SKY Blues boss Mark Robins has urged his side to be more instinctive in an attacking sense after missed opportunities were rued in Coventry City’s 2-0 defeat to Preston North End at Deepdale.
Goals either side of the break from Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire settled the contest in favour of the in-form hosts on Tuesday night, handing City a ninth Championship loss this term but moving them above Birmingham City into 17th place – a result of Coventry’s better tally of goals scored with both sides locked on a goal difference of minus ten.
The visitors enjoyed the better share of chances and possession in Lancashire, but ultimately it was the Sky Blues’ decision to overplay the ball at times that perhaps cost them most dear.
Robins epitomised the mood of the City camp after the game, admitting his disgruntlement with the defeat but being open to offering praise to his side for their overall performance.
“I feel frustrated and angry, but there’s part of me that thinks we played some really good stuff and given the game away,” said the 51-year-old.
“Tonight we were on top in the game, we created a load of chances, but looked like we wanted to try and score a perfect goal. That’s one of the biggest things, they have to get a shot away [in those instances].
“We played some brilliant stuff to create those chances and it looks fine – at times it’s breathtaking – [but] when you’ve got the ball in and around the opponent’s box you have to shoot.
“They couldn’t live with us. We were playing some good stuff and gave them the goal which gave them a foothold in the game. We kept going and then gave another poor goal away from a foul.”
With one new face in Ryan Giles slotting into the team that held Stoke City to a goalless draw on Boxing Day last time out, the visiting Sky Blues were keen to impose themselves on the game from the early stages.
So it was no surprise, then, when the first opportunity went the way of the away side – Gustavo Hamer’s 35-yard stab at goal held by North End ‘keeper Declan Rudd following a corner kick.
The next opening to be created resulted in the breakthrough goal on 18 minutes, just not of a Sky Blues persuasion to the dismay of Robins and Co., as Johnson slotted home from close range after being fed the ball by Maguire.
Hamer was at it again to threaten the hosts’ rearguard, this time from inside the penalty area when ghosting in to meet Matty Godden’s drilled cross, but lacking the direction to ever trouble Rudd.
That was the last of the first-half action from either side, though the second period was a far more enthralling affair as Coventry threw themselves forward with regularity.
Rudd had to be alert to palm away a Fankaty Dabo cross-shot that threatened to creep into the net, while Callum O’Hare failed to find the target after getting his head to Ryan Giles’ centre.
Then, with City exposed at the back, Preston doubled their advantage eight minutes into the second half when Maguire slammed home during a bout of pinball inside the visitors’ penalty area.
A 20-yard volley from Jamie Allen went close to bringing the game back into contention, but was another example of a shot that failed to give Alex Neil’s side much to worry about.
City could have come no closer to halving the deficit when Leo Skiri Østigård headed goalwards from Hamer’s corner, the header drifting wide of the mark from a promising position.
Hamer has been a long-range threat all season so far and almost offered Sky Blues fans another reminder of that when cracking a stinging volley on target from outside the penalty area, forcing a double-save from Rudd who recovered to prevent Sam McCallum’s deflected follow-up.
There was almost a third for Preston late on, McCallum performing his duties excellently down the other end to prevent the scoreline becoming more grave for the away side.
While City were the side that offered the most offensively, the Coventry manager felt the defensive side of the game sometimes played second fiddle during the defeat.
“You’ve got to have people to either tackle, or block and win the ball,” Robins continued.
“There wasn’t enough of that. Other than that [side of things], we played some brilliant stuff.
“It’s a strange one because we should have won that game – it shouldn’t even have been a draw.”
Coventry return on Saturday when visiting Gary Rowett’s Millwall – currently one place above City in the table on 25 points having played two games less.