Coventry City v Doncaster Rovers: The Opposition View - ‘Mark Robins has united fans and players’

Mark Robins and Michael Doyle
Mark Robins and Michael Doyle

Another week, another unsettling off-field battle rages involving Coventry City.

With the Sky Blues discovering they are technically homeless at the end of the season, thankfully for them on-field matters are much brighter as they prepare to welcome Rovers to the Ricoh Arena.

We spoke to the Coventry Telegraph’s City writer Andy Turner to get the lowdown on the season so far.

Q: It seems to have been a solid start to life back in League One. How do you assess the summer and the early weeks of the season?

AT: The start to the new season was a little slow and inconsistent but with nine new senior signings in the summer it was always going to take time for the players to gel.

But there have been real signs of progress in recent weeks when City have come through a really tough run against some of the top end sides, beating Barnsley, getting a point against Sunderland and winning at Charlton. They also lost to Portsmouth during that run but it was a narrow 1-0 defeat that might have been different if Coventry had taken their best chance of the game.

They have just strung three league wins together for the first time in almost three years (Charlton, Wycombe and Southend) and were hoping to make it four at Bradford on Tuesday night.

Q: What were the expectations at the start of the season?

AT: Although there is no remit from the board/owners, Mark Robins said from day one that he would like to be pushing for the play-offs again this season.

Given the strength in depth he has in the squad there’s no reason why they can’t be. When everyone is fit Robins has two players vying for virtually every position in the team, and good players as well. An example of that was last week’s Under-23s game which included six senior players who can’t get in the side at the moment.

Q: What do you make of the job Mark Robins has done and how is he looked upon by supporters?

AT: He’s done a terrific job rebuilding the team but also, crucially, re-connecting the supporters with the players and the team.

That all started with the Checkatrade Trophy victory at Wembley in 2017, shortly after he’d returned to the club but sadly just too late to save them from relegation.

It then continued with a decent League Two promotion campaign that gathered pace and really took off in the play-offs against Notts County before another superb Wembley final against Exeter City.

Although the club’s off-field problems are still there in the background, there is a real togetherness among the supporters and the team, none more so than away from home where the Sky Blue Army continue to travel in large numbers.

Q: What style of play and system does Robins favour?

AT: He generally likes to play it on the deck and out from the back but can go long when it suits – Bakayoko’s winner at Charlton was a classic route one goal that started with a big kick from the keeper. He won the header to send it wide and then raced into the six yard box to get on the end of the cross and score a brilliant diving header. 

The manager’s preferred formation has been 4-2-3-1 but that he’s switched to 4-4-2 in a bid to get a partnership going between Conor Chaplin and Jonson Clarke-Harris.

They tend to work the flanks with the wide men and get balls into the box, although teenage midfielder Tom Bayliss can be a driving force down the middle.

Q: Who are the dangermen for Coventry?

AT: Luke Thomas is a threat with his pace and skill on the wing and should really be close to double figures in terms of goals given the amount chances he has created for himself, but is yet to get off the mark! Jordy Hiwula, who is a striker by trade, has broken into the side in recent weeks and is currently being deployed wide on the left to good effect, scoring his first league goal at Southend on Saturday.

Conor Chaplin bagged his first goal from open play against Wycombe and has also enjoyed good chances to score, so the hope is that the floodgates will open now that particular monkey is off his back. He’s a hard working striker with excellent movement and works well with the big and muscular Jonson Clarke-Harris who is a presence in both boxes.

But Robins has an enviable squad that includes Jodi Jones and Amadou Bakayoko who have both stepped off the bench to become match winners in recent weeks.