It seems like an age ago that we played our last league game, battering Luton 3-0 on their own soil. Since then we've looked sharp in our cup games, albeit against considerably worse opposition, but you can only win the games that are in front of you so we prepared as well as we could for the fixture against Mansfield. At the beginning of the season the visitors were tipped as favourites to win the league but so far have failed to live up to the hype, sitting in mid table.
Coventry City Starting XI:
Coventry City Substitutes:
Unchanged from the side that beat Luton two weeks ago we were looking for the exact same, Jordan Ponticelli lined up for his first home league start, I'm pretty sure this is the last "debut" we can give him. Tom Davies perhaps staked a claim to make an appearance after his performance against Maidenhead last week but Jordan Willis returned to his starting spot.
We made one of the best starts I've seen us make all season, right from the off Ryan Haynes and Jodi Jones were making themselves a menace down the right wing. The pick of the early flurry of chances came from Jordan Ponticelli, his reactions had to be quick for the snapshot which he met, Conrad Logan made a wonderful save to deny it. The rebound came back to the youngster but being off balance he could only rocket it over the bar. We really should have put it away in hindsight, it could have set the trend for the game.
Marc McNulty was bossing the defence and nearly netted with his effort from 20 yards, Logan looked to get fingertips to carry it over the bar but a goal kick was given *Insert referee conspiracy theory here*. The Stags then got their first chance of the game when Kane Hemmings curled one round the post from the edge of the box after we failed to close him down. This prompted a small surge of their own where Lee Burge was our saviour on a couple of occasions. Danny Rose had the best of the lot when he struck the post. Still only 20 minutes into the game it was an incredibly lively start.
Just a minute later McNulty was through on goal, he went down looking as if he was pulled down. It would have been very soft had the foul been given, because a red card would have to be brandished. I'm fairly certain the striker saw he wasn't going to get to it so slowed his run a touch to collide with the defender and go to ground. Four minutes later he came close with his effort from just inside the area. Not only was the first half lively but also end to end, at its close Ponticelli had the ball in the net but it was pulled back for offside.
I'd agree that the decision may have been questionable but once the flag went up only Pont and Logan continued playing. There's no guarantee had play continued we'd still have scored. Right at the death Hayden White was shown a yellow card for a tackle on Peter Vincenti, it could easily have been a red, from my position he looked to have gone over the ball close to his knee with studs showing. Still, the right back was just cautioned as the referee blew up for half time.
Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Mansfield Town
We failed to come out for the second half as sharp as we did the first so Mansfield were able to take control pretty much from the off. Fairly early on Jack Grimmer was shown a yellow for hacking down the winger on the attack, very much a tactical foul. However this did mean he couldn't really touch MacDonald who was bursting down the left wing, leading to them nearly scoring. Quite the let off. The atmosphere at this stage went from zero to one hundred ridiculously quickly, out of nowhere people were running over to the segregation, flares were being let off and all sorts. Don't get me wrong it was hilarious, but literally nothing prompted it.
The officials were given a very tough decision to deal with when Danny Rose went down in the box, now I had a perfect, in-line view of it all and I'm not sure. He did appear to be looking for the foul when he threw himself down, so there was little to no contact. Grimmer did put a foot in so I wouldn't have been surprised at all if the penalty was given, instead Rose was booked for diving with us gaining a free kick.
Not long after did we make our first substitutions of the game, Biamou came on for Vincenti whilst in a more forced switch Grimmer went off injured with Tom Davies as replacement. In Biamou's one contribution to the game his looping header was cleared off the line with ten minutes left of the game. That was probably our only real chance to take the lead in the second half, we were barely keeping Mansfield at bay. The defence was nowhere near as solid as useful, turning their backs to long balls instead of heading them away.
We got what we deserved with 6 minutes left on the clock, MacDonald was given endless amounts of room to roam and had a go from about 30 yards. Burge could just get fingertips to the strike, at full stretch he was unable to keep it out. A great goal, but Haynes and McDonald really should have closed him down to prevent the opportunity from arising. McNulty played in Ponticelli a couple of minutes later in our one and only chance to snatch a point but Logan made himself big to keep it out. He took way too long to get the shot away. We just didn't look like equalising all throughout injury time, the referee then blew up for full time.
Full Time - Coventry City 0-1 Mansfield Town
I remember a year ago to the day we were beaten by Scunthorpe United in a close game exactly like today, it knocked our confidence hugely and we didn't win again until February. We cannot under any circumstances let that happen again. It's crucial we bounce back at Lincoln next week with a victory, it's a real six pointer considering how tight the table is. Then again, every game is massive when you're fighting for promotion. Claiming four points from Lincoln and Stevenage is perfectly fine assuming we follow it up with a couple of home wins against the likes of Crawley and Cheltenham.
My Man of the Match - Marc McNulty - Despite not getting a goal today, he was a constant threat to the Mansfield defence, had it been his more experienced head with the chances that Ponticelli had then today may have been a different story. I'm glad he's starting to play better and better as he was one of our big marquee signings of the summer who you need to bag goals.