Robins with decisions to make ahead of Crawley trip
COVENTRY City head to mid-table Crawley Town tomorrow looking to get their play-off push back on track.
The Sky Blues have suffered back-toback defeats and failed to win in their last three to see their fading ambitions for automatic promotion finally evaporate and leave them clinging on to a place in the play-off positions.
Mark Robins’s men are currently in seventh place with nearest rivals Mansfield Town and Swindon snapping at their heels, just a point behind them in eighth and ninth respectively.
City have a game in hand and, as such, their destiny remains in their own hands if they can keep picking up points in the final five-game run-in, which starts at Broadfield Stadium tomorrow.
Robins was fuming after last weekend’s trip to promotion rivals Notts County when his side conceded two really poor goals – one from a corner and another from a scrappy counter attack after Jordan Ponticelli had looked to have secured a late point at Meadow Lane.
And with Jordan Willis declaring himself fit and raring to go after recovering from an ankle injury and coming through 75 minutes in the Under-23s on Monday, Robins has all his defenders available for selection.
The big question is, will he restore Willis to the starting line-up and reunite him with Rod McDonald – the central defensive partnership that proved rock solid for much of the first half of the season?
It’s a tough call given that Tom Davies made an impressive return from a broken collar bone last weekend, replacing Dominic Hyam who had been doing a brilliant job filling in until the 6-2 defeat by Yeovil.
But Willis looked sharp enough against Crewe Alexandra Under-23s earlier this week, and provides speed and athleticism at the back which complements the solid and usually unflappable Rod McDonald at the heart of the back four. Davies is popular with the fans for his nononsense head it and kick it style of defending and is arguably slightly ahead of Willis in terms of match fitness, having been back a week longer than the former skipper. As for the full-backs, Jack Grimmer has made the right-back position his own this season while left-back Chris Stokes was back in at County when he brought an end to Ryan Haynes’ ninegame run in the side. Stokes has played 30 games this season, compared to 22 for Haynes, as Robins appears undecided as to which is his best option on the left. The midfield could see more changes this weekend after Liam Kelly’s part in the mix-up for the Magpies’ winner. The experienced player returned to the side from injury last Saturday which resulted in Tom Bayliss moving out wide and out of position on the right. Many believe the box-to-box teenager is far better suited to a more central role alongside Michael Doyle but if he is moved back into the middle then it leaves a gap to be filled on the right. Peter Vincenti had returned to the side and done well until the Yeovil debacle when he was hauled off just after the half hour when City were trailing by three goals, and bombed out of the squad altogether at Meadow Lane.
But City have limited options on the right where Josh Barrett was deployed for part of Monday’s Under-23s game, perhaps with Saturday in mind. The Reading loan player usually plays off the left wing but City are again spoiled for choice on that side with Jordan Shipley and Kyel Reid vying for that spot.
There’s hot competition up front where Max Biamou got himself back in the side last weekend after hitting three goals in two games over Easter, only to get taken off at half-time when he got himself booked for verbally abusing the referee as the players walked off the field at the break.
He had replaced Jonson Clarke-Harris, who was restored alongside leading scorer Marc McNulty for the second half, while Jordan Ponticelli staked his claim for more match time when he went on and scored.
Although McNulty has gone three games without a goal, he remains leading scorer on 21 and is a bolt-on starter for the Sky Blues, always a threat with his energy and movement in and around the box.
The big question is, will Robins restore Willis to the starting line up and reunite him with Rod McDonald – the defensive partnership that proved rock solid for much of the first half of the season?