Well, Coventry made their way back to the Ricoh Arena, and rather happily Gillingham and the Sky cameras followed them in. It was all a pretty positive experience, and generated a fair amount of goodwill towards the Sky Blues from the wider football community after their season at Sixfields. Good to see them back in Cov, I’m sure we can all agree.
So, what happened? Coventry started like a team with a point to prove, going forward in numbers and with width. It was, in truth, no surprise when former Gillingham loanee Frank Nouble (2011 – 13 games, 5 goals at 0.46g/90) put them ahead early doors.
It was more of a surprise when they failed to press home that advantage and make use of the passion that was clearly in the stands. Ryan Haynes, who had started well, faded. Gillingham first began to put their foot on the ball and then, as half-time approached started to do something with it, Jake Hessenthaler looking the spark in midfield, though Bradley Dack (Dacktanian, quipped Mrs Marco, accurately enough) was keeping busy too. The best chance came from a lovely pass behind the defence from Hessenthaler that McGlashan pulled back into the box to see deflected into the side netting.
The Sky Blues didn’t particularly rally second half, either. Peter Taylor’s side kept the ball well but struggled for any real penetration from open play – a few woeful crosses and a couple of chances that left a seemingly out-of-sorts-despite-the-law-of-the-ex Cody McDonald (2011-13 – 43 games, 8 goals, at 0.28g/90) too much to do.
Their best chances came from headers at set-pieces, and those from Kortney Hause in particular. I don’t think he found the target once and, though you could argue Gillingham deserved something on the balance of play, their profligacy suggested otherwise. During this time, Steven Pressley’s men were playing compactly, and catching the Gills, when they could, on the break.
It was either a lack of urgency from the home side, or the determination of the visitors that saw most of those breaks snuffed out by weight of numbers before they became dangerous, the best opportunity (bizarrely) being a lofted shot from the touchline not far beyond halfway by John Fleck that troubled Steven Bywater, but was dealt with readily enough – he gave a rather glorious ‘Not today, mate, and not to me’ glare when the cameras cut to him afterwards.
That was the closest they came, though a few long-rangers troubled neither the goal nor Bywater; it meant the visitors never looked untroubled, even if having weather the early storm, they looked the more likely to score, albeit slightly.
So in the end, the Gills go home without a point they could easily have earned had they turned their possession into attempts and their attempts into goals. Coventry will play better and lose this season most certainly. I guess the most important thing is that they’re back in their home city – that’s why this game was chosen for broadcast, and I guess Sky got their story.
Entertainment Value? 5.5/10
Addendum: A lot has been made of the 27,000 fans inside the Ricoh Arena; its a decent turn-out, for sure, but that number is for a special match. The real test will come if the fans are there for the likes of Oldham, Fleetwood, Colchester… last League One season at the Ricoh, Coventry averaged 10,906. I will be interested to see the drop off – for reasons of comparison, Gillingham took a few more to Coventry this time than to Northampton last.