Happy New Year to all my readers. Here’s hoping the Sky Blues’ recent form continues into 2013 and that the skies over Coventry are brighter than in the last few years.
Before Christmas I commented on City’s amazing away form and that continued over the Christmas programme and City have now won six consecutive away league games – smashing the four game record run set in 1963 and equalled in 1992 and 2004. The wins over Stevenage and MK Dons were especially satisfying in that in both games the team came from behind to win – for the first time in away games since September 2009 at Watford. That night City won 3-2 thanks to a late Leon Best goal. At Milton Keynes they twice came from behind to win – something unheard of since an opening day Premiership victory over Chelsea in 1997!
The away form is a fitting reward to the Sky Blue Army who follow City away and have had to put up with some dire away form in the last three seasons. City’s away followings are 40% higher this season with an average of over 1200 following the massive turnout of 4,988 at MK – the highest away league following since the Villa Park funeral in 2001. Before this season the long-suffering Sky Blue Army had seen just 16 away league wins in four seasons (92 games) and to date this season they have witnessed seven wins out of 13 plus two cup wins and seen just one defeat (at Brentford) since Mark Robins arrived in October.
Sadly the home form still gives cause for concern and Shrewsbury provided the banana skin on New Years Day, completing an unlikely double with their first away win of the season and their first ever victory in Coventry not to mention ending a 10-game unbeaten run – the best by a City side for ten years. The Shrews had previously drawn four and lost eight of their games at Highfield Road, including a 8-1 hammering in October 1963 – the last time City scored more than six in a league game. City’s home league form is very poor with only three wins in 13 games and a big improvement will be necessary if a serious play-off challenge is going to be made.
Another record went west on New Years Day; the Sky Blues had scored in 24 consecutive league and cup games and were heading for the club record of 29 set in the 1966-67 promotion season. The run was however the second best of all-time.
People have been asking if promotion is a realistic option this season and I have looked at the last ten season’s statistics for League One. To finish in the top two automatic places has historically required 83 or more points. On two occasions in those ten years the second placed team required less (77 in 2005-06 and 80 in 2004-05) but last season, in a steel city scramble, Sheffield Wednesday needed 91 to pip the Blades into second place. To reach 85 points say, City would require 48 points from their remaining 20 games or 15 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats. That, to me, sounds a tall order. A more realistic challenge would be for a top six place to go into the play-offs. In the last ten years 71 points has been sufficient to get sixth place on four occasions but in 2003 you needed 81 points and in 2010 80 points. The average to clinch a top six place seems to be around 75 points and City would need a further 38 points from 20 games or 11 wins and five draws. A top six place would require a mammoth effort from Mark Robins’ team.