COVENTRY City manager Russell Slade insists his team haven’t given up and will continue to fight for League One survival.
Speaking at today’s (Monday’s) press conference at Ryton training ground, he also hinted he could make defensive changes for tomorrow night’s trip to Bury.
The fixture has become even more important for the club’s dwindling League One survival hopes following Saturday’s deeply concerning 1-3 home defeat against Swindon which left the Sky Blues 11 points from safety at the foot of the table.
Asked if the team still had belief, and whether their heads dropped on going behind in games, the former Orient, Cardiff and Charlton manager – who took charge of the relegation-threatened Sky Blues in December with the task of avoiding the drop, said: “I could give up. But we’re professional in what we do.
“We have to maintain that belief and trust in each other. I think the easiest thing is to give up. The hardest thing is to keep going and find more and react to setbacks, which we had on Saturday, in a positive way.
“When you’re in a situation we’re in, down at the bottom of the league, to go a goal down is probably mentally a little bit tougher than if you’re are at the top of the league and you go a goal down.
“However, if doesn’t mean the game is over. You still have an opportunity. What killed us was the second goal going in within the next 10 minutes, which was a body blow.
“We battled away. I thought the effort was there in the second half. Perhaps we ran out of ideas in trying to get back into the game. The third goal was obviously a biitter pill. It’s gone now. We can’t control it. It was a bad day at the office.
“From the start of the game, for 15 minutes we looked decent. But it’s about goals and being the best team in both boxes, which we weren’t.”
He added: “In the short-term, there’s no question of us fighting and getting as many points as we can. Who knows, if we can back up a win and go three games unbeaten, it could leave us with a possibility of staying up. I know that’s a long shot…
“There is no way we will be giving up. If we pick up three points on Tuesday, then we’ll go again on Saturday (against Shrewsbury). Every game is a big game.”
In his post-match interview on Saturday, he suggested changes could be made after the same starting eleven that beat Gillingham 2-1 at the Ricoh Arena the previous week had not provided the consistency needed to beat the drop.
Previoulsy injured defender and captain Jordan Willis, and striker Stuart Beavon, could also be in contention to return to the starting eleven, after Beavon came back from injury on Saturday to play the second half.
By that point, the home side were 2-0 down after poor marking in the box let in poaching goalscorers Nicky Ajose and Jonathan Obika. The defence was stretched on various occasions and offered far too much space for Swindon’s midfield playmakers such a Ben Gladwin and Charles Colkett.
Asked if he was still minded to make changes against The Shakers from greater Manchester – who have won three in four games to rise above the drop zone – Slade said: “Whether it’s for |fresh legs coming in, to make one or two changes might freshen it up and might give us that little bit of a spur to push on and try to get a positive result tomorrow night.
“..Jordan Willis trained Friday, Saturday and he’s trained today. He will be travelling with us for sure.
“Stuart Beavon came through the 45 minutes he had. I wasn’t going to put him on quite that early. Fortunately he’s okay so that’s something positive.
“Of the others in contention, Ruben Lameiras comes back into the 20-man squad.”
He said Gaël Bigirimana – who has missed out recently to Slade signings Kevin Foley and Callum Reilly in midfield – was unfortunate not to even make his more usual position on the bench on Saturday, as he preferred having striking options to midfielders.
Derby loanee Charles Vernam, returning from injury to the bench on Saturday, will also be in contention with Yakubu now injured, said Slade, who noted the young Rams striker’s versatility and ability to also play in midfield.
The manager said Bury would present a different challenge to the footballing Swindon side – whose quality players found form against the Sky Blues. He said Bury could “mix it up”, and he noted the abilities of strikers Tom Pope and veteran Ryan Lowe, who scored the winner against Charlton in Saturday.
Asked if changes could be made at the back to meet a different kind of challenge, he said it was a possibility.
“We have not kept a clean sheet. That’s going to always put us in a position where we are having to score goals. We want to win football matches but we need to stop the ball going in the back of the net.”
Asked if he survival challenge increasingly relied on a squad, with hugely influential players of late such as Nathan Clarke and Callum Reilly failing to quite reach their recent heights on Saturday, he said: “It’s an important point. I talk about the group. From time to time there will be injuries and a drop in form. There will be a few changes.”