League One Gameweek 11: Surprise Stalemate At St Andrews?6 min read
Having been on the fringes of the promotion conversation last season, Coventry City and Doncaster Rovers have made excellent starts to 2019-20 with just one league defeat between them. They meet at St Andrews in League One Gameweek 11.
In Robins they trust
When we judge teams in pre-season, a big factor is whether they have a sense of stability.
Coventry City certainly did not, due to the fact they have been forced to play ‘home’ games outside their city, at Birmingham City’s St Andrews.
In most other managerial eras, this would feel like a disaster for the Sky Blues; the club would be in a full-blown crisis.
It is therefore a credit to manager Mark Robins that his side are playing patient, controlled football and are seemingly en route to promotion contention – so that the fans can enjoy the campaign despite the injustice.
One of the major positives is the depth in midfield.
The deep-playmaking qualities of Liam Walsh, the canny movement of Jordan Shipley and the penetrating forward surges of Callum O’Hare looks a winning combination; yet ball-winner Liam Kelly is still to come back from injury and all-rounder Zaine Westbrooke is in reserve too.
The Sky Blues exert control on a lot of their games and there seems to be a real synergy between the front-three, also.
Jordy Hiwula loves to break into goalscoring areas from the left of the attack, so it is crucial that they have a centre-forward who is content to make decoy runs to create the avenues for Hiwula to play his natural game.
They then have Wesley Jobello on the right; the Martinican can probably sustain his threat for longer periods within games, but at certain points his aerial strength, direct running and general athleticism can make him a menace.
Moore’s impressive work
Considering the summer exodus of key players at Doncaster Rovers, the late, controversial departure of manager Grant McCann to Hull City and the subsequently delayed recruitment, it is hugely impressive that they have started so well.
Darren Moore was credited with being a caring character during a difficult time for Donny in his playing career so, as well as having shown his managerial ability at West Brom, he has already built bridges with natives and that has helped him find early momentum.
He seems to have built the team around Ben Whiteman, who has been made captain since Andy Butler left and dictates play with real authority next to the energetic Ben Sheaf.
The end of Mallik Wilks’ loan spell looked problematic but in fact, it has given Kieran Sadlier the platform to step up a level with a sustained run of games – he scored a well-taken goal in the 2-0 victory over Peterborough last time out.
Evergreen playmaker James Coppinger brings Sadlier, plus another wide recruit in Jon Taylor, into play, while Sheffield United loanee Niall Ennis stretches things up top.
? @KieranSadlier named in EFL Team of the Week! #DRFC https://t.co/SRQwSZSQPX
— Doncaster Rovers FC (@drfc_official) September 23, 2019
The tactics board
Both Coventry and Doncaster adhere to football’s modern trend of using one of the squad’s most technically-accomplished players at the base of their midfield.
Walsh is that player for Cov and Whiteman for Donny – although Walsh’s selection is largely down to Kelly’s injury – so we can expect a tidy contest with both teams having long spells of possession.
The obvious theory would be that this will lead to a high-quality clash with a lot chances and therefore a lot of goals.
The other way of looking at it though, would be that possession-based sides need to be playing a more direct side for a high-scoring game to take place – a keep-ball outfit will suffer from being caught playing out from the back but thrive on the opportunities to sustain pressure.
With two possession sides meeting, we could be looking at a surprisingly subdued encounter – both teams have very recently had 0-0 draws in which both they and their opponents completed over 400 passes.
In fact, Coventry average 32 passes per shot and Doncaster 28, which shows that both teams are perfectionists which could compromise the tempo of the game.
We could see a contest high on accuracy, precision and organisation, but low on goalmouth action.
Tip: Under 2.5 goals