Coventry City 3-2 Blackpool Six Things: O’Hare strikes late to keep Sky Blues sky high

Jobello celebrates the equalizer (with thanks to the Coventry City photographer) – https://www.ccfc.co.uk/

Callum O’Hare became Coventry City’s hero on Saturday afternoon, coming off the bench to bag the winner to maintain the Sky Blues’ 100% winning record at St Andrews, whilst condemning Blackpool to a first league defeat of the campaign. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Kaikai’s first half double

Simon Grayson’s side pressed at a very high intensity in the first two minutes, with Sulley Kaikai and Joe Nuttall supporting the gangly Armand Gnanduillet; Jay Spearing stepped quickly onto second balls in midfield while Liam Feeney attacked the right flank with quality and intent. Pool got their opener inside the first 57 seconds, when Feeney’s right-sided cross found Kaikai, whose exquisite volley looped inside the far post. Coventry grew into the game from that point Grayson’s side began to manage the game by dropping deep at a very early stage, so it came as a surprise when the visitors – having been under pressure – got their second goal on 38 minutes. The lively Joe Nuttall led a counter-attack and fed Gnanduillet who, narrowly managing to keep the ball in play, dragged back for Feeney, whose first-time square was turned home by Kaikai.

Coventry’s prompt fightback

In defensive terms, Coventry missed the leadership and tenacity of the injured Liam Kelly, who might have provided better cover than debutant Liam Walsh in the case of the two goals conceded. The Bristol City loanee, though is perhaps a more accomplished technician and that showed when Blackpool dropped their line of engagement, allowing Walsh to dictate play as Zain Westbrooke and Jordan Shipley started to influence play between the lines. It certainly did not feel as though Coventry were out of the game and sure enough, they replied promptly. Kyle McFadzean’s impressive diagonal found Matt Godden who, helped by a slight ricochet off Ryan Edwards, found himself one-on-one and tucked the ball inside the near-post. After some good play down the left followed by a cross from Sam McCallum, the aggressive Curtis Tilt missed his header, leaving Jordy Hiwula unchallenged to tee up the impressive Wesley Jobello, who rifled home as Cov drew level just seven minutes after falling two down.

The second half lull

Coventry were always the side that showed the greater intent to push for three points, rather than one, but there was a stage from midway through the second half at which it looked like they might be held at bay. Grayson introduced Ben Heneghan and Nathan Delfouneso which, with the former’s cool head and the latter’s willingness to support the press centrally, appeared to stabilize matters for the away side. The hosts remained in control of the ball, but they were hitting something of a mental block in the final third and, one wondered, whether the game might descend into a stalemate. The finale, though, would prove that to be very far from the truth.

Subs the key

Callum O’Hare, who replaced Zain Westbrooke, made a positive impact from the bench. Westbrooke had enjoyed a reasonable afternoon but his movement into the final third had been relatively conservative and, with signs of striker Godden perhaps beginning to tire, it was clear that Cov needed fresh energy – somebody making brave runs to stretch the opposition. In the first minute of additional time, inspired by the late addition of Gervane Kastaneer, O’Hare made the most of Fankaty Dabo and Hiwula’s link-up play, tucking home a left-footed strike inside the far post to send Coventry fans home ecstatic.

First defeat for Pool

Despite their first loss of the season, it has still been a strong start for Blackpool, who are well on course to improve on their 2018-19 campaign. The task for the Tangerines, in order to maintain their positive Autumn form, will be to use the ball with more accuracy at times. Their current game plan leads to good starts to their games, with 10 first half goals already this season, but here they dropped the intensity of their pressing too early and that, combined with poor retention, gave their opponents an opportunity to grow into the game and that is an area in which Simon Grayson will see room for improvement.

Coventry’s home from home

O’Hare’s late goal means that, not only have Coventry won each of their ‘home’ league games so far this season, they have come from behind to win a game for the first time in Robins’ second stint as manager. In that sense, this victory is testament to the spirit in the group this term, which seems even more impressive bearing in mind the circumstances. The reality of playing in Birmingham, rather than their home city, was meant to be a hugely destabilizing factor – something that would dampen the mood and thus feed onto the field. Whilst circumstances for fans are not ideal, the Sky Blues remain unbeaten with an exciting, vibrant team – and the stiff competition for places in midfield looks a real positive. Although St Andrews is only a temporary home, this season represents a travel adventure, rather than a cause for homesickness.