WITH two games to go before the halfway point in the National League One season, director of rugby Rowland Winter believes Coventry are on course for a good finish to the season.
Expectations have been high in recent seasons without coming to fruition, but
Winter and his new coaching team refused to set targets when they arrived at Butts Park in the summer.
And while conceding that there are areas to address – particularly the side’s away performances – Winter is happy with Cov’s current position and believes that clear progress has been made.
“By halfway through the season we wanted to know more about our players individually, to have worked out which partnerships work and which don’t, and to understand the basics of our game,” said Winter. “What have we got up front in terms of set piece, can we play tactically, and where our defence and our attack are at.
“Back in the summer, if someone had said we’d be in the top six at this point, having learnt a lot of lessons and in a position to kick on over the second half of the season, I’d have taken that with both hands.
“Whether you look at this as a two, three, or however many year project, we have to learn the lessons of the first year and not repeat the mistakes, so probably the only disappointing part so far is that there have been some performances – particularly away to the London clubs – where we clearly haven’t learnt those lessons yet. That’s been the most frustrating aspect.
“It’s not necessarily about where we finish in the league, it’s about what we do in the games. League position – as long as we don’t get relegated – is completely irrelevant to me.”
Winter acknowledges the desire for success among Cov’s loyal support, added to the sense of disappointment they must feel at some of the away performances, and stresses that improvement there is a major target.
“It’s now about showing that we can perform away from home,” he said. “We need to continue to build on our home form and make it a very difficult place for people to come and play, but we also need to make sure that we perform consistently away from home as well.
“If we get to the end of April and we’ve only really won games at home, then we’ve got a big target for the following season, but it’s not something that we’re overly concerned about. We’ve got plenty of opportunities between now and the end of the season to put it right.
“It doesn’t come down to how much the players want things, or passion or commitment. Anyone who comes down and watches how we train will see that there is plenty of that.
“It comes down purely to whether we’re good enough to compete at that level under pressure away from home, and so far we haven’t met the targets that we’ve set ourselves or the targets we’ve achieved at home.”
Added Winter: “In general terms, I think we’re well on track.
“We’ve now used pretty much everybody in our first-team squad and the majority of those players have had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate what they’ve got and what they can add to the team.
“The team has developed week by week and when we’ve got it right we’ve demonstrated that we’ve got a strong scrum and line-out, the latter being an area we’re focusing on to get a bit more consistency.
“We’ve also demonstrated that we’ve got a fantastic running rugby game that can really expose teams and open them up, and we can play at a high pace that teams can’t handle.
“The simple aim is to repeat that week on week, and to do that we need consistency in our selection so the boys can gel and create partnerships.
“Then it comes down to performance and consistency in that, and so far we’ve been a bit up and down.
“At home we’ve performed well and only lost once, to Hartpury College when we pushed them closer than any other team has this season, and then away from home we’ve won well at Hull Ionians, Moseley and Ampthill have been close forward battles in poor conditions that we’ve lost on the day, and then our performances haven’t been good enough in terms of our accuracy away to the three London clubs.
“We’ve shown a high level of accuracy at home, we can’t repeat that away from home, and that’s the biggest thing we’ll look to address in the next couple of weeks and in the second half of the season.”