Match Preview: Coventry City (A) 30/01/2018

The U’s make their way to Coventry as they begin their attempt to narrow the nine-point gap which has formed between themselves and the play-off positions.

Shaun Derry’s men will be well rested having not played on Saturday owing to scheduled opponents Notts County being busy taking on Premier League Swansea City in cup action, so will be raring to go for their trip to the Ricoh Arena. The Sky Blues, on the other hand, will be riding high after an FA Cup triumph over League One MK Dons which sees them into the fifth round of a competition they have fond memories of, having famously lifted the trophy in 1987, and they now turn their attention back to the ‘bread and butter’ of the league, and will have their sights set firmly on the automatic promotion places, which they are only three points short of.

THE FORM GUIDE

Coventry come into this fixture in excellent form, having won seven of their last ten matches, a spell during which frontman Marc McNulty has really come into his own, scoring nine goals in the last ten league games. Interestingly, it has been over two months since Coventry have drawn a match, with Crawley Town the last side to have shared the spoils with the Sky Blues. Coventry’s home form is similarly impressive; they haven’t dropped any points at the Ricoh Arena since that tie with Crawley, and have won their last six on the spin on home soil including a 2-1 triumph over Premier League Stoke City in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. If that isn’t enough to suggest that the U’s will be up against it, then the fact that Coventry boast the best defensive record at home, having conceded only eight times so far this season when playing at home, is surely enough to cement Coventry’s position as firm favourites to come out of this one with all three points.

Cambridge, on the other hand, have found consistency difficult to come of late. Disappointing losses at the start of December to Newport, Port Vale, and Newport again were followed up with a solid Christmas period, but a 5-2 defeat at the hands of relegation threatened Forest Green Rovers has meant that the U’s find themselves some way off the top seven – and their hosts, for that matter. United have been woeful on their travels so far this season, having picked up only eleven points from a possible forty-two, with the last victory away from home coming at Crewe all the way back in mid-September. However, records are there to be broken, and Shaun Derry and his players will see this as a fantastic opportunity to break their away hoodoo and begin climbing the table.

HEAD TO HEAD

Cambridge United and Coventry City have only faced each other in a competitive capacity twice in the new millennium, with the U’s coming out on top on both occasions. In December 2016, a Luke Berry inspired Cambridge United team trounced a despondent City side 4-0 in the Second Round of the 2016/17 FA Cup, with that man Berry scoring all four, including a first-half hat-trick. It was a much closer affair when the two sides met at The Abbey in September 2017, but again it was Derry’s men who came out on top, with Jabo Ibehre and Uche Ikpeazu goals either side of a Duckens Nazon equaliser securing a 2-1 win for the hosts. So, despite the odds looking bleak, the U’s will be looking to maintain their positive recent record against Coventry when they travel to the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday night.

ONES TO WATCH

Duckens Nazon and Jodi Jones stole the show during the reverse fixture, but neither will feature as the two sides meet again. Nazon’s loan spell has ended, he’s returned to his parent club Wolverhampton Wanderers, and his form while on loan at Coventry has earned him a move to League One Oldham Athletic. Jodi Jones, on the other hand, has been touted as one of the best players in the division, and proved as such on his visit the The Abbey, where he gave United’s defenders a torrid time but has since been ruled out for the rest of this campaign through injury. So, who will be the ones to watch for the hosts?

Marc McNulty is the obvious pick, having hit a purple patch of form in recent weeks which has seen the former Portsmouth and Sheffield United frontman on target in nine of his last ten outings in league action. Staying with City’s forward options, French striker Maxime Biamou will be looking to follow up an impressive performance at Stadium:MK on Saturday, during which he notched the only goal of the game to send his side into the fifth round of the FA Cup at the expense of their League One opposition.

In the midfield, Ben Stevenson is an academy graduate at the Ricoh who has recently broken into the first-team set up, and has been linked with big money January moves away to the likes of Wigan Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Michael Doyle returned to the Sky Blues after six years away for a second spell at the club, having previously spent eight years in the midlands, during which time he made well over two-hundred appearances at in the Championship. His 700-plus career appearances will provide crucial experience, having won promotion with Yorkshire giants Leeds United and also boasting a League Two winner’s medal after lifting the trophy as Portsmouth captain last season. Coventry have got one of the best defensive records in the country, and the likes of Jack Grimmer and Rod McDonald will also be looking to maintain this with a clean sheet.

THE BETTING

Coventry 17/20 – Draw 5/2 – Cambridge 4-1

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