…and I’m definitely excited about this one.
The visit to Fylde is certainly going to be an interesting one in as much as supporters will be hoping to see a positive response on the pitch to the obvious frustration expressed by Rowland Winter off it immediately after the exciting, if rather unconvincing, win against Esher last weekend.
The Coventry players will certainly need to provide their own version of Blackpool rock if they are to overcome what will be Fylde side keen to get back to winning ways having lost their last four games, albeit against strong opposition in the shape of Plymouth (a), Esher (a), Hartpury (h) and Blackheath (a).
Given the expansive rugby Fylde are capable of playing, and playing very well at times, our defence is going to have to be a lot more solid than it was last week, that’s for sure.
Despite last weekend’s defeat to Plymouth (29-21), I’m sure Fylde will have come away from what is one of the toughest National 1 grounds on which to visit in reasonable spirits, having fielded a match day squad that included eleven (yes, 11!) players who were under 21 and with an average age of just 24…plenty of optimism there for the long term then, if not the short.
With the form away from home that Coventry have been showing this season and after such a tough run of fixtures of late, Plymouth must feel that today offers them a good chance of halting the poor run of results, as well as redressing the balance somewhat following Fylde’s emphatic defeat at the BPA back in October.
And whenever we’ve play Fylde in the past, I’ve always felt that they give themselves a chance because of the attacking, run everything from everywhere, approach that they have tended to show in so many previous encounters. I’ve seen Fylde play in a really cavalier way over the years – great to watch, although it can be a little self-destructive at times.
That said, if Cov don’t come out of the changing room fired up and focused, we could well be a couple of tries down early doors – and that wouldn’t be the first time that has happened this season away from home.
I’m not sure if the team travelled up last night or set out early this morning; I did ask RW weeks ago which games would involve an overnight stay and for the life of me I can’t remember what he said…I’m not convinced they are, in which case it will be just that little bit tougher.
Relatively few changes again to the match day squad this week, RW again showing a fair degree of consistency in selection – how different from last year when players came in and out of the side all too frequently and at times it was hard to understand the reasoning behind some of the selection decisions. To be fair, we were plagued by injuries for much of the season but that certainly didn’t explain all the changes…
The other bonus this year, and it is something I think everyone appreciates, is the explanation of the ins and outs accompanying the team news. It certainly helps supporters understand selection by putting decisions into some sort of context…
Take Pete White’s exclusion this week. 10 consecutive games is probably as much as anyone in the team has played this season and with RW favouring the rotation of players, it makes sense to give him a rest, whilst also ensuring he is recharged for the England Counties games coming up shortly.
Good management of players and the sort of thing that I imagine players respect. It isn’t always club first…
Sam Grasso made a very good impression when he joined us back in August and I am sure he’ll be keen to make up for lost time…I think we’ll see him attack more, especially around the fringes and, like White, he seems to like to keep the play moving. Not having played so long might well mean he’ll tire a little in the final quarter, but with White able to come on from the bench if required, the cover is there.
Although there were obvious concerns last week about the defensive lapses that allowed Esher to make in-roads deep into Coventry territory on far too many occasions, I thought Wheatcroft and Maisey provided a few more options in attack than we’ve seen for a while from the Cov midfield. The inclusion of new signing Heath Stevens is obviously going to provide additional opportunities for the coaches, I imagine the likelihood being that Stevens eventually becomes first choice 12, provided he can show the form that we know he is capable of.
Rob Knox arrived at Cov the season after Heath Stevens left, so we haven’t seen them play together, but the two could complement each other really well. With perhaps a couple of signings in the backs, one to cover James Stokes and another wing as well, we’ll have the makings of a really dangerous set of backs. Tony Fenner and Will Maisey have impressed all season, especially Fenner who is beginning to show some real form and with the likes of Corey Hircock, Cliff Hodgson and Max Trimble as well, there is plenty of depth.
Last week Rob Knox looked as if he had something to prove and during the 40 minutes he was on for, I got the distinct impression he certainly wasn’t hampered by some of the injury concerns that have plagued him over the last couple of seasons. He didn’t seem to hold anything back in the tackle and his rampaging runs suggested he is certainly fitter than he has been for a while – if he can stay fit, then not only will he do his own cause a great deal of good, Coventry’s will benefit too.
I have to admit, initially I was a little confused by the inclusion of Jake Byrne on the bench as a replacement for Matt Price. I understood he was a prop, which is confirmed on the website, and at one point before Christmas I remember him coming on for the last 20 to replace Boris at loose-head. However, it seems that whilst he is indeed a loose-head, he can also scrum at hooker and Jimmy Litchfield is a tight-head prop who can play loose-head and also throw into a lineout. With Matt Price having played in mid-week, Jake’s inclusion does mean Matt can take a break before the Plymouth game next week, a game where we would very much want to have our strongest match day squad available.
I thought Tom Poole’s inclusion into the fray at half time last weekend made a big difference to the outcome of the game and I wondered if he might get the nod over Josh Peters. However, the coaches have decided to stick with the same pairing in the second row that started against Esher – with only these three second rows at the club now, they’ll need to be used carefully to avoid being overplayed.
The back row remains the same; how quick they are to the breakdown will have a big impact on the result of today’s game. If they can prevent the ball getting beyond the first or second phases Coventry will have the upper hand. If Fylde get some ball out wide, then they have the runners to cause us problems and we’ll have to be sure that we don’t miss first tackles in quite the numbers we did against Esher.
I’m looking forward to the trip up to Fylde this morning…
…the trip back down very much depends on the result.
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Up the Cov