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Middlesborough - Coventry City

Coventry hit the Riverside with ambitions to jump into 8th place. Wilder and his overlapping center backs, with a wind machine, were looking to get their own 3 points at home. After selecting the same team that lost to Blackburn, Wilder seemed to be making a point.

Boro presented a couple of different problems for Coventry in this game. Early on they pressed higher on Coventry. The result was a struggle to play out through the usual channels. Instead, the team drops deeper to connect but the result is the wrong players in the wrong areas, as you see Bidwell very deep and looking to clear. His attempted clearance is picked up by Boro with the counterattack leading to nothing. Coventry fixed this problem early on with an improved shape and played half of their first-half passes inside the middle third of the field.

The second look, once Coventry broke the Boro press, comes with Dijksteel stepping into a holding midfield role when Shipley or O'Hare would occupy the #10 space. That free's the midfield trio of Crooks, Howson, and Tavernier to go and press, as you saw above. The answer Coventry had was for Jamie Allen to break the midfield line and take the space left, in this instance, by O'Hare being forced backward.

Noted are also Taylor and Jones. The young Isaiah Jones has shown an exciting ability to attack with speed and with Bidwell pushed higher, his forward threat is limited. The same with Taylor and his ability to serve forwards. It also creates space centrally for Coventry to exploit. Exploit they did. Here you see the ball falling to Shipley inside the box. Gyokeres and he somewhat tangle, but this is the end of a quick move of 1 and 2 touch passes that rip through the Boro line. The resulting shot by Shipley is not like his most recent goal strike, and the ball is deflected away. 7 first-half shots, 3 on target, but all 3 failed to really threaten a goal.

As Coventry falter in front of the goal, there are more direct attacking opportunities for Boro. This is especially true given how good the Coventry press is and that Coventry attack with numbers in possession. Bidwell wins this header, but underneath the ball, the Boro team is pressing. So with a 'second ball' Boro have 6 players ahead of the ball and attacking in the Coventry half. The same instance happened on 29, with Jones running ahead of the ball. Eventually, in that phase of play, Allen commits a foul inside the D and Boro have a freekick just 20 yards from the goal. The resulting freekick was well saved by Moore.

What is also worth noting: Just 55% of attempted passes in the final third for Boro are successful - a lot of long balls into the area, or failed combination play are the reason.

Coventry started the second half much as they ended the first, with possession and attempts to break Boro down. Shipley found himself inside the box winding up to shoot, though ultimately dispossessed. Then a corner on 52 finds its way to McFadzean to strike off of the underside of the bar. Robins, post-game, mentioned that if one goes in, Coventry go on to win it. You can see the ad in the paper now:

"WANTED. Goal Scorer. The team will provide at least 4 excellent chances per game. Must be able to score at least one consistently"

The game changed on 56 and I think it shows respect to Coventry that Boro were more reserved and safer in their game management, but then took off the gloves by bringing in Payero and Balogun. Almost instantly the changes had an effect with an overload from a Boro throw. Balogun takes off inside of Tavernier, creating a quick 2v1 against McFadzean. Balogun receives the ball and his low ball across the goal was harder for Sporar to miss. Coventry, for all of the control and probing, were undone in an instant.

At 0-0, breaking Boro down was a task so we knew at 1-0 it would be even harder.

Knowing there would be more of a need to unlock the Boro line, Hamer came in for Allen. Robin's cited Hamer's current fitness as to why he didn't start in this game, but once he came on the ball found him more often than not, giving him most of the Coventry possession in the final 30 minutes.

The most clear-cut opportunity was an excellent Lumley save from the head of O'Hare, but there were chances over and over for Coventry, though later in the game it became very predictable. Even with quick interplay and use of the width, Boro defended well in numbers - here Fry clears the ball and with 3 in the game, he led the team.

15 shots, 5 on target. Shipley and Gyokeres with 9 between them and just 3 on target from the two combined. Woes in front of goal will always haunt you, though Coventry are playing to be in the right end of the Championship, it's frustrating to be denied and then lose 1-0 in such a fashion. Let's not kid ourselves, it's a performance in a season in which we are very happy with what we see, but we're not fans if we don't demand more and Robins said as such post-game.

Boro were organized and ready for Coventry. They bypassed the Coventry press and reversed the press themselves, forcing Coventry to build a little differently. The Boro defensive shape lent itself to Coventry's quick inter-play through the midfield, but a crossbar, some good saves, and repeated blocks or forced shots on Coventry meant that Boro held on well at home for the 3 points.

Stats from @whoscored


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