Coventry City took a huge step towards survival with a 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Derby County. An early Maxime Biamou goal ensured all three points for the Sky Blues, who were largely untested by a poor Derby side.
Story of the game
The first opportunity of the game came from a Coventry corner. Matty James, back in the line-up, found Dominic Hyam with a deep cross, but the former Reading centre back could only head wide.
Derby, who had made six changes from the midweek defeat to Cardiff City, struck back straight away. Patrick Roberts found some space down the right and fed the ball back to Graeme Shinnie. He dragged a shot wide, but directly to Jason Knight. The youngster was foiled well by Ben Wilson, but the linesman had his flag up either way.
Coventry had started the game well and after ten minutes they found themselves ahead. Callum O’Hare did well to intercept a loose ball from Nathan Byrne and immediately fed Max Biamou through on goal. The Frenchman made no mistake with the finish, sliding the ball under Kelle Roos and into the net.
The Sky Blues were playing some fantastic football in this opening period and Biamou was inches from increasing the lead on 17 minutes. Some really neat football through the middle led to Callum O’Hare being able to feed Fankaty Dabo in. The right wing back’s cross was towards Biamou, but he could not meet it and it ran out for safety.
Despite being fairly comfortably ahead, Coventry almost gifted the away side an equaliser. A poor mix up between Ben Wilson and Dom Hyam allowed Patrick Roberts a chance to hit the target, but Kyle McFadzean was covering well and the ball was deflected behind. From the corner, Nathan Byrne almost atoned for his earlier error by slipping through Matt Clarke, but the centre back was charged down well by Wilson.
Wilson’s save allowed the Sky Blues to break and Hamer won a throw in on halfway. He took it quickly and allowed O’Hare in one-on-one, but as the former Aston Villa man applied the finish the referee pulled play back for the throw to be taken again.
Callum O’Hare was again pulling the strings for the Sky Blues. He might have thought he was on for an assist when he turned Shinnie well and fed Biamou through on goal, but the linesman on the far side had adjudged the City number nine to be offside.
As the half wore on, it became a case of both sides cancelling each other out. Neither goalkeeper found themselves called upon as the first half came to a close.
Half Time: Coventry City 1-0 Derby County
Coventry began the second half strongly, with a couple of corners in quick succession. Neither came to anything though, and Derby were able to clear both well.
Callum O’Hare was quite evidently still in the mood, and was unfortunate to be crowded out in the box before getting a shot off. He played a clever one-two with Matty James before breaking into the area, but was dispossessed by a crowd of four defenders.
Fankaty Dabo has been a miss at times for Coventry City this season, but was beginning to show flashes of last season’s form against the inexperienced Buchanan.
Coventry’s next opportunity came in similar circumstances to their goal against Middlesbrough in the week. Sam McCallum launched a long throw into the box, and it was Dom Hyam who got on the end of it. His header was on target but weak, and Kelle Roos was able to deal with it easily.
Coventry kept the pressure on and were almost rewarded. Some quick play between the Coventry attack allowed McCallum to find Matty James. His effort from range took a slight deflection and struck the outside of the post.
Wayne Rooney’s side had been poor during the second half, and with 20 minutes remaining decided to take action with a triple substitution. Louis Watson, Kamil Jozwiak and Lee Gregory replaced Graeme Shinnie, Patrick Roberts and Martyn Waghorn, in an effort to turn the tide.
However, it was Coventry who nearly got the decisive second goal. A long clearance fooled the Derby defence and Maxime Biamou found himself with just the keeper to beat. His half volleyed effort beat Roos, but also whistled past the post.
Derby’s first effort on goal in the second half came on 72 minutes. A deep Max Bird corner sailed over everyone but Lee Buchanan, but his guided effort back across goal evaded the crossbar.
As the clash moved into the final stages, Derby began to ask the questions. Coventry were defending admirably, with Leo Ostigard and Kyle McFadzean making vital clearances. The only shot on target Derby managed to make in this spell of pressure was from centre back Matt Clarke, who had marauded forward. However, this was again charged down by McFadzean.
A late break almost led to a second goal for City, but it wasn’t to be. Biamou beat the offside trap and a flying Jamie Allen was searched out with a teasing ball. The goalkeeper did well, meeting the cross before Allen could apply the easiest of finishes.
The minutes ticked away, but Derby were unable to find a leveller. The three points could be invaluable in the hunt for survival.
Takeaways from the match
Despite controlling possession, the Sky Blues should have had this game put to bed in the first half. Mark Robins’ side seem happy to control the ball in their own territory, rarely testing Derby for long periods of time. They seem to have the personal to attack teams, but their unwillingness to do so could cost them points.
Derby came here knowing that anything but a loss would suit them, but came away empty handed. For large swathes of the game they lost the midfield battle. The Sky Blues played a midfield three, which nullified any threat from Max Bird and Graeme Shinnie and allowed the Sky Blues to control possession. Although the Sky Blues didn’t capitalise, against stronger opposition this could have been a cricket score.
Man of the match
The veteran centre half rolled back the years today, more than matching Colin Kazim Richards, Lee Gregory and Martyn Waghorn. He led the defence impressively, weighing in with multiple blocks and headers. A fine defensive performance.
Coventry City XI: Wilson; Dabo (Pask, 73’), Ostigard, McFadzean, Hyam, McCallum; Hamer (Allen, 73’), James, Kelly, O’Hare (Sheaf, 90’); Biamou
Subs not used: Marosi, Rose, Shipley, Gyokeres, Walker, Godden
Derby County XI: Roos; Byrne, Wisdom, Clarke, Buchanan; Roberts (Jozwiak, 68’), Shinnie (Watson, 68’), Bird, Knight; Kazim-Richards, Waghorn (Gregory, 68’)
Subs not used: Idem, Forsyth, Edmundson, Mengi, Sibley, McDonald
After a difficult February for the Sky Blues, Mark Robins side face a March full of six-pointers. The next challenge is Rotherham United; Paul Warne will be looking to get the Millers closer to safety at the AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday.
As for Derby, a difficult trip to an in-form Barnsley side is on the cards. The Tykes have won their last seven and will prove a formidable opponent for Wayne Rooney’s men.