exactly where they deserved to be in the division. Suddenly, this looks like a really good squad with depth and big performances coming from all angles. In fact, in Jordan Willis, Matthew Pennington, John Fleck, Jim O’Brien, Sanmi Odelusi, Dominic Samuel, Frank Nouble and new loan signing Grant Ward, we have players here who could, and probably will, play in the level above next season.
That we’re in a relegation battle with the squad we have is proving to be ridiculous as well kind of suspected, it’s hard though to watch a team struggle for months on end and not think they’re a bit crap. Tuesday night’s win was nice but we need to get everything we can out of what is starting to look like a hot streak. With big home games coming up in April, it will be especially important to get Tony Mowbray’s first home win as early as possible to build a positive atmosphere at the Ricoh Arena.
To overcome a tough Doncaster Rovers side, Mowbray will be without the services of the fans’ favourite forward Marcus Tudgay after he picked up a hamstring strain against Fleetwood. The manager has alluded to the idea that Jim O’Brien could play a more advanced role with O’Brien and Tudgay sharing a similar work-rate. A front pairing of Frank Nouble and Dominic Samuel is the alternative, more attacking option.
Having lost out on Sam Ricketts, Chris Stokes’ loan has been extended. The Forest Green loanee has been fairly solid although he has made a few mistakes and really needs to work on his delivery from crosses. I’m happy he’s here until the end of the season as Ryan Haynes is clearly lacking confidence but he would really have to raise his game to be more of an impact performer to warrant a longer stay.
Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Burge; Willis, Pennington, Martin, Stokes; Ward, Fleck; Barton, O’Brien, Nouble; Samuel.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting against Doncaster Rovers was a fiasco back on Boxing Day. Our hosts on that day had struggled to win at home for most of the season but the Sky Blues handed the momentum to Donny by conceding an early goal from a poorly defended set-piece. This allowed a tenacious Doncaster side to do what they do best, sit on a lead and counter-attack. As we struggled to create meaningful chances, frustrations grew with James Maddison and then Adam Barton picking up red cards. The defeat ended a semi-decent run of form for Steven Pressley’s Coventry City who had won their previous two away games prior to that disastrous visit to the Keepmoat Stadium.
How Are They Doing?
That win was only Doncaster’s second home win of the season, Paul Dickov’s side have won four home games since then and that combined with some more impressive away form has had them flirting with the play-offs. It’s a far cry from a disastrous summer off the pitch that involved a failed takeover, a slashing of the playing budget and taking until the end of July to sign their first player.
After a slow start to the season, the quality of Doncaster’s squad leftover from their recent spells in the Championship has helped propel Paul Dickov’s side into the upper echelons of the division. The former Oldham manager has been a divisive figure since taking over at the start of last season. He has never quite escaped the sense that he is naturally a cautious manager and therefore incapable of getting the very best out of a decent squad at Doncaster.
Doncaster’s star player this season has been Harry Forrester, the attacking midfielder’s set-pieces has allowed Dickov to shoe-horn his fancy Dan-ery into the team. The rest of Doncaster’s midfield is functional and robust with the South Africa captain Dean Furman providing the steel and veteran midfielder Richie Wellens the creativity.
Another attacking threat to watch out for will be Jonson Clarke-Harris on loan from Rotherham. The forward was released from our academy at a young age for undisclosed, thought to be disciplinary, reasons and has since rebuilt his career with spells at Peterborough and Oldham. Harris Jonson-Clarke joined Rotherham for big money in the summer but hasn’t quite found the form to justify the million pound fee and has been shipped out on loan. Making his first return to the Ricoh Arena, the odds must be fairly short for Clarke Harris-Jonson to score against his old club.
Donny’s defence is rather sturdy, as you could probably guess from the tone of this preview thus far. Ex-Walsall captain Andy Butler has returned to the club after a mysterious spell at Sheffield United where he was frozen out before he’d been given a run in the team. Northern Ireland international Luke McCullough is maturing into an excellent centre-back alongside Butler. Enda Stevens, on loan from Villa, has shown the capability to play at a much higher level than League One at times.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-1-1) Bywater; Wabara, McCullough, Butler, Stevens; Bennett, Furman, Wellens, Clarke-Harris; Forrester; Main.
Doncaster are a team who simply love to play away from home, they are a side that struggles to take the initiative in games but are at their best when frustrating teams and either countering or scoring from set-pieces. They have all the ingredients of a side that tends to beat Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena, especially when there is optimism and the expectation of a home win. As great as Tuesday night’s win was, the goals did come very late on and for the most part it appeared that we struggled to convert possession into clear-cut chances.
With the form of teams in the bottom four continuing to be strong over the past week, we cannot let up after a decent run and need to push on. Whilst we have the benefit of playing teams in the bottom half in April, it would be nice not to have to rely upon those games too heavily to decide our fate. Because it is so rare to see Coventry City winning three league games in a row, I can see this ending in a 2-2 draw.