COVENTRY City begin a trio of tough fixtures in a week on Saturday against promotion rivals which could go a long way to deciding their League Two fate this season.
Manager Mark Robins has emphasised the positives since his side showed glimpses of a return to form in the second half during the expected 3-1 defeat at Premiership outfit Brighton on Saturday, which ended an impressive FA Cup run at the Fifth Round stage.
With fatigue, injuries and a virus playing their part in an alarming collapse in league form with three straight defeats, Robins is pinning his hopes on returns to fitness in the squad, and the apparent emergence from the January transfer window of a much-needed second goalscorer, the Rotherham loanee Jonson Clarke-Harris. The 23-year-old put in a powerful and direct man-of-the-match performance for City on the south coast.
With the Sky Blues crashing to tenth place, five points behind Exeter who occupy the final play-off position, the testing fixtures begin on Saturday away at fourth-placed Mansfield Town.
The Sky Blues travel to second-placed Wycombe on Tuesday before a home game against eighth-placed Lincoln on a special Cyrille Regis-themed Legends Day four days later.
Robins said today: “We’ve got to take each game as it comes, but all in all you have to try and win every game. Tomorrow is the most important game of our season, because it’s the next one. We’re all looking forward to it.
“We need to be focused on our jobs, which they have been this week. They are talking among themselves about what we need to do, but the time for talking stops and we have to go and make sure we follow that up with good firm actions and carry out the game plan.
“We’ve got to go and try to win. We have to approach every game in that way. We have a duty to ourselves, the support and the club.”
Robins said on Monday: “We’ve got 14 games that are going to define our season. The next week is going to be a tough week in terms of the teams we are playing. It’s a week to embrace and really enjoy.
“At this level we get players that are up and down in terms of their confidence. But we have to believe, and I believe, that we’re a really good team.. We’ve been a centre-forward away from being the top team in the division and hopefully Jonson can give us that.”
After defeat at Brighton, Robins said: “Jonson Clarke-Harris was immense. I thought he deserved his goal because he could have had a hat-trick after hitting the post twice.
“Jordan Ponticelli was really good when he came on and he made a really good impact. Marc McNulty worked his socks off and it was good to get Jack Grimmer back involved.
“Rod McDonald was good when he came on. Ryan Haynes gave us fresh legs and athleticism from the get-go. Tom Bayliss was good.
“The main thing for us is that we can learn from this game what it takes to be successful. The players worked so hard.
“I was proud of them. I thought it was a really good game from us today. I hope the supporters could see that we were trying to have a go.”
He added: “We rode our luck for sure, but they did as well. It has been a massive learning curve for everybody and I am sure the supporters would have appreciated that.
“We want to try and give the supporters something to shout about and now we have to finish the season off on a positive.”