TONY Mowbray has challenged his inexperienced Sky Blues team to play beyond their years as the search for a first league win stretched to nine matches following’s Saturday’s 2-1 defeat away at Gillingham.
The visitors had taken the lead through Kyel Reid’s first goal for the club but goals in either half by Max Ehmer and Billy Knott consigned the Sky Blues to another defeat on the road.
With Mowbray’s side sitting bottom on just five points out of a possible 27, it is now officially the club’s worst start to a season since 1919, almost 100 years ago, and the manager is demanding more from his young team.
“I would say the main problem is the consistencies of a fairly young team, who need to learn quickly,” said Mowbray.
“It is a steep learning curve but one they need to rise to and help us improve our recent results.
“We need some of those to show experience beyond their years and prove why they’re at this level and that they’re good enough to show that consistency week in, week out.”
The visitors started the match brightly and were unlucky not to be ahead early on Andre Wright, making his full debut, slipped through Marvin Sordell on goal but the City striker was denied by the on-rushing Gills’ goalkeeper Stuart Nelson who cleared the danger.
Nelson did well again to deny Sordell’s powerful shot moments later while at the other end former City striker directed a Ryan Jackson throw towards goal but his effort was saved by Reice Charles-Cook.
With 21 minutes on the clock the Sky Blues did eventually break the deadlock. Gael Bigirimana played the ball to Reid who unleashed a superb half volley which sailed into the bottom corner of the Gillingham goal.
The lead however lasted just five minutes as the home side pulled level through Ehmer. Jackson’s long throw proved to be the assist and defender Ehmer was able to glance a header past Charles-Cook.
For a third time in the match Sordell was again denied by Nelson who this time did well to tip his 25-yard shot over the bar as the two sides went in level at the break.
From the re-start it was Gillingham on the front foot with Deji Oshilaja heading a Bradley Dack cross over and Scott Wagstaff dragged a long range effort wide.
McDonald almost got one over on his former club shortly before the hour mark but after being put through on goal he shot wide of the target however with 18 minutes remaining the hosts got their noses in front after Knot beat Charles-Cook with a neat finish into the bottom corner.
The Sky Blues looked to respond but Reid’s long range effort was tipped over the bar and late on Ben Stevenson came close to scoring his first professional goal but the Academy graduate saw his shot drift narrowly wide.
There was one final chance for the visitors and it fell to Sordell inside the box whose shot looked destined for the bottom corner but Nelson produced an excellent one-handed save to come out on top of their individual battle.
“The front three were okay, that’s why the main focus post-match is the defence,” Mowbray added. “In previous week’s it seems to have been the other way around but on Saturday it was a role-reversal.
“It was epitomised by their first goal. It is such a simple, yet effective, idea that we struggled to cope with. A long-throw into our box and we didn’t have anybody taking charge to win their header and clear the ball.
“Perhaps it’s more frustrating because I built a career in that position so expect a higher standard than what was shown today. It is frustrating because defensively we have been okay this season so far.”