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More frustration as Leeds are held by Coventry
Sunday, 17th Dec 2023 12:47 by Tim Whelan

We needed to take all three points from this game after the defeat in midweek, but we missed the opportunity to close the gap on the top two, after failing to break down Coventry City’s determined and disciplined defence.

The first business of the day was to hope that Norwich could get a result at their less than dear neighbours in the ‘Old Farm’ local derby, despite the gap between to the two teams in the league table. A huge cheer coming from the Peacock told me that the Canaries had taken the lead, but as I got through I was greeted by the screen showing a close-up of Ed Sheeran celebrating the Ipswich equaliser.

Just when I thought that man couldn’t get any more irritating than he is already! It was a nervous watch, but Norwich held out for the draw that we would all have settled for at the start of the day. So my faith in our automatic promotion hopes was restored, but could we take advantage of the tractor Boys slipping up?

Once again Daniel Farke announced an unchanged starting line-up, ignoring the suggestions from some quarters that he ought to freshen things up by giving a bit more game time to the talented players on the fringes of his squad who might be getting a bit frustrated. And for large parts of this game the players on the field were looking tired, which doesn’t bode well for the busy Christmas and new year period to come.

We had the better of the early stages, but Coventry had the first decent chance as Sheaf eluded Ampidu’s tackle, and Meslier had to stretch to keep out his shot which was curling inside the far post. We kept pressing forward, but Coventry had come with a game plan, which made sure that our talented forwards couldn’t get in behind them.

At times Rutter looked like he was starting to believe all the hype around him, trying to beat too many players rather than looking to pass to a colleague in space. And we were missing Byram on the left, for all Spence’s hard work. You could see he wanted to get forward, but didn’t have the confidence to cross with his weaker foot, so he was cutting inside every time and we lost a bit of momentum.

Our best chance of the half came when Summerville collected a terrible pass and slipped the ball to Rutter to his left, but the Frenchman dragged his shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post.

There was also a shout for a penalty when a long ball put James through and there was a coming together, but the linesman ignored the noise from the crowd and didn’t flag. The incident didn’t make the highlights on ITV4 and as it was down the other end of the field I couldn’t judge whether it was a for or not.

As the second half began there was a beautiful sunset to admire, and a soft drink advert appeared on the big screen saying “energise your game”, which might well have been an instruction to the team. If it was they responded with a livelier start to the second half, and were finally rewarded with a goal in the 58th minute.

Rutter played a neat through ball to find Summerville free inside the area, and the Dutchman chipped the ball over the keeper and inside the far post. With Coventry now looking a little bit more stretched Rutter shot over and Collins was forced into a fine save from James. But if we thought that our one goal lead was going to be enough were to be sorely disappointed.

As Coventry built a move down their right In the 67th minute I didn’t think our defence was properly set up to deal with the threat coming down the middle, with two forwards allowed to run into the area unchallenged. And Sakamoto chipped the ball into the centre, Thomas got between Struijk and Gray, with time to pick his spot and to head the ball into the corner beyond Meslier’s reach.

We were close to getting back in front when Rutter beat two defenders on the edge of the area and got plenty of power into his shot, but put it too close to Collins. The keeper could only parry the ball and it was crossed back for Rutter to have another go. This time his shot clipped the heel of a defender which took the pace off it, and although Collins still wasn’t able to catch the ball, another defender was on hand this time to take it clear.

On 78 minutes Farke sent Bamford and Gnonto on for Kamara and Spence, which meant we had a ridiculous amount of attacking talent on the field from then on, six forwards in total if you include the wingers. But still we couldn’t break through in a crowded penalty to force the winning goal. A move involving Rutter and Gnonto set up Summerville and his quick feet made space for a shot, only for a defender to block it with his face.

Then Summerville’s ball found Rutter in the middle of four defenders, but a wonderful turn took him clear. He then spun round and tried a left foot shot that unfortunately didn’t quite curl enough and ended up in the side netting. If that had gone in we’d have been playing clips of it for years. As the clock ran down Coventry were causing delays at every opportunity, and Summerville was close to losing his rag after one of their players stood over the ball to stop us taking a quick free kick.

And there was also a bit of a set-to in the area involving Bamford as they players jostled for position before a corner came in. Gelhardt came on for the largely ineffectual Piroe, and Collins was booked for dawdling over a goal kick once too often. Seven minutes additional minutes were announced, much of it probably due to Coventry’s ‘game management’, and they would produce one more great chance for us to take all three points.

Gelhardt’s pass put James in behind the Coventry defence, but just as I was waiting for the net to bulge, it didn’t, as James somehow managed to put his shot wide of the far post. If that had gone in we’d all have gone home happy, thinking that good teams find a way to win even when they haven’t played well. But as it is, we have to mourn the two points dropped and the missed opportunity to close the gap on Ipswich.

The final whistle wasn’t quite the end of proceedings, as there was another scuffle as the players went off, again involving Summerville. We can’t afford to have him suspended for the vital game next Saturday, so let’s hope there is no retrospective action to come. That game against Ipswich is already looking like a must-win even at the halfway point of the season, as we need to make inroads into that 10 point gap before it’s too late.

So it turns out that Southampton are the team with most to be pleased with from yesterday’s results, as they won to draw level with us on points if not goal difference. If we’re going to keep above them and close the gap on the top two we need to show a bit more imagination than we did in this game, and some sort of a plan B as to how we’re going to break down teams who are content to sit deep. We can't have too many more games like this.


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