The Build Up: Coventry vs Middlesbrough
The games are coming thick and fast and next up for Boro is the visit to St Andrews to face Mark Robins’ Coventry City.
Boro head into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw with Cardiff City. A lapse in concentration saw Sean Morrison head home from a Will Vaulks long-throw and hold the lead until Paddy McNair tapped home a Chuba Akpom flick on in the 82nd minute. It was a performance which manager Neil Warnock felt warranted his side to take home all three points after the Reds “dominated the game”.
The game saw the return of Marcus Tavernier to the side despite Warnock’s comments that he may require an extra week. It was a much-desired return and the absence of his energy in recent weeks was made clear to see with his non-stop running and buzzing around the midfield. Given that Tavernier came out unscathed, it is likely that he will once again feature from the start in the midfield.
Warnock is hopeful that winger Yannick Bolasie will be fit to feature this week, with the Congolese international facing a late fitness test ahead of the game against the Sky Blues. Bolasie has missed the last few matches with a hamstring injury sustained in training. The winger had impressed on his few appearances so far, proving to be a direct and tricky winger that Boro have been craving for years.
After having the captaincy taken off him, it is unlikely that Assombalonga will start, I would presume. An assist from Chuba Akpom to cap off a battling substitute performance should be enough to see him in from the start.
Neeskans Kebano was dropped to the bench on Saturday but changed the game after being brought on. It was his ability to take the ball on the turn and drive with it to force an opening in the opposition backline, ultimately resulting in the Boro equaliser. The influence of Kebano on the game will be much to the admiration of Neil Warnock, with the on-loan Fulham man likely to start in Boro’s attack against Coventry.
Coventry City have found themselves in a sticky bit of form recently, but that hasn’t been helped by a run of difficult fixtures. The Sky Blues have played all the top four in February in addition to play-off chasing Cardiff. Mark Robins’ side are one of those that have struggled with conceding goals, with only Huddersfield and Wycombe having scored more than Coventry thus far, despite the side winning league one last year as a result of their defensive solidity.
Gus Hamer has won plenty of admirers this season in the middle of the Coventry team. The Dutch midfielder was brought in in the summer from PEC Zwolle for a fee in excess of £1m. Hamer arrived with little reputation surrounding him, but his robustness in midfield has earned plaudits amongst Championship pundits this term. The Dutchman has found himself on the wrong side of disciplinary records this season but has chipped in with five goals so far for Mark Robins’ Sky Blues.
Last time out Boro ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Britt Assombalonga and Djed Spence. After a quiet first half, it took Boro until the 81st minute to break the deadlock after Sam Morsy threaded a ball through to Assombalonga to finish beyond Marosi. An incisive breakaway helped Boro clinch three points at Marcus Browne played in Spence to seal the victory.
An extremely balanced head-to-head record between Middlesbrough and Coventry City. Although, it is Boro who hold the better record by just the single win. The two sides hadn’t met since 2012, before their meeting at The Riverside Stadium earlier on this season.
Boro Wins: 17
Coventry wins: 16