‘GROUNDHOG DAY’ is how Coventry City boss Mark Robins described another attractive attacking display that ultimately came to nought in a home defeat to Blackpool – ahead of Community Day when a bumper crowd is expected.
The only major variation on recent performances was City’s poor second half performance, in which the opposition were characteristically helped by the defence to score two of their three attempts on goal all game.
The annual Community Day fixture versus Gillingham takes place at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday. Tickets are reduced to £5 and more than 12,000 free tickets are being donated to primary schools.
City will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the inaugural event last year, when they lost to Accrington Stanley in front of 28,000 fans.
But on current form, the large crowd can at least be expected to be entertained by Coventry’s young team.
It appeared Blackpool’s two early second half goals had knocked the wind out of City’s sails, after a first half full of creative endeavour as witnessed in recent performances against Plymouth and Wimbledon.
Robins admitted post-match he was being forced to repeat himself, with the Sky Blues failings in the final third leading to growing fans’ frustration.
Striker Conor Chaplin, brought in this season to replace Marc McNulty’s goals, has been central to the industrious passing and movement, and had scored four goals in four before the Blackpool game.
He missed a glaring first-half opportunity from six-yards out, when he appeared to be unsure whether to tap it in with his head or boot, the striker blaming an awkward bounce.
Luke Thomas, Bright Enobakhare and captain Liam Kelly were once more instrumental as City launched wave after wave of attack.
With attacking central midfielder Tom Bayliss absent with injury, Zain Westbrooke impressed with only his second start, and tested the keeper twice from the edge of the area.
Jordy Hiwula, the forward again deployed on the left, and substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris, were guilty of missing good chances.
The latter misfired with two second-half headers, the second having been served on plate inside the penalty area by a Premiership standard cross by Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling, who had returned from injury.
Blackpool struck from a set-piece – Coventry’s achilles heel this season – when The Tangerines were allowed inside Sky Blues defenders and former City player Nathan Delfouneso finished from close range.
Soon after came another mistake from the otherwise impressive centre-back Domonic Hyam, who was easily turned by Blackpool top scorer Armand Gnanduillet after a long punt forward.
Robins said: “We had a great first half, it just feels like Groundhog Day because we are playing some really good stuff. I am going to have to take it on the chin and if that means getting stick or whatever I have to do it because we have got to get through it.
“We are almost there but it is going to take a little bit more time and a bit more work. We have played good football, we’ve pinned them in and done all the things that are right, and we don’t get the goal. We have to get that goal, and someone has to shoulder the responsibility.
“If you’re not scoring and missing chances you start to question yourself, you get that man on you shoulder questioning ‘am I going to score this?’ rather than being ruthless and doing it.
“The thing you can do is getting through it by practice, which is where the work comes in.
“We’ve conceded a really poor goal early from a set play where we’ve stopped. It’s a good ball in the box but they shouldn’t score from the second phase.
“Then they start to panic a bit, so from that perspective we have to understand it is a young group. That is not an excuse, that’s just how things are and how we react has got to be better.”