COVENTRY City found a way to win at the death against struggling Wimbledon to stay top of the league.
Tuesday night’s home game at St Andrew’s was always likely to provide a familiar challenge of recent years – for fast-paced attacking Sky Blues’ sides facing stubborn opposition that park the bus.
Such a scenario became even more probable after overplaying between keeper Marco Marosi and the defence gifted The Dons an early lead in the eighth minute.
Intricate passing at the back has been much in evidence this year as a tactic intended to suck opponents in, and set up the slick, counter-attacking that is Coventry’s strength. But with at times the wrong option being selected, it lead to this season’s second costly such mix-up.
The keeper took a back pass from central defender Kyle McFadzean and played it to midfielder Liam Walsh in the penalty box who was soon surrounded by Wimbledon attackers.
A heavy touch from the new recruit – who has been an adequate replacement for the injured and missed skipper Liam Kelly – led to former Sky Blue loanee Michael Folivi steeling in and being tripped by Walsh for a penalty, which Marcus Forss converted.
Coventry, as against Blackpool when they went 2-0 down early on before a superb winning comeback, struggled to gain composure after the body blow.
They eventually showed plenty of the exciting passing triangles, and incisive delivery into danger areas, that has become their hallmark again this season – but this term on a zippy and near perfect footballing surface.
When chances came, however, they were squandered by lively forward Jordy Hiwula who nonetheless deserved credit for finding space and making intelligent runs to get on the end of some quality delivery from midfield and wide areas.
Much of that came from Callum O’Hare, the classy, well-balanced and two-footed young midfielder and loanee Aston Villa – who was making his first league start after impressing as a regular substitute.
It also came from the right where Wesley Jobello was having a fair more influential game, with some excellent crosses, than he achieved during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Burton.
Hiwula had failed to convert a one-on-one with the keeper before he did so with a more difficult chance on 27 minutes, having taken the ball to an acute angle, after Jordan Shipley’s slide-rule through ball.
While one other good Hiwula chance went begging, Folivi missed a gilt-edged chance when he found himself with just the keeper to beat on the edge of the six-yard box after a cross from the left, but instead fired over the bar.
The second half was a frustrating affair for City who appeared to visibly drain in confidence and belief that they had the wherewithal to find the killer pass and finish to win the game. Wimbledon seemed content with defending a point.
Striker Matt Godden – this season’s great hope for goals having signed from Peterborough United – was only sporadically in the game despite impressive first-half glimpses. As against Burton, he failed to convert the odd half chance that came his way in the penalty box.
There was plenty of endeavour from full backs Fankaty Dabo, and Brandon Mason returning from injury, in their key roles, which involve pressing forward at pace. But the fast intricate interplays were by now disapppointingly breaking down with at times a lack of understanding between the still recently assembled side.
But deep into added time, when it appeared Coventry would lose their top-of-table spot, Liam Walsh ran with the ball from midfield and played a well executed one-two with Jorday Shipley before he finally found the necessary composure to hit the net and send 5,000 City fans into delirium.
Robins said: “Sometimes it’s better to be a lucky team than a good one, I think we were a bit more lucky than good tonight.
“There’s plenty of work needed but I’ll take the win and the manner of the win.
“… We looked a little bit disjointed, maybe the couple of changes had something to do with it. We looked to someone to inject some energy into it and Callum O’Hare did that.
“It just didn’t quite link together well enough. Having said that, there’s chances that came and went.”
He added his team looked tired and would be given a much-needed training break, with City not playing on Saturday.