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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Coventry City

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to maintain their promotion push when they face Championship rivals Coventry City at the Coventry Building Society Arena on Easter Monday (3pm kick-off).

The Cherries did the double over the Sky Blues last season, winning 3-1 at St Andrew’s – their temporary home – in October before triumphing 4-1 at Vitality Stadium in April.

However, despite taking a 2-0 lead against them at home in November, Mark Robins’s team hit back to claim a share of the spoils thanks to late goals from Matty Godden and Todd Kane.

Coventry have made giant strides under Robins this season and are ninth going into Monday's game, just three points shy of the play-off places with five matches remaining.

They fought back from 2-0 down to beat Birmingham 4-2 at St Andrew's on Saturday thanks to Ben Sheaf's double and goals from Michael Rose and Callum O'Hare.

The Sky Blues, who finished 16th last season, have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes since returning to the Coventry Building Society Arena having shared St Andrew’s with Birmingham for two years.

An excellent start saw them climb to second place following a 3-0 win over Peterborough at the end of September with Swedish striker Viktor Gyokeres netting twice.

The Sky Blues have registered ten home wins, including beating high-flying Fulham (4-1), Sheffield United (4-1) and Nottingham Forest (2-1) having conceded first in all three games.

Robins’s men sprung a major surprise earlier this month when they became the first team to do the double over Fulham, triumphing 3-1 at Craven Cottage thanks to goals from Michael Rose, Gyokeres and Callum O’Hare.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Andy Turner who covers the fortunes of the Sky Blues for the Coventry Telegraph. 

COVENTRY CITY PROFILE

Ground: Coventry Building Society Arena

Nickname: Sky Blues

Manager: Mark Robins (appointed March 2017)

Club captain: Liam Kelly

Current league position: Ninth

Leading goalscorer 2021/22: Viktor Gyokeres (16 in all competitions)

Last game: Birmingham City 2-4 Coventry City (Championship)

Past six league results: LDDLWW

afcb.co.ukHow would you sum up the season so far for Coventry?

AT: It’s been brilliant and it’s far exceeded expectations. If fans had been told in August they would be anyway near the play-offs, they would have snapped their hands off.

To have achieved that with some remarkable results and performances along the way, it’s been an absolute joy.

An uptake of 11,500 season tickets is the biggest since they returned to the top flight in 1967/68, which is remarkable in itself having had two years in exile at St Andrew’s.

The fans have really bought into the season and they have come together with the players on this remarkable journey that has produced results like winning 3-1 against Fulham at Craven Cottage to complete the double over the champions-elect.

afcb.co.ukGive us your take on Mark Robins’s tenure?

AT: Nothing short of remarkable. He’s lifted them up by the bootlaces and he’s got the fans back on board after a difficult period in the club’s history.

They dropped down to the fourth tier and he’s taken them back through the divisions and they are now in their second season back in the second tier.

They are now a really competitive side in the division and haven’t even thought about the threat of relegation this season.

The aim last season was to stay up and they did more than that, they finished 16th with 55 points, which was a great achievement given the disparity in budgets.

They’ve got one of the smallest budgets in the division, probably in the bottom six, and are mixing it with the big boys and in the play-off hunt.

He’s done a remarkable job and he’s got some good people around him as well. Adi Viveash, his assistant manager, has been part of that journey as well and takes great credit for a lot of the coaching alongside Robins on the training pitch.

They have recruited very smartly. They’ve brought in players who have added value and quality to the team.

afcb.co.ukWhat’s been behind the turnaround this season?

AT: It’s a combination of things. Really good recruitment, they added to the squad in the summer. The players who stand out have developed from the season before and the season before that in some cases.

The likes of Callum O’Hare, Gustavo Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres (pictured above) have all been outstanding campaigners as have a lot of them, you could go through the whole team really.

Returning to Coventry and their home stadium has played a big part. It became a fortress in the first six or seven games when they were unbeaten and pulled off some remarkable results.

People talk about the team spirit and work ethic. They’ve scored 11 goals in stoppage time, eight of which have helped them secure either a point or three.

They’ve got this never-say-die attitude. They’ve got great belief and great confidence running through the side.

afcb.co.ukWho is Coventry’s one to watch?

AT: There are three really. Their standout star is Gustavo Hamer (pictured above).

He’s a Brazilian-born Dutch player who’s a deep-lying midfield playmaker and is destined for greater things.

He’s in his second season with the Sky Blues and is a cut above in terms of quality at this level.

Callum O’Hare, who they got on a free transfer from Aston Villa a couple of seasons ago, is busy, lively and a constant threat going forward. He’s an attacking midfielder with an incredible work-rate.

Viktor Gyokeres has 16 goals this season. They signed him on a permanent deal in the summer following a loan spell last season. He’s had a remarkable season. He’s strong and is playing with great confidence at the moment.

afcb.co.ukAnd who is their rising star?

AT: Fabio Tavares (pictured above). He’s a prolific goalscorer from the under-23s.

They signed him from Rochdale a year ago in January and he’s been biding his time in the development squad.

He finally broke through to the first team and has had some cameo performance.

He’s scored against Preston in February and also has an assist. He has really caught the eye when he’s been involved.

afcb.co.ukAre any first-choice players either suspended or injured against the Cherries?

AT: It’s no secret they are down to the bare bones and have a number of senior players injured at the moment.

There were so many players missing against Fulham that they named two goalkeepers on the bench.

They travelled down the night before and midfielder Jordan Shipley was taken ill so they put a rookie goalkeeper on the bench to make up the numbers.

Matty Godden is out for the season and captain Liam Kelly is not expected back for the Easter period.

Centre-back Jake Clarke-Salter had to return to parent club Chelsea as he was injured and Jodi Jones and Josh Eccles, two young players, are both out. Defender Kyle McFadzean could be back soon.

afcb.co.ukWhat’s your score prediction?

AT: I think Coventry will edge it 2-1. 

You can follow Andy on Twitter – @AndyTurnerccfc 

Officials: Matthew Donohue (referee), Philip Dermott (assistant), Mark Russell (assistant), Jeremy Simpson (fourth official).

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