COVENTRY City’s patient passing game was rewarded with an entertaining comeback victory against Rochdale sealed by a stunning solo goal fit to win any match.
An important, hard-fought and deserved three points lifted the Sky Blues to third in the League One table.
A makeshift City side had gone 1-0 down to the visitors midway through a first half when the home side dominated possession, but Rochdale carved out decent opportunities, especially on the break from which Ian Henderson smartly converted Camps’s deadly cross from the right.
But Jordan Shipley levelled by bundling the ball in shortly before half-time after a precise ball over the top from the excellent Zane Westbrooke.
Central midfielder Liam Walsh’s wonder goal came on 72 minutes when he picked up the ball on the half-way line and beat four defenders before finding the bottom corner from the edge of the area with little space in the area.
Coventry’s 23 chances with 7 on target summed up a game in which Coventry where fluent in possession but sometimes lacked a decisive run from midfield and a cutting edge.
Bakayoko was again the lone striker, with a midfield four supported by impressive wing-backs Mason (in for the injured McCallum) and Dabo, who linked superbly on the right with Westbrooke in the second half.
With fellow strikers Godden injured and Biamou suspended, Bakayoko worked hard and showed soon decent touches on a day when captain Liam Kelly was also missing through illness, and ex-Tranmere defender Drysdale and young midfielder Eccles made their first league starts.
But ‘Baka’ continued his struggles in front of goal since his recent two in two games, miscuing what should have been a tap-in at the far post on 55 minutes from a Westbrooke cross.
Shipley’s contribution grew from being sporadic – missing a second-minute near-post header from a corner – to goalscorer, while the creative Westbrooke was influential throughout.
Debutant Drysdale slotted effectively in to a back-three replacing the suspended McFadzean, despite a poor backpass on 26 minutes from which Rochdale should have scored. On 31 minutes, he made up for the error with a perfectly timed tackle in the box.
Rochdale’s first-half chances included a near-post header just before the break that was well saved by Marosi.
City midfielders’ reluctance to make decisive runs into the box at times was typified on 62 minutes when Shipley had not anticipated a Mason cross following fluent City switch-play from right to left.
That was followed by a Walsh piledriver saved by Sanchez and another let-off for Rochdale when Shipley found himself alone in the box when the linesman should have flagged for offside.
The Bristol City loanee Walsh’s goal-of-the-season contender was followed by Rochdale pressure and two more Marosi saves, before a tiring Westbrooke on 93 minutes should have made it 3-1 with space in the box, when his shot low to the right was well saved.
Boss Mark Robins said after the game: “We have been really good today, I am delighted and I can’t tell you how delighted I am with the three points and the performance.
“It was one of our biggest three points of the season because of the people we had missing. We had two debuts who are young boys really and they have come into the team and done brilliantly well.”
Players returning to training from injury include Jodie Jones, Jamie Allen and Jordy Hiwula although Biamou’s three-match suspension means he will also sit out Saturday’s big match against promotion rivals Sunderland on Wearside.