Christmas is over, and we’re now back to normal; almost as though it never happened. For example, Coventry City won three matches over the festive period, and then lost to Scunthorpe following the passage of Yule.
As such, we seem to have found our footing for the season, and it’s very much a mid-table-resembling ‘win some, lose some’ outlook for the months ahead. Perhaps that’s a bit conclusive, yes, but unless we see a major upswing in our ability to win matches, we can expect more of the same until April’s end.
One thing that January brings is of course the transfer window, and City have recruited Wolves attacker Bright Enobakhare. A decent player at Championship level, his arrival brought fresh intrigue, going into our latest match, at home to the league’s basement team, AFC Wimbledon.
Coventry City vs. AFC Wimbledon – 12/01/2019
We kicked off. 0-1 Wimbledon.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that cut-and-dry, but the fact of the matter is, Wimbledon scored just after a minute following their first attack of the match. From a corner kick, Sam McCallum’s goal-line clearance could only travel a yard before ricocheting off of Dujon Sterling, allowing Jake Jervis, somehow unmarked despite Jordan Willis’ presence, to poke home. A poor goal to concede.
As one might expect for a team who had come here looking to get at least something from the match given their league position, this allowed the Dons to sit deep, get bodies behind the ball, and frustrate us. They even managed to hit the bar ten minutes after, following a rare mistake from Liam Kelly, which would probably have caused Exodus.
Otherwise, we remained on the front foot for the duration of the half, but made little headway, due in part to Wimbledon’s unrelenting willingness to allow any space within their eighteen-yard box, and due in another part to our inability to know what to do at the right time.
Our best chances of the half fell to Kelly, Luke Thomas and Jordy Hiwula. A Tom Bayliss cross from the right was headed down by Hiwula, evading Conor Chaplin and falling to an onrushing Kelly. A couple of tentative touches into the box saw him rifle a wicked half-volley on target, but the shot was tipped over. Next, following some good work down the right by Sterling, Thomas played a nice one-two with Bayliss, and was found eight yards out, on his preferred left foot. Perhaps due to the onrushing defender, Thomas’ only option was to go for the far post, but his shot was dreadfully high. Then, a Bayliss surge found Enobakhare, who dribbled across several defenders and squared to Hiwula, whose first-time effort was on-target, but only as far as the goalkeeper.
The second half rolled around, and so the siege continued. A looping clearance from McCallum saw Hiwula actually manage to outmuscle the defender, and bring the ball under control before a nice flick out to release Chaplin, who squared it back to Hiwula whose touch was too heavy with the goal in front of him and Thomas lurking to his right. A good opportunity wasted.
Following a throw-in, Thomas cut inside before squaring back out wide to Sterling, whose drilled cross was cut out. Sterling got the ball back and kept probing, before giving it back to Thomas on the edge of the box. Thomas does what he always does at this point, and shot. Once again, a Wimbledon defender got a touch on it, only this time it wasn’t enough to stop it from going in. The deflection probably was the biggest factor in it going in, but who cares? 1-1. Time to push on.
Jonson Clarke-Harris came on for his customary half-hour of shithousery. His first involvement saw a nice piece of hold-up play before again releasing Chaplin down the left channel. Chaplin showed a clean pair of heels to his markers, but his cross-cum-shot went neither near the goal nor towards a team mate. Then, from a little further out than his goal, Thomas saw a shot drag wide of the near post.
The clock ticked down towards a draw, but there was still time for some more Bayliss magic. With moments left, Kelly lofted a ball over the defence to Bayliss out on the right. His first touch brought the ball down, and then a delightful second touch flicked it inside over the defender’s head. Now inside the box and facing the goal, Bayliss’ next touch was a clever ball across to Hiwula. Hiwula controlled it, only to slip as he tried to stop with the ball. With the chance for him gone, Hiwula attempted the pass back to Bayliss, but it was cut out and fell back at the striker’s feet. With no time to attempt composure, Hiwula went to smash it with his left foot, and… He sliced it harmlessly across the six-yard box. One for the Christmas Bloopers DVDs at the end of the year.
Full Time – Coventry City 1-1 AFC Wimbledon
It’s almost chronic, isn’t it? Our ability to create chances almost effortlessly is undermined hugely if not nullified, by our inability to finish them. And yet, it’s weird; this on the whole was a good performance, but all that will be spoken about is the fact that we didn’t score enough to justify it, and that Hiwula horror miss will be burnt into the inside of many eyelids for the next week.
On the more positive side of things, it was nice to see Tom Bayliss performing well again. the last few weeks have seen him score and get an assist, and this has probably boosted his confidence, as shown with a mature display. We haven’t been able to see as many of his dancing marauds forwards this season as we had been treated to since his breakthrough last term, but as such he has had to adapt his game slightly. His passes are coming to fruition more often lately, and the team are benefitting as a result, if not wholly due to the frustrations mentioned beforehand.
On the right-hand side of the pitch we look like a real handful. Thomas pace, tied with Sterling’s loping runs, are a real danger to any left-side of defence in this division, and we just need to benefit more from that fact.
On the opposite flank, Enobakhare was tidy but a little lost at times. Despite being deployed on the left of midfield, the loanee was often found in the middle of the park, drifting towards the right channel, or behind the forward line. While this added a body in the middle, it also meant we weren’t able to stretch the defence down that flank like we had hoped would be the case with Jordan Shipley out of the side. As such, Sam McCallum was an isolated figure down the wing. Enobakhare can at least say that he didn’t lost the ball from a dribble or a pass.
McCallum himself was solid enough on his first start for the club. His touch went missing a few times, but he defended capably enough, and seems to be able to swing a decent cross in. It’s just a shame he was left in a worse position that Junior Brown was earlier in the season, when Hiwula would bugger off elsewhere.
All in all, we just weren’t ‘on it’ enough today in front of goal. There was an evident lack of cutting edge despite being dynamic enough across the rest of the pitch. Of course, the situation of being a goal down so early on perhaps allows for a little patience as you effectively have the rest of the match to get back into it, but as Wimbledon continued to frustrate our attackers and in turn the vocal majority of our support, it seemed as though our luck was against us.
As such, do we need to take more snapshots, and create our own luck? Or do we do as we have been doing so well over the Christmas period, and reward our own patience in attack with some well-worked goals? Of course, every game brings a different set of conditions, so it’s difficult to set a hard-and-fast rule in that regard. One thing is for certain though – We need to be more prolific. I have faith in the squad we have, but the real question is: Do they?
Onwards, and preferably upwards.