With the international break behind the Sky Blues, 3 games in 7 days is a welcome return for the fans, but with such a strong and mature start, City look to be enjoying themselves.
Boro were always going to be a stern test with Warnock at the helm and a wealth of exciting, attacking talent to run at Coventry, and having lost both fixtures last season, Coventry could have been worried. However, with 3 wins in 5, and Boro faltering with just one win Coventry had their tails up.
The one surprise to many was the inclusion of Jamie Allen over Ben Sheaf and I'll show how it was a very clever selection. Otherwise, Coventry set up exactly as expected. Boro lost McNair in the warm-up which will have caused an unexpected tinkering of the team for Warnock.
Early in the game Coventry had several moments of breaking the Boro organization with runs from Jamie Allen. Here a long kick from Lumley was headed forward by McFadzean. Gyokeres controls it with Bamba tight, and with O'Hare already ahead of the ball taking Hall and Fry away, Coventry needed a deep run from Allen to exploit spaces outside of the back 3. Waghorn had pressed Lumley into the long kick, and this chance resulted a cross that Waghorn put over the bar. Coventry's counter attack has been called into question this season, but in this game it was the key.
Gyokeres' goal was a perfect counter-attack. Tavernier had the ball on the edge of the Coventry box. A misplaced pass helps O'Hare and Hamer get the ball into Allen, who started out this move on the edge of his own box. Within seconds he is pushing forward beyond the midfield of Boro and releasing Gyokeres to round the keeper and score. Allen thanked the gaffer with a wonderful pass that left Dijksteel behind Gyokeres and unable to stop him.
McFadzean played the most (34) forward passes in the first half and this image shows why. Boro set up to allow him to play a forward pass. Controlling the player means they could control where the ball would go, or how Coventry would build up. In this instance, the ball went long to O'Hare, which was controlled near the edge of the Boro box.
However, the cross resulted in a quick clearance and this image. This is what Boro wanted. They set up to defend and attack quickly. With Ikpeazu as the target man, he holds the ball and invites pressure. Hernandez runs off of him and, in this instance, Crooks runs beyond Ikpeazu to push Coventry deeper. Ikpeazu lost the ball 4 times in the first half - the second-most of any player and explains why moments like this never amounted to real goal threats - just three shots in the first half for Boro.
On top of the counter-attack set up, Boro took opportunities to press Coventry, like the one below. O'Hare checks in to help the team get out of trouble, and McFadzean attempts to direct the play out to Maatsen. Tavernier wins the ball from O'Hare here and the resulting cross is right across the face of the goal and missed by Ikpeazu.
All in all, Boro were just off the pace. Boro turned the ball over 20 times in the game, which makes sense given the tactics for counter-attacking and exploiting space. However, the turnovers, and missed chances hurt Boro, and for once not Coventry. Just before the excellent triple saves by Moore, Coventry were in attack. Maatsen played a pass against O'Hare and Boro countered. Having failed to clean that counter attack up, the ball found Ikpeazu in a 3v1 inside the Coventry box.
Amazingly, each of the three attackers (Ikpeazu, Jones, and Hernandez) had shots and whilst any one of them should have scored, Simon Moore was equal to each of them.
Coventry committed 9 fouls in the first half. Though, not necessarily dangerous play, Boro were clever in waiting for contact and slowing the game down to play more purposefully. Several free kicks leads to chances to attack the goal, mainly crosses, but Warnock teams are known for their guille and this was a prime example. Hamer committed three of the first half fouls that also saw him receive a yellow card.
Viktor Gyokeres - Every time he has scored (6) Coventry has won.
He has done so much good for the team going forward and this is a prime example that fails to provide 'stats' to support his impact. Another long Lumley kick is knocked down to Gyokeres just inside the Boro half (left). Then just 10 seconds later, he still has the ball and has pinned Boro deep. Allen is wide open, but Gyokeres fails to find him. Notably, Gyokeres runs into the channel a lot. He is often out on the left and looking inside, but the goal (above) came from the opposite.
Cardiff on Wednesday!
Stats from whoscored.com