Coventry City suffered more of a blip than a setback with their 2-0 defeat at Luton Town.
Although a hugely disappointing result and far from adequate performance, the Sky Blues remain six points above Rotherham United who were thumped 4-1 by Watford in one of their four, now down to three, games in hand.
All eyes will be on Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City’s home games against Huddersfield and Reading, respectively, tonight but Mark Robins are still very much in control of their own destiny with ten games to go, starting with bottom of the table Wycombe Wanderers at St Andrew’s this weekend.
Here are some of the big talking points from Tuesday’s below par display at Kenilworth Road.
This was one of those ‘if only’ games in which the Sky Blues passed up the opportunity to take a comfortable lead before suddenly conspiring to their own downfall.
Although Luton went close to taking the lead when Max Biamou and Kyle McFadzean hit their own post in quick succession as they attempted to desperately clear the ball in the tenth minute, City’s No.9 looked as if he’d done enough to score until his nicely placed shot bounced off the inside of the woodwork a minute later.
The striker should really have converted again when Matty James teed him up as the visitors spurned the opportunity of taking a two goal lead inside the first 18 minutes.
Poor defending saw the Hatters get their noses in front shortly after, before Ben Wilson was beaten in the air by Elijah Adebayo in the box, leading to McFadzean’s improvised goal line clearance that resulted in a controversial straight red card, penalty and City being reduced to ten men for the remainder of the game.
And although City’s defending improved after the break, they were saved from a pasting by two last ditch clearances in quick succession from Leo Ostigard and a couple of decent reaction stops from Wilson.
Failing to hit the highs achieved against Derby in their previous game, this performance will perhaps serve as a timely reminder to the players of exactly what’s required to get the club over the Championship safety line this season.
Mark Robins insisted after the game that the club will appeal McFadzean’s red card, and for good reason.
Although the centre-back appeared to move his body towards the ball as he blocked on the line, he looked as though he connected with his chest/shoulder – certainly the top of the arm covered by the short sleeve of his shirt.
That area of the arm, according to FA rules, is not handball, unlike the rest of the player’s arm and hand.
The defender protested his innocence to no avail but should have a good case for the dismissal to be rescinded.
Failure to do so would be hugely costly for the team with the defender facing a two match ban, starting against Wycombe at the weekend – one for the straight red card and a second for it coming as his second dismissal of the campaign, having been sent off at Reading in January for two yellows.
While Robins could revert to a back four or even draft in Josh Pask as a third centre-back, assuming Michael Rose is still injured, the last thing he wants to be doing is switching formations and moving away from a wing-back system that is so effective to City’s attacking game, particularly on ‘home’ soil.
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Fadz the history maker
McFadzean’s second sending off came as City’s sixth red card of the season, and the tenth penalty conceded.
The other players to have been dismissed this term are Michael Rose (against Blackburn), Leo Ostigard (against Blackburn away), Gus Hamer (against Bournemouth) and Declan Drysdale (against MK Dons in the ELF Cup).
Club statistician Jim Brown has pointed out that Tuesday night’s red card was the 150th in the club’s history.
The record is seven set in 2001-02 and 2002-03 when all the dismissals came in league games.
Calls for keeper change
Ben Wilson’s first half display sparked much debate among the nervous Sky Blue iFollowers, plenty of whom took to social media to express their concern ahead of the last ten make or break fixtures of the season.
To the goalkeeper’s credit, he regained his composure and pulled off two decent saves with out-stretched boots after the break to keep the scoreline down and go some way to redeeming himself.
But it still wasn’t enough for some who called for Marko Marosi to be reinstalled for the final run-in.
Wilson has done well overall this season and, although slightly older than Marosi, is not as experienced, having started 49 league games in his career to date compared to 124 for his friendly rival.
And you just wonder if that extra time served between the sticks, particularly in high pressure play-off games City’s No.1 has experienced, might be of benefit to instil a bit of added confidence back to the rearguard.
Matty takes first steps back
Scratching around searching for positives, the biggest boost on an otherwise disappointing night was the fact that Matty Godden got on the pitch.
Thrown on for the last 18 minutes plus three for stoppages, the Sky Blues’ talismanic striker took his first tentative steps of competitive football since he broke down at Millwall on January 2.
Clearly not fit enough to start after being out for so long, the 29-year-old will hopefully be able to continue to build up his match minutes in the next few games as he seeks to regain his sharpness in front of goal.
Goals have been frustratingly hard to come by this season – a fact that was reinforced by City’s wastefulness at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night.
And so Godden’s return to form and fitness can’t come quickly enough with games running out fast.