Coventry City edged further away from the bottom three with another decent Championship point on the road.
The Sky Blues weren’t at their best but battled back from a goal down to snatch a draw at a Derby County side that continue to prop up the division.
Gus Hamer popped up with the all important goal to cancel out Colin Kazim-Richards’ opener in the Pride Park clash that ended 1-1.
Here are some of the big talking points and things we learned.
The VAR view
As is usually the case after a draw, both managers thought that they deserved to take maximum points at Pride Park.
But while Derby’s acting boss Wayne Rooney might point to Jack Stretton hitting the bar with a chance that should have made it 2-0 in the 90th minute, Mark Robins could counter that his side were denied the initial breakthrough courtesy of two controversial first-half decisions.
Reeree Dean Whitehouse decided not to award a penalty when Callum O’Hare was clipped by David Marshall before a linesman’s flag chalked off Tyler Walker’s header from a Gus Hamer free-kick. And both incidents underlined the fact that, although theoretically governed by the same rules, the EFL and the Premier League operate to different standards since the advent of VAR.
Had this been a top-flight fixture, the men in Stockley Park unquestionably would have slow-mo’ed the life out of the Marshall’s desperate attempt to deny O’Hare – and the way these things have been going recently (just ask Jurgen Klopp) the odds are that they would have recommended a penalty.
Whitehouse, of course, would then have been forced to consider whether the contact (minimal as it was and clearly without malicious intent) constituted a last-man foul that denied a goal-scoring opportunity so even had they survived the spot-kick, Rooney’s Rams would have found themselves a man short for 58 minutes.
The offside decision was marginal and the Sky Sports angle far from ideal but frozen replay frames suggest that at least one Derby armpit was goal side of Walker at the crucial moment – a perception that would have been determined one way or the other had VAR’s millimetre-precise grid been available.
Very few football fans are lovers of VAR which, arguably, has created as many problems as it has solved, but the Sky Blues will certainly wonder what might have been had it been in operation last night.
The spirit that just keeps giving
One of hallmarks of last season’s magnificent promotion push was Coventry City’s never-say-die spirit that saw them keep going to snatch late winners and equalisers.
Gus Hamer’s 90+2 leveller at Pride Park came as the second game running that the Sky Blues have left it late to get something from a game, having seen Max Biamou bag an 89th minute point at Norwich at the weekend.
That speaks volumes for the determination in the camp to keep going to the final whistle, confident that they can get something out of games, whether at top or bottom of the division.
And in this league every point counts, particularly for a side that is still acclimatising to the rigours of Championship football.
Rule change playing into City’s hand
When the new five substitutes rule was introduced it appeared to favour the bigger and stronger squads over the smaller clubs in the division.
The Sky Blues didn’t really make use of it in the first two games it was on offer, against Birmingham and Cardiff, but in the last two games Mark Robins has turned it to his tactical advantage.
Against Norwich he made three changes at once just after the hour mark, adding Gus Hamer, Tyler Walker and Jordan Shipley to the mix before later sending on Wes Jobello and Max Biamou, the latter getting the all important late goal.
And at Pride Park on Tuesday night, Robins sent on fresh legs and physicality in Jobello and Biamou again, this time for the last 14 minutes, before adding another striker, Amadou Bakayoko, and Leo Ostigard, who had a hand in the goal, as a last throw of the dice.
On each occasion the subs have made a significant impact and helped cause fresh problems for the opposition, reaping immediate rewards.
Consistency the key
A trip to the bottom club in the division is always a potential banana skin, particularly one that is under new guidance from former England manager Steve McClaren and skipper turned interim boss Wayne Rooney.
Although Derby can’t appear to be able to buy a win at the minute, they are showing shoots of recovery from a squad that has plenty of talented players.
Sadly for the Sky Blues, and perhaps luckily for the Rams, Tuesday night saw City have an off day by their recent standards.
Too many players simply weren’t playing at their maximum, not least in the wide and full-back positions. Sam McCallum was picked out for criticism by the manager afterwards but there were others who were also below their best.
Ryan Giles and Fankaty Dabo, both of whom can wreak havoc going forward on their day, lacked the attacking va-va-voom they showed at the weekend.
Consistency is the key and once City add that to every game they’ll soon start moving up the Championship table.
Moving on up
As it happened City did move up a place for the second game running, with another point taking them above Rotherham United, Saturday’s opponents at St Andrew’s.
That’s four games unbeaten now since the international break, and only two goals against – a remarkable turn around in terms of picking up points and tightening up at the back.
Their first win on the road remains elusive and the focus now turns to City’s hitherto pretty impressive ‘home’ form. First up are the Millers who have only taken a single point in their last four, followed by a Luton side that was thumped by Cardiff at the weekend.
City then travel to Wycombe, a happy hunting ground in recent years and, supporters may recall, where the Sky Blues won their first away game in the league last December.