AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they face fellow Championship high-fliers Coventry City at Vitality Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Scott Parker’s team followed up their 3-2 defeat by Derby County on Sunday with a battling 1-1 draw against Millwall at The Den on Wednesday.
Coventry arrive in Dorset in fifth place, the Sky Blues having drawn their past two games 0-0, at Sheffield United and at home to neighbours Birmingham City on Tuesday.
Mark Robins’ team have won twice on the road this season, triumphing 1-0 against Blackpool and Hull City, and drawn three times, against Millwall, Blackburn and the Blades.
They boast the second best home record in the Championship having won seven and drawn two of their ten games at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Andy Turner who follows the fortunes of the Sky Blues for the Coventry Telegraph.
COVENTRY CITY PROFILE
Ground: The Coventry Building Society Arena
Nickname: The Sky Blues
Manager: Mark Robins (appointed March 2017)
Club captain: Liam Kelly
Current league position: Fifth
Leading goalscorer 2021/22: Viktor Gyokeres (nine in the Championship)
Last game: Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City (Championship)
afcb.co.uk: How would you sum up the season so far for Coventry?
AT: Brilliant so far, particularly at home. It’s exceeded all expectations. The remit really was to build on last season’s excellent 16th-place finish with 55 points.
And the remit last season was to stay in the division which they did. I think they had the second lowest budget in the Championship so that was a fantastic achievement.
This season, everybody thought they would take mid-table, comfortable, stress-free, no relegation issues and people would snap their hands off for that.
All of a sudden, they have found themselves in the top six and fourth for the past couple of months which has been built on fabulous home form.
The combination of returning to the CBS Arena in their home city and Mark Robins assembling a really smart squad.
afcb.co.uk: Four years ago, the Sky Blues were sixth in League Two – give us a word on the job Mark Robins has done?
AT: It’s nothing short of superb. He came in just too late to save them from the drop in 2017. The turning point was the Checkatrade Trophy final. Although he can’t take any credit for getting them there, he helped them win it in front of 43,000 Coventry fans at Wembley.
He galvanised the fans, the players and the whole club. He put aside the off-field issues as much as he could and brought everybody together.
They have gone on this incredible journey back up the leagues and he’s done it playing attractive football.
They bounced straight back up with an incredible play-off campaign in League Two in 2017/18 and then had a season of stability in League One before being promoted as champions albeit in the curtailed season because of the pandemic.
But they were deserved champions nevertheless. The job he’s done in the Championship so far has been remarkable, given the resources.
They had the second lowest budget last season and it’s a bottom-six budget again this season.
He doesn’t like the phrase but they are really punching above their weight. They deserve everything they’ve got because they are well coached and they’ve got a really good squad of players.
afcb.co.uk: Having finished 16th last season, what would you say expectations of supporters are for this season?
AT: It’s a tricky one. Inevitably, they have gone through the roof. Most people would have taken a top-half or mid-table finish.
But the longer they have stayed up there, the more people are thinking they could be in with a chance of the play-offs.
Everybody looks at it in blocks of games these days. The block of games from the last international break to Christmas is really testing, not least with Bournemouth away on Saturday and then West Brom at home the following Saturday.
That’s going to be the real acid test. If they are still there or thereabouts come Christmas, I think people will think they can kick on and really push to stay in the play-off places until the end of the season.
afcb.co.uk: Who is Coventry’s one to watch?
AT: There are two. Gus Hamer (pictured above), a Brazilian-born Dutch player, has been nothing short of superb since he joined the club last season.
He’s ready-made Championship quality. He oozes class and has a fantastic football brain. He’s a deep-lying midfield playmaker and is destined for greater things in time to come.
The other one is Callum O’Hare, the ex-Aston Villa academy product. He plays in the number ten role and is full of energy.
He’s the most-fouled player in the Championship. He’s quick, skilful and he tracks back. He must be the hardest working number ten in the division as well as the most fouled. He is usually at the centre of their creativity going forward.
afcb.co.uk: And an unsung hero?
AT: I’d probably say Simon Moore (pictured above), the goalkeeper who came in on a free transfer from Sheffield United this season.
He’s been really impressive. He’s consistent and rarely makes a mistake. He’s commanding, which is something Mark Robins wanted to address in the summer.
He’s good with his feet and his all-round game is excellent. He’s been a key component of this squad. He helps keep things tight and is a real presence behind the back three.
afcb.co.uk: Are any key players either suspended or injured against the Cherries?
AT: Gus Hamer came off 17 minutes from time against Birmingham with a foot injury. If he’s fit, he’s one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Jake Clarke-Salter, who is on loan from Chelsea, has gone back to Stamford Bridge to have treatment to a sore Achilles.
He’s missed the past two games and would have potentially started had he been fit.
But they’ve got more than able cover in Michael Rose and Dom Hyam who are currently making up the back three with Kyle McFadzean.
afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?
AT: It’s going to be difficult and Coventry are going to have to be at their best. I’ll go for a hopeful 1-1 draw.
You can follow Andy on Twitter – @AndyTurnerccfc
Officials: David Coote (referee), Marc Perry (assistant), Daniel Leach (assistant), Carl Brook (fourth official).