MURPHY IS HAT-TRICK HERO IN COV BLITZ
COVENTRY City leapfrogged Gillingham into the top spot in League One after a stunning finish to the first half.
Tony Mowbray’s side started the game behind the Gills in the table but by the time referee Mark Brown had blown for half-time, there was no question that City would be sitting pretty come 5pm.
And how pretty they were to watch once again.
They dominated the opening period and, ironically, took the lead immediately after Gillingham’s only effort on target in the first half. Cody McDonald saw his header cleared off the line and City broke to open the scoring through Jacob Murphy in the 34th minute.
The on-loan Norwich man added his second and third in a blistering spell that also saw Ben Turner – in his first game since returning to Coventry on-loan from Cardiff – header home.
The visitors were left shellshocked at the break while Mowbray admitted he had to keep his players calm in order to make sure they got the job done. It meant the second half was a little less easy on the eye and Gillingham managed to restore some pride as Bradley Dack cracked in a consola- tion.
Despite the result and the position at the summit of the table, Mowbray is determined to keep his players’ feet on the ground.
“I was top of the table at Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day two years on the bounce and finished outside the play-offs,” he reminded them.
“It’s a long, long season. Let’s not get carried away, let’s keeping working hard in training.
“We’ll leave no stone unturned about the next game and that’s coming very quickly.
“I was pleased with the intensity and the concentration levels of the team. Let’s not kid ourselves, Gillingham are a top team. After 17 games, they’d done two points per game and were top of the table and my job was to try and inspire our players and get them in the right frame of mind.
“Obviously we do the tactical stuff and work on team but I thought when they left the dressing room before kick-off, they were ready for a proper football match and that proved to be the case.”
They were more than ready. John Fleck, Ryan Kent and Murphy all had chances as Coventry produced wave after wave of attacks.
Gillingham finally found respite
just after the half-hour mark when Dack delivered a corner which McDonald headed goalwards only for Jim O’Brien to head clear.
Coventry had left three men forward and they broke – at pace. They were helped by an error by Adedeji Oshilaja whose under-hit back-pass became a perfect through ball for Murphy who kept his composure, rounded the keeper and finished.
Gillingham were stunned and Murphy again led the charge with a speedy run to win his team a corner in the 36th minute. Kent delivered and Turner used his strength to get to the ball first and header home.
Just four minutes later and Murphy was clean through again – this time set free by O’Brien – and the outcome was exactly the same as he cruised past Stuart Nelson and fired into the empty net.
There was no let-up as this time Chris Stokes turned provider as his low cross from the left was helped into the net by the unstoppable Murphy. The Ricoh crowd – the biggest of the season – could barely believe what they were seeing.
The half-time whistle gave Gillingham the chance to regroup and they did manage to steady the ship in the second period even though the damage had been done.
Coventry were content that the three points were in the bag and even Dack’s 63rd-minute goal from the edge of the box never looked like changing that.
Gills manager Justin Edinburgh said: “It was a mad 12 minutes in the first half – we had been comfortable up until that point. We had allowed Coventry to have the ball but they weren’t hurting us at that stage.
“We got one cleared off the line and then they go down the other end and score the opening goal.The mistake in the build-up cost us that goal and that really deflated us.
“Something we have to learn very quickly is to stay in the game when we have conceded a goal.”
TREBLE-SHOOTER: Jacob Murphy slots in the first of his three goals for Coventry. Insets: Murphy makes it two, top, and earns the match ball