Can We Play You Every Wyc?

Adams Park is a happy hunting ground for Coventry City, and I’m sure almost every Chairboys supporter you ask would agree. With that in mind, it’s easy to say that it’s never a bad time for us to play this fixture; and on the back of a nice unbeaten run in the league, confidence amongst the Sky Blue Army was high as the clock struck Three.

What we were welcomed to out of the gates was a start as wobbly as the teams’ taking of the knee at kick-off. Wycombe started as they would unwaveringly go on throughout the match, as they launched long and direct balls down the middle, and aimed to pump in crosses when out wide. We struggled to get into an early rhythm, and it took a while for us to get our feet on the ball and play.

As such, it might be fair to say that we scored somewhat against the run of play. Liam Kelly, who had a shot with the outside of his boot curl wide not long before, won the ball just inside the Wycombe half. Due to Wycombe having a good 6/7 players further up the pitch as they looked to latch onto long balls, this presented the Sky Blues skipper with plenty of space to take the ball into. With options in either channel, Kelly took the ball with him and drilled a powerful shot low into Ryan Alsopp’s goal.

The roar from this one supporter at least was deafening.

The goal brought Coventry a slight amount more control in the match. With about 8 minutes to play, a seemingly innocuous challenge forced Kelly off the pitch, and though he would come back on, he was struggling. With half-time approaching, Kelly signalled to the bench. Robins, quite smartly, decided to wait until half-time to make the change.

Due to the COVID-influenced calendar, the new 5 substitutes rule entails that the club can make up to five changes during a match, but may only interrupt play three times during it to do so. Half-time, however, does not count towards this quotient. As we had already made one first-half replacement – with Jordan Shipley looking out-of-sorts and replaced on the half-hour by Gustavo Hamer – it made sense to hold on to the cards in our hand and make the sub during the interval. Kelly, however, was struggling. It’s a wonder Wycombe never targeted him more during this brief period, but their play generally bypasses the midfield so they didn’t.

Ever the professional, Kelly still offered as much as he could while carrying the knock; at one point playing a nice ball down the left wing for O’Hare to make a nuisance of himself with. And things would get better in almost bewildering fashion. A free-kick on the right was whipped towards the back stick by Hamer for Leo Østigård, whose header back across was nodded in by the unmarked, barely mobile Kelly.

The second half was a barrage of Wycombe balls, and as they rang the changes to try and make things pay off, the Sky Blues conceded yet another penalty. Joe Jacobson, reliable as ever, duly dispatched.

This put real pressure on us with a long half-hour in store. Suddenly we were struggling to clear our lines, and but for a better finish from the dangerous Fred Onyedima, Wycombe’s pressure would have told.

Despite beating on the door for the remainder of the match, Wycombe just didn’t half the quality to create many clear chances, or to take the ones that fell our way. It might be said that without Kelly’s presence on the pitch at this point, the midfield were struggling to get a foot on the ball and slow the game down as often as we would have wanted. Instead, their contributions were by way of telling interceptions and tackles from Hamer, headers from Ben Sheaf, and nuisance work from Callum O’Hare.

With a minute to go, and with a further four then added, the addition of Maxine Biamou helped us keep the ball in a much nicer area of the pitch; with the French winger showing great determination with his first touch to turn his man, and burst down the right wing to help hold play up. This passage resulted in a good chance for Hamer who, slightly off-balance, skied his left-footed attempt high and wide.

In the last minute, Hamer decided to run the clock down by playing the ball a good 60 yards down the right wing for Alsopp to go over and pick up. The keeper’s long kick was headed down from Wycombe’s right wing, and volleyed nicely towards goal. Wilson was right behind the shot, but the sheer pace and power on the ball meant he could only fumble it into the path of the Wycombe player to equalise. Thankfully the linesman had flagged for offside.

The full-time whistle was met with a chorus of boos from the home crowd, and a collective sigh of relief from the Coventry fans watching from afar. This was not our best win over Wycombe, and certainly not our best performance. However, there’s a reason that, saying the mark of a good side is to play poorly and get results, is so cliché.

We head into our next few matches against teams around us in the table. If we can keep our heads screwed on, and maintain a good level of fitness, we might be in a surprisingly good position for the new year to come.

Onwards and upwards.

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