RE­AL­ITY HITS SKY BLUES

High-fly­ing Wal­sall put an end to Coven­try’s won­der­ful start

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Michael Beard­more

HUGE down­pours fol­lowed this sunny scorcher – so it was ap­pro­pri­ate Coven­try boss Tony Mow­bray spoke of damp­ened ex­pec­ta­tions af­ter be­ing top­pled off the League One sum­mit.

Dean Smith’s soar­ing Sad­dlers de­servedly ended the Sky Blues’ 100 per cent start to the cam­paign in this tasty early-sea­son top-of-thetable derby.

And Mow­bray ad­mit­ted de­feat might have been a handy re­al­ity check for his side af­ter more than 2,000 trav­el­ling fans made the short jour­ney in ex­pec­ta­tion of a fourth straight win.

Mow­bray said: “We showed some fight­ing qual­i­ties, pulled a goal back and were push­ing strong at the end to try to get an equaliser but it wasn’t to be.

“But that’s ok, you are go­ing to lose matches in a sea­son and to have started with three vic­to­ries, we’d have taken that be­fore we kicked a ball.

“It’s been hard on all the teams be­cause of the pro­gramme at the start of the sea­son. It’s time to take a big gulp of air and hope­fully we’ll find the qual­ity again over the next few weeks.

“We’re a bit off where we need to be yet and we need to dampen the ex­pec­ta­tion a lit­tle bit – as you could see, we lose one key player and the squad is a lit­tle bit thin.”

That ‘key player’ was early in­jury

vic­tim James Mad­di­son and, the odd oc­ca­sion apart, City strug­gled to carve out chances with­out him.

Mow­bray added: “Mad­di­son go­ing off took a lit­tle bit of that flu­ency away from us be­cause he’s been very good the first three or four games of the sea­son.

“I think he would have helped us but Wal­sall gave us some prob­lems that we didn’t re­ally find the an­swer to.”

In a game billed as a shoot-out be­tween two of the league’s in-form strik­ers, Wal­sall’s Tom Brad­shaw and City’s New­cas­tle loa­nee Adam Armstrong, de­fences were sur­pris­ingly on top in a tight first-half.

Coven­try had the first chance as Mad­di­son’s re­place­ment Ja­cob Mur­phy, on loan from Nor­wich, was de­nied by a won­der­ful fin­ger­tip save from Sad­dlers ‘keeper Neil Etheridge.

Wal­sall winger Mi­lan Lalkovic had a strike from the acutest of an­gles cleared off the line at the other end by Jor­dan Wil­lis but it took un­til the 40th minute for the dead­lock to be bro­ken.

It was a won­der­ful goal too as a multi-man move ended with Sam Man­tom thread­ing An­thony Forde through for the wide man to coolly fire past Ryan Burge. A thrilling sec­ond half was far more open and Brad­shaw bagged his fifth goal in five games, hook­ing home from ten yards af­ter Burge par­ried from Lalkovic.

Im­me­di­ately, Armstrong lashed a 30-yard free-kick against the bar and Mur­phy pulled one back with a stun­ning strike into the top cor­ner from 25 yards.

But those were rare mo­ments of qual­ity for City and Wal­sall should have won by more, full-back Andy Tay­lor shav­ing the post from dis­tance and Kieron Mor­ris pok­ing wide af­ter a fab­u­lous solo run.

How­ever, a Wal­sall de­fence ex­cel­lently mar­shalled by James O’Con­nor and Paul Down­ing com­fort­ably held out.

And it all left Sad­dlers boss Dean Smith pos­i­tively buoyed af­ter see­ing his un­beaten troops climb to sec­ond in the ta­ble.

Smith said: “Our aim is to win the league – that is our aim at the start of ev­ery sea­son.

“It was a big win but we know how early it is in the sea­son. All it does is give us a lot of con­fi­dence and belief go­ing into our next games.

“There were a lot of re­ally good per­for­mances out there.We were so good on the ball at times.

“Our de­fence had to be at it be­cause Coven­try had some re­ally good play­ers but we kept Adam Armstrong quiet for the most part.

“Some­times you have to hold your hand up and their goal was a won­der­ful strike but our re­ac­tion to it was re­ally pleas­ing be­cause we just got back on the ball and passed it again.”

PIC­TURES: Will Kill­patrick

Tom Brad­shaw of Wal­sall went close sev­eral times be­fore scor­ing

Tom Brad­shaw cel­e­brates af­ter putting Wal­sall 2-0 up & Ja­cob Mur­phy (R) cel­e­brates his first goal for Coven­try STAR MAN JAMES O’CONN

OR Wal­sal

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