Worrying deficiencies, tantalising targets and Coventry City teenager with all the ‘tools’

Coventry City came up short as they continued a recent and worrying trend of gifting goals to their opponents, losing 2-1 to an Ipswich Town side that are now within touching distance of promotion to the Premier League.

The Tractor Boys sit three points ahead of Leeds United, knowing that a point at home to virtually relegated Huddersfield will see them join Leicester City in the top flight this weekend, thus avoiding the play-offs. For the Sky Blues, it’s a case of one last effort before a time of reflection and summer action to continue the rebuilding job that started last year.

Sky Blues reporter Andy Turner looks at some of the big talking points from Tuesday night’s CBS Arena defeat...

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Defensive deficiencies

Mark Robins expressed concern at the weekend that his players haven’t kept enough clean sheets this season – 12 so far compared to 22 last season. And having conceded ten goals in their last five league games, there’s clearly a defensive issue that needs addressing ahead of next season if City are to mount a successful campaign.

Looking closely at the figures, although the Sky Blues have scored 11 more goals this term with 69 in the Championship compared to 58 in 2022/23, they have gone backwards in terms of the goals against column, having conceded 11 more goals with 57 this year compared to 46 last.

“They had 14 shots and none were inside our box and Brad (Collins) had to make save after save, which is just ridiculous,” said the clearly frustrated manager, speaking after Tuesday night’s 2-1 CBS Arena defeat. “So we have to be better because we are giving up too many chances. We have to defend as a team because we attack as a team and defend as a team, but we give the ball away too easily.

“We’re a little bit blasé about the ball sometimes and looks like we’re not concentrating on the pass. We have got young defenders, to be fair, and sometimes that happens but what I don’t want to see is it looking like it’s an easy thing and ‘alright, never mind, we have given another goal away.’ That can’t happen, so there’s a lot of work that needs to go on between now and the start of next season.”

Mitigating circumstances

Without trying to make excuses, injuries and suspensions have caught up with the Sky Blues and that is something that needs addressing in the summer in terms of recruitment, not only in terms of more players to increase the size of the squad but also better overall quality to ensure that when the squad is rotated to cope with heavy schedules there’s no drop off in performance levels.

The alarm bells were ringing loud and clear back in the January window when the inability to get Ephron Mason-Clark in was a major blow to Robins’ plans to pep up his attack for the second half push for the play-offs. But, ultimately, a successful FA Cup run has come at a heavy cost to the league campaign, proving both a distraction and drain on fitness levels for a thin looking squad that's been ravaged by a string of late season injuries.

Tantalising target

Haji Wright took his season’s goal tally to 19, level with Ellis Simms in all competitions with both strikers now going into Saturday’s last game of the season tantalisingly close to hitting the magic 20 mark, which would certainly be a remarkable feat to have two players reach those figures in one campaign. Wright has 16 in the Championship and three in the FA Cup compared to Simms’ 13 in the league and six in the cup, and the record summer signing is level with his USA international teammate Josh Sargent, who has scored 16 goals (all in the league) for Norwich City this term. But Wright’s 19 means he’s scored the most goals by an American player in the top two divisions since Clint Dempsey bagged 23 for Fulham back in 2011/12.

Robins excited about kid with all the tools

Mark Robins is excited by City’s latest Academy prospect to get a taste of first team football. The Sky Blues boss handed centre-forward Aidan Dausch his second cameo in as many games, sending him on in stoppage time for the final few minutes. And the 17-year-old very nearly popped up with what would have been a stunning equaliser with a shot that sailed just wide of the top corner that the manager said would have scooped an end of season award had it gone in.

“That was a brilliant piece of play because it wasn’t a great ball to him but he brought it down out of the air and got it onto his left foot, so everything he did, the mechanics of that movement were really good,” enthused Robins. “It was just the final execution but if that had gone in it would have been goal of the season. The way he moved onto it, his first touch and vision to get into space and the execution of the shot - everything was there apart from the direction of the finish. That’s good, exciting!”

He added: “He’s a confident lad and really intelligent. And he’s someone who wants to learn. He’s very new to it and he has a lot to learn but there’s some raw talent there and there are some really good tools to work with, that’s for sure.”

Finish with a flourish

City must go all out to finish with a flourish this weekend when they entertain QPR on the final day of the 2023/24 Championship campaign. There will be mixed feelings about the season but most will reflect on another memorable year full of cherished moments, pride and ultimate heartache in the FA Cup, and some special days in the league, not least the home victories over Leicester and Leeds in front of crowds just under and over the 30,000 mark, the brilliant draw at Elland Road and home win over Birmingham to name a few.

There’s been a real feel-good factor at the CBS Arena where the club’s now established pre kick-off anthem ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ gets louder and louder every time as more and more fans join in to make it a truly spectacular start to each match. That will be sung with great gusto for one more time this weekend before the summer recess, and it’s important that when the supporters leave the stadium on Saturday afternoon that they do so full of joy, hope, expectations and excitement for next season.

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