Coventry 1 Portsmouth 0: Neil Allen's verdict - Blues' winning run is over but bid for the Championship certainly is not

The winning run had to end, similarly the scoring streak couldn’t go on forever.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 7:00 am

Unfortunately the instigators were promotion rivals Coventry, representing a setback in Pompey’s hunt for the top two.

It had been a lacklustre and often torturous occasion in the bitter cold at St Andrew’s, the present home of the Sky Blues.

What unfolded was an instantly forgettable encounter, devoid of attacking quality in a stadium with two stands shut and 6,983 present.

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Yet it had appeared Kenny Jackett’s side were set for a point, an excellent point at that considering the identity of their opponents.

Then, in the 84th minute, the player they attempted to recruit from Peterborough in the summer, Matty Godden, intervened.

Within two minutes of his introduction from the bench, the striker had claimed victory for Mark Robbins’ side – and the man-of-the-match accolade from the stadium announcer.

Perhaps Coventry deserved it, certainly they shaded the fixture as the better side, but not by much.

Pompey James Bolton claps the Fratton faithful after the defeat at Coventry. Picture: Kieran Cleeves

Pompey were lacklustre and barely carved out their own goalscoring opportunities, but were defensively sound – particularly with Tom Naylor positioned in front of the back four.

It was just a question of whether they could find their feet as an attacking force and, in fairness, the entries of Marcus Harrison and Ellis Harrison on 63 minutes did pep them up.

But it wasn’t enough for the below-par Blues, whose period of nine successive wins and spell of scoring in 24 consecutive matches is now over.

However, let it not be forgotten, their bid for Championship football has certainly not finished.

Jackett made one change to the side which won at Tranmere at the weekend, with John Marquis handed a recall.

He replaced Harrison in attack, effectively a straight swap during these early stages of this hectic fixture schedule.

Harrison instead dropped to the substitutes’ bench as the Blues named the same 18-man squad for their St Andrew’s visit.

With Andy Cannon still missing through a glute injury, team selection was relatively simple for Jackett, with Cameron McGeehan and Ben Close continuing in central midfield.

The Blues’ system had been altered, however, utilising Naylor in front of the back four and a midfield quartet ahead in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

The fixture marked a St Andrew’s return for Steve Seddon, the left-back on loan from Birmingham for the remainder of the season and in excellent form.

Meanwhile, among Coventry’s bench was Ryan Giles, who inflicted Pompey’s opening-day defeat at Shrewsbury while on loan with the Shropshire club from Wolves.

The Sky Blues kicked off and would create the game’s first opportunity on five minutes.

Liam Walsh fired in a first-time shot from outside the box which kept low, yet Alex Bass’ positioning was perfect and dived to his left to comfortably keep it out.

It was a tight opening, although, on 15 minutes, Fankaty Dabo slipped the ball inside to Callum O’Hare, whose right-foot shot deflected off Naylor for the game’s first corner.

McGeehan earned a booking in the 19th minute with a challenge delivered a little high on Dominic Hyam, grounding the former Pompey loanee.

The visitors were barely threatening the home goal and the next chance fell to Coventry’s Walsh, whose right-footed attempt from outside the box screwed wildly wide of the far post.

The distinctive figure of O’Hare, sporting a head bandage, once more brought Bass into play, initially parrying his powerful shot into the air before catching it with the minimum of fuss.

At the other end, on 35 minutes a bouncing ball inside the box was causing the hosts problems before it found its way in the vicinity of Ronan Curtis.

The top scorer shaped to let fly, only for the covering Dabo to block his attempt so he couldn’t connect, representing a timely interception.

Pompey won their first corner on 36 minutes, which resulted in Close’s shot from 25 yards harmlessly ballooning wide.

As a lacklustre first half reached its finale, Jamie Allen’s lofted shot from the left sailed over the head of Bass and also cleared the goal, albeit wasn’t too far away.

During two minutes of time added on, the Blues won a corner down the left, delivered by Curtis, although amounted to nothing.

It had been an instantly forgettable opening 45 minutes, with Coventry marginally the better side in a match of few goalscoring opportunities.

There were no substitutions at the break, while unfortunately the match picked up where it left off when it got underway once more.

Coventry keeper Marko Marosi was living dangerously by delaying his clearances, often just before closed down by Marquis, to give the impression he could be caught.

In the 54th minute, Allen dug out a cross which initially appeared to be eluding the run of Amadou Bakayoko, yet the striker managed to get his head on it and nod wide.

Close became the second player of the evening to be booked when he tripped Walsh after the midfielder had dispossessed him on the centre circle.

On the hour mark, McGeehan cleverly spread the ball out wide down the right, only for Marquis to horrendously slice an attempted cross out for a goal kick.

That was to be the striker’s final contribution, with Harrison and Harness introduced from the bench in the 63rd minute for Marquis and Ryan Williams.

Harrison’s first touch brought a save out of Marosi, his near-post shot from James Bolton’s cross superbly saved by the keeper from close range.

It signalled a string of flag kicks as the Blues stepped up their game to suddenly start applying pressure.

On 74 minutes, a good interchange of passes between Curtis and Harness saw the latter curl a shot in from the right, yet it drifted over the bar.

Coventry introduced Godden from the bench on 82 minutes – and within two minutes he had won the match.

O’Hare clipped a ball over the top of the Blues’ defence and the substitute swivelled to steer a shot past the onrushing Bass to nestle into the bottom corner.

Pompey pressed for an equaliser and McGeehan saw a shot pushed around the post by Marosi.

During three minutes of time added on, McGeehan headed the ball back across goal and Harrison, on the struck, sent it high over the bar.

It was the final opportunity - and Coventry had themselves a big victory.