Report: Saints return to form by beating Coventry

Live Matchday Images/2023-24/20240409 Southampton vs Coventry/106A9311_d9486fe2-9692-4b0d-afab-54252daf4687_20240409083935_dsgolt

Southampton ended a run of three games without a win and issued an encouraging response to that dip in form, as they beat fellow promotion chasers Coventry City 2-1 at St Mary’s.

Saints were dominant for large portions of the match, powering into a 2-0 lead by half time after surviving an early scare through a missed penalty for the visitors, with the goals coming via a Kyle Walker-Peters shot that deflected in off Ché Adams before the striker netted another for Russell Martin’s side.

Jake Bidwell did pull one back for the visitors in the second half, but Saints were able to see the game out for an important three points.

The result helped to keep some life in the team’s automatic promotion hopes, but also reignited some positive momentum ahead of the final six games of the regular season and any potential play-off run beyond that.

There were three changes for Saints from the side that started in the 0-0 draw at Blackburn three days earlier, as Jan Bednarek, Joe Rothwell and Ryan Fraser dropped to the bench, with James Bree, Will Smallbone and Adams coming into the line-up.

Bree, returning from a one-game ban, started at right back, with Walker-Peters shifting to the opposite side of defence.

Ché Adams was one of three changes to the starting line-up (Photo: Matt Watson)

Martin had wanted a reaction to a below-par performance at Ewood Park, and he saw a positive start from his team, only for that to almost be undone ten minutes in when Coventry won a penalty with their first attack of the night.

Milan van Ewijk slid a pass into the area for the run of Joel Latibeaudiere, who went to ground under the challenge of Flynn Downes. Referee James Linington pointed to the spot, much to the disbelief of Downes, who clearly did not agree with the decision, but Saints escaped when Haji Wright struck his penalty against the bar, with the ball rebounding back to safety.

Saints set about taking advantage of that let-off, and they came close when a trademark, slick passing move ended with Coventry defender Bidwell almost turning Adam Armstrong’s low ball across the face of goal into his own net.

Armstrong was then at the centre of things again on 17 minutes when he went down in the area after being grabbed by Latibeaudiere, but Saints did not get any fortune on the penalty call, as Linington said no to their appeals.

No matter, though, as Martin’s side would make the breakthrough just a minute later.

Walker-Peters did brilliantly, receiving a pass from Jack Stephens with his back to goal 20 yards out, turning with the ball and drifting into a central position on his right foot, before firing in a shot that took a flick off Adams, diverting it past the dive of Coventry keeper Bradley Collins and into the bottom corner.

Kyle Walker-Peters celebrates the opening goal (Photo: Matt Watson)

There will no doubt be a healthy debate between the two players about who it belongs to, but the main thing for Saints was the goal itself.

Adams went close to a spectacular goal in the 27th minute that would no doubt have been his, but his fierce strike from distance took a slight nick off a Coventry defender and flew just over.

Soon after and Saints did have the ball in the net again, after a brilliant move started by Joe Aribo’s magnificent run ended with Smallbone finding the net, but Adams was ruled offside when playing the final pass to his teammate.

They continued to press, though, and went close to a second on 38 minutes when Taylor Harwood-Bellis played a stunning through pass from defence for David Brooks, putting him through down the inside-right, only for Collins to brilliantly tip his shot across goal wide.

It only delayed things by a matter of seconds, however, as Saints scored from the resulting corner.

Bree’s delivery found Harwood-Bellis at the back post, with his downward header causing a bit of a scramble inside the six-yard box, and Adams was there to prod the ball over the line from close range.

Ché Adams celebrates doubling the lead (Photo: Matt Watson)

It gave Saints a nice cushion heading into half time, albeit with work still to do in order to kill the game off.

And they got a bit of a warning on the hour mark when Callum O’Hare sent a deflected strike from the edge of the area just wide.

Saints were straight back on the front foot after that, with Adams unable to turn in from a low Bree delivery seconds before Brooks saw a low shot from inside the area blocked.

That was to be about the last action for the winger, as he went off to a warm ovation and was replaced for the final 25 minutes by Ryan Fraser.

Moments later, Coventry went close when a shot from Fabio Tavares from just outside the area took a deflection and spun just past the top corner – and on 68 minutes the visitors did make the breakthrough.

Tavares, on as a second-half substitute, played a big part in it, as his cross from the right found Bidwell at the back post, and he side-footed home to cut Saints’ lead in half.

Martin made another change with 15 minutes left on the clock, bringing off Armstrong and sending on Sékou Mara in his place.

Saints were still searching for a third, and Adams stung the palms of Collins in the visitors’ goal with a well-struck effort from an angled position inside the box, ahead of the game ticking past 80 minutes.

But, back at the other end, Gavin Bazunu had to save from Ellis Simms, as the forward cut onto his right foot just inside the corner of the box.

With seven minutes left, Martin then made three more changes, as Stuart Armstrong, Joe Rothwell and Shea Charles all came on for Aribo, Adams and Smallbone.

The substitutions helped do the trick, as Saints saw out the remainder of the game well, including the six minutes added at the end, to get themselves back to winning ways.

Southampton: Bazunu, Walker-Peters, Harwood-Bellis, Stephens (captain), Bree, Downes, Smallbone (Charles 83), Aribo (S Armstrong 83), Brooks (Fraser 65), Adams (Rothwell 83), A Armstrong (Mara 75).

Unused substitutes: Lumley, Bednarek, Edozie, Kamaldeen.

Goals: Walker-Peters (18’), Adams (38’).

Yellow cards: Downes.

Coventry City: Collins, van Ewijk (Tavares 50), Latibeaudiere, Thomas, Kitching (Binks 81), Bidwell (Dasilva 81), Eccles (Torp 72), Sheaf (captain), O’Hare (Palmer 81), Simms, Wright.

Unused substitutes: Wilson, Kelly, Andrews, Lusala.

Goals: Bidwell (68’).

Yellow cards: Latibeaudiere, Eccles.

Referee: James Linington.

Attendance: 28,564.