Coventry boost play-off hopes with win over Birmingham in front of record crowd
Josh Eccles scored his first career goal as Coventry strengthened their grip on a play-off place in the Sky Bet Championship with a 2-0 victory over Birmingham.
Top scorer Viktor Gyokeres was also on the scoresheet from the penalty spot for Mark Robins’ men, who took their points tally for the season to 69, three ahead of seventh-placed Sunderland with one game remaining.
It took less than three minutes for academy graduate Eccles to net his first Sky Blues goal on his 48th league appearance in front of a record league attendance of 30,175 at the CBS Arena.
Sweden international Gyokeres was the architect, driving into the box before cutting the ball back and picking out the 23-year-old to side-foot his effort beyond Neil Etheridge.
John Eustace’s men were forced to withstand an early onslaught from the home side, the returning Kyle McFadzean narrowly headed Gustavo Hamer’s corner wide of the post before Auston Trusty’s last-ditch tackle prevented Hamer getting a shot in on goal.
Coventry, who won the League One title whilst ground sharing at Birmingham’s St. Andrew’s between 2019 and 2021, were awarded a penalty minutes before half-time when referee James Linnington adjudged Jordan James to have handled in the box.
Gyokeres stepped up to slot his effort to Etheridge’s left and take his goal tally for the season to 21.
Birmingham, who had manager Eustace send to the stands at half-time, failed to muster an effort on goal in the opening 45 minutes with lone striker Lukas Jutkiewicz cutting an isolated figure in attack, marshalled by the three Sky Blue centre backs of McFadzean, Luke McNally and Callum Doyle.
Things went from bad to worse for the Blues when Tahith Chong was carried off on a stretcher with a serious-looking injury on 65 minutes.
Coventry d almost wrapped things up when Gyokeres powered his way past Trusty but blasted wildly over.
Matt Godden then left Marc Roberts in his wake and slipped in Gyokeres to slot home, but he was denied by the offside flag.
Birmingham continued to struggle in attack and their first second half effort came through Roberts, who glanced his header wide after an inswinging corner.
Robins’ side, who will travel to Middlesbrough on the final day knowing it could be a precursor to a play-off tie against Michael Carrick’s men, almost added a third when the flying Etheridge tipped Jake Bidwell’s long-distance effort over the bar.
However, the Sky Blues saw out the final 10 minutes, despite Juninho Bacuna’s effort rattling the bar, to make it six matches unbeaten and secure a 20th clean sheet of the season for goalkeeper Ben Wilson.