The Sky Blues’ defeat at Cardiff has sucked them back into a precarious position in the league.
Three poorly conceded goals proved too much for Mark Robins’s men to overhaul in a game that the manager described as their poorest performance of the season so far.
And with top of the table Norwich City up next on Wednesday night, swiftly followed by second placed Brentford on Saturday, it’s clearly a difficult period for Coventry City to negotiate their way through.
Here are some of the big talking points and things learned from their 3-1 defeat against the Bluebirds.
Old habits creeping back
The Sky Blues shook off the unwelcome tag of having the worst defensive record in the division in the first few months of the season with an impressive run of conceding just 14 goals in 17 going into the weekend’s fixture against a resurgent Cardiff City.
But 3-0 down inside the first 46 minutes and they ended the game having shipped 17 in their last 18 in the league as bad habits crept back into Mark Robins’s rearguard.
To be perfectly honest, City defended more like a League One side being picked apart by a seasoned Championship outfit.
Robins was rightly fuming about the nature of the goals, in particular the third which came about due to players switching off and allowing a quick free-kick to spring Josh Murphy free – a schoolboy error he described as an “absolute disgrace.”
Fans can only hope the way they defended against the Bluebirds was a blip rather than the return of a trend.
No substitute for experience
What the naive nature of defending did was force the manager’s hand regarding Kyle McFadzean.
The experienced centre-half lost his place when he tested positive for Covid-19 and found himself on the bench on his return due to the combined form of the returning Michael Rose and now established Leo Ostigard, the latter of whom was trusted with the central berth in the back three usually occupied by McFadzean.
Maybe it was a game too far for the Norwegian, who has been increasingly impressive this season but, on Saturday, had one of those days he’ll want to forget for his part in the first two goals.
There’s very little substitute for experience at this level, and McFadzean’s return had the immediate effect of bringing a bit of stability for the remainder of the game with a presence that will almost certainly be called upon again in the next few testing fixtures.
Tyler Walker made a welcome return to the matchday squad after sitting out nine games with a calf strain.
The 24-year-old striker was one of four players returning from injury or illness, along with goalkeeper Ben Wilson, midfielder Ben Sheaf and fellow front man Amadou Bakayoko, and went on for the last 30 minutes.
It’s going to take time for him to get back up to speed but during his time on the pitch he displayed decent movement and linked up well with Max Biamou, with whom he’d previously shown glimpses of a decent understanding.
City are desperate for a regular goal scorer, an issue that was highlighted once again in a game in which their biggest goal threats were centre-backs Leo Ostigard, who rattled the cross bar, and Dom Hyam who bagged the late consolation.
Get worse before it gets better
City coming away empty handed from the Welsh capital was another setback in what is an incredibly tough looking fixture list on paper this month.
A return of two points from their last four outings has sucked City back to the brink of the relegation zone and their current 20th spot is arguably even worse than it looks because all but one of the four teams below them boast games in hand.
If Sheffield Wednesday were to win their ‘extra’ match they would move level on points with a superior goal-difference while if Rotherham take advantage of their two spare fixtures they would pull four points clear of the Sky Blues.
That’s two sizeable ‘ifs’ of course, but it’s uncomfortable food for thought as Mark Robins’s men prepare for consecutive battles with the Championship’s top three sides.
It’s likely going to get worse before it gets better but the players have to hold their nerve and hang on to the hugely impressive quality they have shown so far this season, while the supporters need to keep the faith in the fact that they have a competitive squad more than capable of moving clear of danger.
Marosi vs Wilson debate rumbles on
Coventry City’s No.1 got the nod from Mark Robins as Ben Wilson returned to the matchday squad after sitting out two games due to being forced to self isolate for ten days.
The understudy had only lost his place to fit-again Marko Marosi due to a positive Covid-19 test ahead of the Forest game, which opened the door for the manager’s previous first choice stopper to return.
Marosi will know himself if he could or should have done better for the goals – beaten at his near post for the first, taken out by his own defender for the second and beaten with an angled finish across the face of goal for the third.
He was clearly exposed for the first and last but conceding three has certainly fuelled the debate among the fans as to which keeper should be playing.
It’s arguably a difficult one for the manager who will, no doubt, want stability in such a key position and be keen to avoid chopping and changing.
The late substitution of Jordan Shipley for Sam McCallum gave a fairly clear indication of Robins’s thinking behind his selection for Wednesday night’s game against the leaders, Norwich City.
McCallum will be forced to sit out the fixture against his parent club due to the terms of his loan deal leaving the manager with no obvious back-up in the position following the departure of Ryan Giles in the January transfer window.
New signing Josh Reid might be an option but the fact that he wasn’t in the matchday squad at Cardiff suggests he’s not in the manager’s thinking right now.