If Brian Moore had opened tonight’s iFollow coverage from St Andrews, no one would have batted an eyelid, the pitch looking like something rarely seen since the days of Midweek Sport Special. The rain teemed down and the opening minutes of the game were like the first weeks of Dancing on Ice.
City’s players began to find their feet and move the ball around deftly. Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell, in particular, seemed to have decided that running the ball through the midfield quagmire was the safest move. Time after time Cantwell skipped around players afraid to commit to a tackle on the greasy surface.
First blood so nearly fell to City. Teemu Pukki was put through on goal, squared to Cantwell who seemed to get slightly in front of the ball before tumbling to the ground.
Coventry offered little in attack until a quick ball forward saw Grant Hanley tangle with Coventry’s Walker and pick up a soft-looking yellow for slight touch on the forward’s shoulder
From then on, City turned on the style, sweeping forward and seemingly creating chances at will.
Finally, on 28 minutes, Ollie Skipp played the ball to Emi Buendia. The Argentinian maestro took a touch and then played a fabulously weighted, defence-splitting ball into the curving run of Pukki. It was a trademark finish from the Finnish striker.
City poured forward. With Dimitris Giannoulous offering the width on the left, Cantwell was free to roam across the pitch. He was at the centre of most moves, fetching, carrying the ball and playing some great cross-field balls. He received the ball on the edge of the Norwich area and made an audacious flick to take the ball away from the attacker.
It looked like City were going to go into half-time with only one goal to show for their dominance, then, in a reverse of the weekend, Pukki robbed the defender and burst through on goal. He looked odds on to score but he unselfishly squared the ball to a grateful Buendia to tap in.
Mark Robins had a job to do at half time. He switched to two up front and in the second-half took the game to Norwich.
Coventry were contesting more balls in the middle of the pitch and the two strikers were making it a difficult evening for Hanley and Ben Gibson, particularly when Gibson too picked up a yellow.
Coventry were largely restricted to shots from distance though as City defended resolutely and with depth. When they won the ball, the Canaries concentrated far more on controlling the possession as they took the sting out of the game. Kieran Dowell came on for Matio Vrancic and made some promising touches in an energetic cameo, but ultimately his chances to influence the game were limited.
Cantwell had been having off-the-ball afters with a few of the Coventry players for most of the second half and he and Skipp made way for Christoph Zimmermann and Lukas Rupp as Farke made to see the game out.
The well-controlled second-half was slightly spoiled by the late news of a Swansea winner, but City had done what was necessary.
So, a fabulous first-half performance followed by a thoroughly professional and controlled second half on a quagmire of a pitch that City must visit again next week. Get your flares and kipper ties ready…