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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Coventry City

Andy Turner of the Coventry Telegraph previews The Sky Blues

19 February 2021

Coventry sit 20th in the Sky Bet Championship table ahead of Saturday’s clash, three points above the relegation zone after the midweek defeat to leaders Norwich. How would you summarise the last few months?

They have been testing and difficult, really. Coventry had a really good spell just before and going through Christmas, where they picked up quite a few points and were within touching distance of a comfortable mid-table position but now they've got this horrendous run of fixtures ahead. They played Forest off the park at St Andrew's, but gave away an own goal that handed Forest victory. It was a crushing defeat for morale because they'd played so well and yet the following week they played Watford - and this is perhaps a cautionary tale for Brentford - and got a point. I know Watford don't travel very well but they are still a very good side. Coventry played so well and it felt like a defeat because they played so well that their performance deserved three points, but they just couldn't get it.

On their day, they are a match for anybody. In midweek, Norwich were outstanding in the first half and Coventry weren't on it so went into half-time 2-0 down. In the second half, though, they came out and looked the side more likely to score and get something from the game. They can mix it with the best, it's just that they aren't doing it consistently enough in 90 minutes.

As you touched on there, in the 10 games up to and including the Boxing Day draw with Stoke, they lost just once and picked up 15 points along the way. How crucial a period do you think that was in their fight to beat the drop?

It was vital. The key component - apart from the last game in that sequence - was Liam Kelly, the captain. He was instrumental after coming back into the side for that period of games, adding that experience, know-how, stability and game management - all the things you expect from an experienced central midfielder. That really gave everybody a great deal of hope but then he picked up a hamstring strain and wasn't seen until Wednesday, when he came off the bench against Norwich and got 15 minutes at the end. The one thing that has been a significant factor in Coventry's season is that they've had key players out injured. They are still without star striker Matty Godden, who has got a foot injury that kept him out for a number of games earlier in the season. He tried to come back but then broke down again, so has only played a handful of games. Tyler Walker is another potentially prolific striker - albeit not tested too much in the Championship - but he's was also out for eight or nine games. He's been involved in the last two but he's clearly not match fit or sharp, so is working his way back up to speed. Injuries have hampered their progress, really.

The club were reasonably active in the January transfer window, with two players brought in permanently and two joining on loan deals. What did you make of their business last month?

Given that the budget is so small, I think they did remarkably well, to be honest. They brought in the experienced Matty James - who has been a terrific player - as a ready-made replacement for Liam Kelly, who I mentioned earlier. He's a top end Championship player, if not Premier League, as he helped Leicester get promoted and has played in the top flight, so it'll be interesting going forward as they've now got two excellent midfielders. Because Godden and Walker have been out injured, they brought in Viktor Gyokeres from Brighton, who had been on loan at Swansea. He's only a young lad and they are in that market where they can't go out and buy a ready-made goalscorer. He's been on the bench a few times recently and has looked quite good.

The other two lads were young players for the future. They brought in Josh Reid from Ross County, who is a full-back/wing-back, with an eye towards next season and the other is Fabio Tavares, a young striker who they got from Rochdale. He too has gone straight into the U23s, though he has played first team football this season. They are planning ahead for next season, which is what they tend to do in transfer windows.

Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on this weekend?

The star man is, without doubt, Gustavo Hamer (pictured above). He cost Coventry £1.3 million in the summer and he has been nothing short of superb. He's by far their standout player and every game he's a contender for man of the match. He's a deep-lying midfield playmaker and he's got everything; he can go box-to-box, he can tackle, he can get goals out of nothing and he just has a fantastic football brain. He's heading towards the Premier League - there's no doubt about it.

How is Mark Robins likely to set up his side at St Andrew’s?

He generally plays with a three at the back and wing-backs and I suspect he'll stick with that, although four centre-backs are available and they are going through a bit of a wobble, a bit of a crisis of confidence, as he hinted after the Norwich game. In the first half of the season, up to the end of October and early November, they had the worst defensive record in the division. Then they tightened up and, all of a sudden, became difficult to beat. In the last two games, however, it has crept back in and they are giving goals away. You do wonder if they'll go back to a four as a result. It'll likely be a 3-4-2-1 but they fans have been screaming for two strikers to play up top because the lone striker often gets isolated.

Brentford won the previous meeting 2-0 in west London in October, thanks to a pair of Ivan Toney strikes. What’s your score prediction for this one?

It is a tricky one because Brentford are a top quality side but they are a bit bruised because they've suffered back-to-back defeats. Coventry do generally play well at St Andrew's and I can tell you now it'll be a completely different game to the one down at Brentford. I'm going to stick my neck out and say Coventry will get a draw at the minimum, but I can see them edging it and winning 1-0 or 2-0.

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