O’BRIEN BOOSTS SURVIVAL HOPES
GIVEN their precarious positions in the table, securing a precious victory was always going to be far more important than performance for these two relegation-haunted sides.
So it was little surprise that Coventry City manager Tony Mowbray felt that earning three points against fellow strugglers Colchester United was all that really mattered at the Ricoh Arena.
A well-taken goal from skipper Jim O’Brien late in the first half was enough to give the Sky Blues a vital win over the U’s, one that takes Coventry three points above the relegation zone.
Mowbray said: “It got a bit nervy with only one goal in it and we did have some great chances to give ourselves a bit of breathing space that we didn’t take.
“That’s football and the other team being a goal down will gamble and push men on and put the ball in your box and try and get a goal late on.
“Your own team ends up defending and sits a bit too deep, but we won 1-0 and got three points – we’ve got to be happy with it.
“There were good spells in the game but there is lots and lots that we have to improve on.”
Colchester are now three points adrift of safety with five games remaining, after their four-match unbeaten run was ended.
“It was a very frustrating defeat,” said U’s boss Tony Humes.
“We didn’t start the first half like we did the second half and you can’t do that. “You can’t turn it off and on and it has to be consistent, because experienced players won’t give you many chances.
“Saying that, we had chances to get back in it and I thought we did enough to get something out of the game. “A couple of teams have gained a point on us but it still doesn’t change the outcome that we need – we still need to win at least three games from our last five.”
Coventry always looked the most likely side to make the breakthrough, in a cagey first half.
O’Brien’s glancing header flew straight at Colchester goalkeeper Sam Walker and although Gavin Massey’s low shot was saved by Lee Burge at his near post, the home side were on top.
And soon after Walker had denied Frank Nouble, Coventry took the lead nine minutes before half-time through O’Brien, who pounced on Chris Stokes’ cutback to send a low, crisp shot into the far corner.
Colchester improved after half-time and twice came close to equalising in the early stages of the second half.
Burge made a good save to push away George Moncur’s effort and then dealt well with Massey’s attempt soon after.
Coventry came agonisingly close to doubling their lead when Nick Proschwitz escaped the Colchester defence and rounded Walker, only for his shot to hit the outside of a post with the goal gaping.
Substitute Sammie Szmodics’ acrobatic, hooked effort clipped the top of the bar late on but the Sky Blues held on for a big win.
COVENTRY CITY: (4-2-3-1): Burge 7, Willis 7, Pennington 7, Johnson 8, Stokes 8, Ward 7, Fleck 7, Barton 6 (Phillips 73 5), O’Brien 8 (Odelusi 78 6), Nouble 7, Proschwitz 6 (Maddison 69 7) Subs not used: Thomas, Jackson, Martin, Charles-Cook COLCHESTER UNITED: (4-3-3): Walker 8, Brindley 6, Eastman 7, Khumalo 7, Wynter 6 (Briggs 69 5), Lapslie 6 (Szmodics 69 5), Gilbey 6, Moncur 7, Massey 5, Murphy 5, Porter 5 (Healey 76 5) Subs not used: Harney, Sembie-Ferris, Bonne, Lewington
ESCAPE TO VICTORY: Jim O’Brien celebrates his match-winning goal STAR MAN JIM