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Coventry City 1-0 Stoke City

Another strong City performance sees them justly rewarded with three points!


Early on Coventry set their position by allowing Stoke to have the ball across the back three, but no further. Here, Chester plays to Tymon who looks for Clucas inside. The ball is stolen by Sheaf and Coventry counter. The patience in this press is key, as Gyokeres encourages play to one side and the box midfield, with support from Eccles at RWB can set a trap to steal the ball high. Stoke played into this multiple times and it's a credit to Coventry to do this with 6 players quickly, because Smith is an outlet that could tip the balance and expose Coventry, though he was never found.


Above it was Smith, here it is Clucas wide open, but the press of Allen with Gyokeres, and recognition by Shipley to get out, means that Clucas receives the ball in his own half facing backward instead of forward and being able to drive at Coventry.


Coventry have often opted to defend high up the field and prevent opponents from playing through the lines, as it creates chances as you'll see. It also makes sense when Coventry struggles to break down teams that defend like this:


An organized press provides Coventry opportunities like the one on 26 minutes. Whilst there seems to be little pressure on Chester, he has constantly faced a press that jumps on the second pass, so the 'safe' option is to go to Jagielka as Coventry squeeze the space. The result is sloppy and Gyokeres should have made it 1-0. You could be forgiven for thinking it's going to be the same old story again at this point.


Clucas was often the open player, as shown above, for a quick switch to break the Coventry press though he was hardly found and ultimately replaced on 60 minutes. However, the most influential player early on was Ince. Sheaf took a yellow after he rolled through the Coventry line for the third time, but only after he ghosted past them here as Stoke recycled possession. His shot was blocked by Hyam.


Though it was viewed like Coventry had control of the game, Stoke had more possession in the first half. Though they only possessed mostly across the back, looking to build through the organized Coventry press. Coventry had 6 shots, with 3 on target, all from Gyokeres and lacking any real goal threat.


The second half played out much like the first. Coventry came out firing and after excellent combination through the Stoke lines, Shipley's shot was blocked and from the resulting corner Bidwell heads the ball just wide. Right on 60, the traditional 'sub moment', Stoke remove Clucas who could have had a more significant impact and replaced him with Joe Allen. Coventry made two changes minutes later with Waghorn and O'Hare coming in - Robins adjusted the shape to a 3-4-1-2 with O'Hare behind Gyokeres and Waghorn.


Then the Coventry goal. This image is from moments before the ball is forced centrally to Sheaf (who lays it into Gyokeres to score). Note how the striking pair can force play into a channel without pressing too high and exposing spaces behind. O'Hare also a key role here in containing Allen and limiting Stoke to either long balls, or forced central passes. It's a different look that worked out, though Bonham will face criticism for his positioning, it was good for Gyokeres to get back into scoring ways with Godden missing for a while.


Though the game felt like it needed a boost, it was risky to change the attacking/defending shape given Waghorn doesn’t defend like Shipley. Though Allen had the most touches of any Stoke player, he failed to impact, minus one key moment on 71. Stoke were able to break the press, and as Coventry recover, Allen is between the lines with Ince ahead of him. The exact situation that is threatened when overran centrally on display here, though Coventry are able to recover and clear the ball. It also sums up the lacking goal threat from Stoke in this game. Just 7 shots overall, with 0 on target.

Waghorn received praise from Robins after the QPR game and he deserved it again in this one as his fresh legs and activity gave Coventry that extra impetus to close the game out on the front foot. Credit also for leaving O’Hare on the bench. Robins stuck with the box midfield and put Shipley in the attacking position, showing some faith in him, Eccles, and Bidwell to execute on the team's plan. Though he could have easily shifted to a front two, the rest for O'Hare and maintaining the favored shape was rewarded in another strong Coventry performance.


'Boro up next on Saturday with a chance to jump them into 8th.

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