Points or a performance?
Sheffield United’s Nigel Clough and his counterpart Steven Pressley entered today’s contest at Sixfields Stadium hoping their respective teams would deliver both.
But, even at this early stage of League One season, both Clough and Coventry City’s manager will acknowledge that results are more important than the manner in which they are achieved.
Certainly United, with the likes of Craig Alcock, Stefan Scougall and Michael Higdon all returning to the starting 11, enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges with Jamie Murphy nearly taking advantage of a mix-up between Jordan Willis and Ryan Allsop while Ben Davies also hit the wall with an eighth minute free-kick.
But it was Michael Higdon who went closest to breaking the deadlock when he forced Ryan Allsop to make an excellent 16th minute save after meeting Davies’ deep cross towards the far post.
Neither of these two teams had made positive starts to the new campaign with the visitors beaten on the opening day by Bristol City while Pressley’s side, who also bowed out of the Capital One Cup in midweek, losing to their namesakes from Bradford.
United, who dispatched Mansfield Town en route to the second round of the tournament, had made eight changes to their starting eleven for that contest also recalled the likes of Craig Alcock, Harrison McGahey and Louis Reed while Stefan Scougall took part having passed a fitness test.
Higdon and Chris Basham were both waiting to pounce when Ryan Flynn, swapping wings with Murphy midway through the first-half, delivered a low centre goalwards but a deflection diverted the ball into Allsop’s path.
Coventry began to find some passing rhythm as the contest progressed with Reda Johnson,
struggling to contain Higdon at one end of the pitch, getting a glancing touch on a 27th minute header at the other end of the pitch which saw Jim O’Brien unleash a speculative effort which Alcock duly cleared.
Then, Murphy and Flynn, usually on opposite sides of the pitch, combined with the latter’s cross just evading the onrushing Harris at the far post.
Mark Howard, with new signing Iain Turner on the bench, comfortably saved O’Brien’s set-piece after Alcock had been adjudged to have fouled Marcus Tudgay. With Chris Basham receiving a 35th minute caution for a seemingly innocuous foul, Coventry began to take charge as the interval beckoned.
Howard produced an eye-catching save to claw Danny Swanson’s curling shot away to safety.
With neither manager electing to make a change for the start of the second period, the contest continued to unfold in much the same manner.
Coventry, and Jordan Clarke in particular, wasted some promising positions soon after the re-start while United, despite showing greater match craft, struggled to wrestle back the momentum they had enjoyed earlier on.
But, for the most part, the game simply drifted with both Clough and Pressley pacing their technical areas trying to fathom how best to change the flow.
United made a double change in the 61st minute with Jose Baxter and Jay McEveley, making his debut, replacing Ryan Flynn and Stefan Scougall. Coventry followed suit with former United player Shaun Miller entering the fray as Josh McQuoid departed.
Harris was cautioned for clipping Miller’s heels when he attempted to dance through the visitors’ defence while Doyle came on with 20 minutes remaining when Reed was withdrawn.
Daniels and Swanson exchanged places for Coventry five minutes later.
But, in the 78th minute, an own goal from Harris gave them the lead when the defender turned home from Jim O’Brien as he tried to clear and adjust his feet.
Six minutes later, Thomas replaced Fleck and although United applied some pressure during four minutes of added time, an equaliser proved elusive.
COVENTRY CITY: Allsop, Willis, Webster, Johnson, Fleck, McQuoid, Swanson, O’Brien,
Tudgay, Clarke, Haynes. Not used: Burge, Thomas, Coulibaly, Miller, Daniels, Phillips, Finch.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Howard, Alcock, Harris, Basham, Flynn, Murphy, Scougall, Davies,
McGahey, Higdon, Reed. Not used: Doyle, Baxter, McNulty, Collins, McEveley, Campbell-Ryce,