Coventry & Boro semi finely balanced after first-leg draw

Daily News
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The Championship play-off semi-final between Coventry and Middlesbrough remains in the balance after an entertaining goalless draw in the first leg.

Following on from the 1-1 draw between the teams on Monday’s final day of the regular season, where Boro hit back to secure a point, Michael Carrick’s side were utterly dominant in the first half at the Coventry Building Society Arena and hit the crossbar through Chuba Akpom inside 15 minutes.

The tables turned after the break as Coventry grew into the game, attempting six shots to Middlesbrough’s two, but there was no way through for either side, meaning there is everything to play for in the second leg, which takes place on Wednesday night, live on Sky Sports Football.

Middlesbrough's Riley McGree (right) and Coventry City's Liam Kelly battle for the ball

Image: Middlesbrough’s Riley McGree (right) and Coventry City’s Liam Kelly battle for the ball

How Coventry and Middlesbrough drew for the second time in a week

Given the fact they had only won two of their final eight games in the regular season, Middlesbrough looked reluctant to commit themselves early on, leading to a cagey start in front of a bumper crowd at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

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Coventry goalkeeper Ben Wilson produces a stunning save to deny Middlesbrough’s Chuba Akpom the opening goal

Suddenly, though, they moved through the gears at pace. Riley McGree threaded the ball through to Akpom, with the division’s Golden Boot winner only denied by a big hand from Sky Blues goalkeeper Ben Wilson, which sent the ball looping up on to the crossbar and away.

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Coventry goalkeeper Ben Wilson comes to their rescue with a save to deny Middlesbrough’s Isaiah Jones

That chance gave Boro confidence and allowed them to establish a grip on proceedings. It looked as if Coventry’s best chances would come from set-pieces, although given their division-low tally of seven goals scored in that manner all season, there was little hope – and that was proven as four first-half corners produced nothing of note.

Four minutes before the break, Boro had the ball in the net when Akpom’s delicate pass forward was smartly finished off by Isaiah Jones, but the linesman’s flag came to the hosts’ rescue.

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Akpom goes close for Middlesbrough as they look for a breakthrough

Akpom had another chance to give Boro the lead less than two minutes into the second half, when he glanced just wide after being picked out by McGree’s neat cross, but Coventry made it clear they were no longer prepared to be on the back foot.

They looked much more threatening after that, but the Boro backline were always well-placed to prevent Zack Steffen having anything to deal with, meaning the game ended without a goal.

Robins pleased ahead of second leg

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Coventry manager Mark Robins says he is happy with his side’s draw against Middlesbrough and has described the second leg of their play-off semi-final on Wednesday as epic

Coventry manager Mark Robins on Sky Sports:

“It’s finely balanced. There wasn’t a great deal in it. Chuba had the two best chances in the game. We know they’re a good side and they proved it. We had to work hard to block them but I think we’ve dealt well with the two best strikers in the division.

“We’ll go up there for the second leg and we’re in it. That’s all we can ask at this stage. I thought we played okay. We were without the ball for quite long periods, but we grew into it in the second half and had a decent spell. With a bit of an edge and a bit more quality, we could have nicked something. But we’re happy with a 0-0 going into a really big game on Wednesday.”

Carrick delighted with clean sheet

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Middlesbrough head coach Michael Carrick says he was delighted with his side’s clean sheet at Coventry as they head into the second leg of their play-off semi-final all square

Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick on Sky Sports:

“I’m over the moon with the clean sheet. I thought the boys at the back and the two lads in front of them protected us really well. They’re a massive threat and have good players in their front line, and we had to be at our best defensively to cope with that.

“The other way we didn’t have quite enough penetration. But as it is it’s all square going into the next game, and we probably would have taken that.”

Analysis: Tie is well poised

Jobi McAnuff on Sky Sports:

“We saw two teams who showed a lot of endeavour but lack a bit of quality around the boxes. There weren’t many opportunities on goal but it’s really important to give yourself an opportunity ahead of the second leg, and both teams realised that in the second half. It resulted in a nervy and tense affair at times.”

Hal Robson-Kanu on Sky Sports:

“We said before the game it would be tight and cagey at times, and the key for both teams was to make sure they didn’t lose. Middlesbrough will be pleased in terms of not conceding and taking a draw back to the Riverside.

“From Coventry’s perspective, they were under the cosh, but it showed their resilience that they didn’t win but came out of the game without losing. That will be a massive boost. And it tees up the magnitude of the game on Wednesday night.”

Player of the Match – Paddy McNair

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Man of the match Paddy McNair and team-mate Darragh Lenihan reflect on their side’s goalless draw with Coventry in the Championship play-offs

Middlesbrough’s Paddy McNair on Sky Sports:

“I think probably overall it was a fair result. I thought first half we were the better side but they came into it second half. It was a tough game in tough conditions.

“Our home form has been good since the manager came in. Hopefully, we can put in a good performance and get the win that will take us to Wembley.”

What’s next?

Wednesday 17th May 7:30pm Kick off 8:00pm

Sky Sports Football Sky Sports Football

The second leg will be played at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium home at 8pm on Wednesday May 17, live on Sky Sports Football.

There, the teams will battle it out for a place in the Sky Bet League Championship play-off final, which will take place at Wembley Stadium at 4.45pm on Saturday May 27.

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