COVENTRY City have started the new year as they mean to go on with a third consecutive win taking them up the League One table going into Saturday’s trip to Scunthorpe.
New Year’s Day’s impressive 2-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers – with goals from Conor Chaplin (penalty) and substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris – followed home wins against Charlton Athletic on Boxing Day and Southend on Saturday.
The team – with injury-affected skipper Michael Doyle on the bench and Liam Kelly ably standing in – grew in confidence throughout their three-game return to winning ways after a slump had seen no win in nine matches.
Play-off placed Charlton came to the Ricoh Arena with a big away support and high expectations, but were beaten by a fine Jordy Hiwula first-half header – with him taking a rare central forward position – and a quality Tom Bayliss finish in the box for a late winner.
Bayliss, returning to form and the creative midfield influence which has again made him the subject of January transfer speculation, also delivered excellent through balls for Hiwula’s winner in the 1-0 victory against Southend, and the second goal at Wycombe, when Clarke-Harris shot across the advancing keeper with his first touch of the game.
Left back Brandon Mason and especially right-back Dujon Sterling have been central to City’s resurgence, the Chelsea loan man increasingly parading his class in beating men and delivering Premier League standard crosses.
Two other stand-out performers, central defenders Tom Hyam and Jordan Willis, have contributed to two clean sheets.
Zain Westbrooke came in for the injured flying winger Luke Thomas against Southend for an impressive first League start in Sky Blue colours, despite the usually central midfielder playing out of position.
Derby loanee Thomas himself returned to frighten defenders with his pace and trickery to make a major impact at Wycombe.
Another win or two would see eighth-placed Coventry City seriously threatening the play-off positions once more, currently standing seven points behind sixth-placed Doncaster.
Scunthorpe however will be another tough test. Battling to avoid the relegation positions, their impressive recent performances included News Year’s Day’s very impressive 2-0 win at high-flying Peterborough.
Robins said after the Wycombe game: “I think it was a really professional performance.
“It took us a bit of time to settle down but they are a really awkward team to play against.
“They changed things slightly because [Adebayo] Akinfenwa has started against us in the previous three games that we have played against them in the last 12 months – it took us a little bit of time to get to grips with them. But when we had done that I thought that we were really good.
“The clean sheet was outstanding. It was a really good away performance.”
Of Kelly and Bayliss, he added: “I think those two have been outstanding.
“Tom [Bayliss] has gone through a little bit of a wobble before these three games where he has lost a little bit of confidence.
“As a young player, going through that and putting in three performances in like he has done, and I mean really strong performances – he has made a goal, scored a goal and made another goal today – he has varied his game and become an outstanding player again. Fair play to him.”
Kelly was substituted late on, leaving the field with what looked like a serious arm injury, and Robins said: “We have got to keep our fingers crossed. He was just getting himself going because he has just got his rhythm back and has been magnificent. I am hoping that he is not going to be a miss for us long term.”