The Local Lowdown: Coventry City


We asked opposition expert Andy Turner, Coventry Telegraph reporter for Coventry Live, to preview Tuesday's game from the visitors’ point of view...

Coventry went into the weekend fixtures four points behind Norwich in sixth with a game in hand. How do you view the Sky Blues’ play-off prospects?

It’s all there to play for although, realistically, unless West Brom suddenly hit a bad patch, Coventry are chasing the last available spot that the Canaries currently occupy. They are more than capable of going to the wire and then it will be down to whether Norwich can sustain their run to stay one step ahead.

To be fair, given the high turnover of personnel last summer, including the loss of star players Viktor Gyökeres and Gustavo Hamer – arguably two of the best in the division last term – they have done remarkably well to be in the mix at the top end at this stage of the season.

Most sensible thinking fans would have settled for a season of consolidation, so the fact that they’re even pushing for the play-offs again and in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley is a real bonus.

What’s been behind the team’s resurgence from 20th place in November to top-six contenders?

The main reason has to be the 11 new players settling in and finding their feet at Championship level, with many having come from abroad (five) or League One (three) and gelling in a largely new-look team.

The strikers are a case in point, with Ellis Simms and Haji Wright taking time to get going in terms of their goal returns, with Simms registering just two and Wright six before Christmas. They now have 33 between them with Simms on 17 and Wright on 16 ahead of Saturday’s match against Leeds.

Winger Tatsuhiro Sakamoto also waded in with seven before sadly being ruled out for the season in February as the Japanese player found his rhythm in English football, having come from Belgium’s top division.

The turn in form also coincided with a change in formation from three at the back and wing-backs to a 4-2-3-1 system in November, although Mark Robins has returned to using wing-backs on occasions and has the players to switch fairly effortlessly between both to suit the circumstances.

The in-form pairing of Wright and Simms have shone for Coventry. (Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

What has the FA Cup run to the semi-finals done for the city, and the team’s league form?

There’s a real buzz in the area but, in truth, the football club has been back on the up with a feel-good factor ever since Mark Robins came back to the club seven years ago and led the team to Checkatrade Trophy success at Wembley.

That was the catalyst for City’s rise back up the divisions to where they are now, but the quarter-final victory over Wolves has been huge in terms of confidence and showing this developing group of players what they are capable of when they’re at their maximum.

Which would the fans prefer, an FA Cup win or promotion?

Given the strength of opposition in the FA Cup – assuming Manchester City make the final – it’s probably far more realistic for the Sky Blues to progress all the way in the play-offs.

A second FA Cup win would be lovely but I suspect most supporters, in line with Coventry’s management and players, want to get back to the Premier League as soon as possible.

Who are the players Saints should watch out for at St Mary’s?

You can’t look much further than in-form Simms and Wright at the minute. Simms had scored 13 in ten ahead of the Leeds match, while Wright had five in six. Both are playing with great confidence.

Playmaker Kasey Palmer has also been in excellent form and played an important role in their goals along with Milan van Ewijk, who has been converted from rapid full-back to winger in recent weeks.

How do you see the game going?

I guess Saints will dominate the ball as usual and if Coventry can stand up to the pressure and keep things tight, there’s every chance they could come away with something. It will come down to the game plan, tactical detail and taking chances when they come along.

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