We were in desperate need of a win to put our season back on track after whatever the hell was on show last week at Morecambe. Colchester's win the previous night meant that we had dropped out of the play off places, only a win would take us back in. A loss could see us go down as far as 12th, a scary thought given we were meant to be one of the favourite for promotion back when the season started in August. Something new was needed, and by god did Robins put out a brave side.
Coventry City Starting XI:
Coventry City Substitutes:
Now that team may have looked like Robins had gone completely mental, but in a strange way, I quite liked it. I can't give a personal opinion but apparently Tom Bayliss has looked brilliant in the u23 side, and from the small snippets I have seen in substitute cup appearances, he's not been hugely out of place in the first team squad. Despite all of this, it was still a very brave call to give him his first professional start rather than play Ben Stevenson, someone who has gone out of favour as of late. I also agreed with the decision to drop Duckens Nazon to the bench, so far we've seen he's better as an impact player rather than a starting striker.
Now I think it's fair to say we got off to the perfect start, just 90 seconds had been played when McNulty's shot was blocked to Tom Bayliss, from 20 yards he had a shot on goal, with the help of a massive deflection, he got us the lead within 2 minutes of his professional debut. I don't think even he could have hoped for something as good as that to kick off his Coventry City career. That early goal was something we badly needed as a team given our poor form, to kick off well could give us that kick up the backside to knock into shape, however lucky it may have been.
However in what added to one of the liveliest starts to a match I've seen this season, the visitors got themselves a free kick on the edge of the area, Mohammed Eisa cannoned it off the bar and we got away with it. Max Biamou is a very frustrating player, he does everything well, is great in the air, holds it up well, there's just one thing he can't do, and unfortunately that's the biggest part of being a striker, score. We were displayed with yet another example of this 10 minutes in, McNulty weighted a beautiful ball through to him, he was one on one with the keeper, in the centre of the box, yet he still managed to shank it wide.
Jordan Shipley also had a go from the edge of the box in a very dominant spell for us, but on this occasion it went just wide of the mark. It was a stupidly end to end first 45 minutes, Jack Grimmer made a howler of an error letting the ball through his feet and through to Eisa. He should be thankful that Lee Burge came to his rescue. We weren't playing the best football I've ever seen, despite the score line saying otherwise, so it was no shock when The Robins equalised. A wayward shot found Eisa in the area, he cleverly shook off Jordan Willis, and poked into the back of the net with Burge helpless on the ground. All of the defence were at fault for the goal, Stokes and McDonald had gone for the same ball, leaving us vulnerable.
Then came a moment where it really should have been 2-1, in more ways than one. Biamou was through on goal again, with a defender on his back. Really, he should have buried it before the controversial decision, but instead, he took so long that he was unable to shoot with the defender ready to pull him down. At my first and only glance it looked like a stone wall penalty, but to add to the League Two penalty conspiracy theory, it wasn't given.
Half Time - Coventry City 1-1 Cheltenham Town
Having gone down just before the break, Rod McDonald was taken off ahead of the second half with Tom Davies coming on to replace him. Early on we had a couple of half chances to take the lead, McNulty fired the first over whilst Biamou headed another wide of the mark. On the hour mark we got the closest of the half to taking the lead. The ball came out to the edge of the area where Michael Doyle was waiting, his half volley into the ground bounced into the path of McNulty's head, he really should have scored but Flinders recovered well to keep it out with one hand.
With 20 minutes remaining we made the substitution that really had to be done, Peter Vincenti was replaced by Nazon, having not had the best of games by a long stretch. It was name time for him to put his money where his mouth was, could the impact super sub get us the 3 points? Well yes, yes he could. Out of absolutely nowhere he sprayed a 40 yard ball through to McNulty, his first touch was perfection to bring it down and the second sent him on his way to the goal. It looked as if it got away from him but he managed to beat Flinders to the ball, chip him, and give us a 2-1 lead with a quarter of an hour left on the clock.
There was one nervy moment in the dying minutes where a ball flashed across our six yard box, crying out for a touch. Fortunately for us, it came out the other side having wormed its way through everyone. In a slightly odd substitution when you're trying to see out a game, Devon Kelly-Evans came on for the winning goal scorer Marc McNulty. He's incredibly lightweight, not your first choice for holding up play or trying to keep it in the corner. Personally I would have brought on Stuart Beavon, if there's one thing he can do, it's see out a win. Either way it didn't really matter as the visitors never really looked like grabbing a second equaliser, giving us a huge win to add to our promotion bid.
Full Time - Coventry City 2-1 Cheltenham Town
We really needed that, it's taken us back into the play offs, albeit on goal difference. Ahead of a busy Christmas period, we've pulled away from a few teams in the chasing pack, but it's still incredibly close. Friday nights clash with Wycombe is a six pointer, and could see us move as high as fourth given we play before everyone else. It's a huge game and will be pivotal to our season, am I overhyping it a bit? Maybe.
My Man of the Match - Tom Bayliss - The youth starlet showed why he made it into the first team on his debut and managed to cap it off with a goal. He was great on the ball and wasn't afraid to put a foot in, he's got a long way to go don't get me wrong, but he could be another player from the academy to come through and impress massively.