Robins with de­ci­sions to make ahead of Crawley trip

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

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?

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