MATCH-WINNING midfielder Liam Kelly received plenty of plaudits from manager Mark Robins after the Sky Blues captain netted both goals in a 2-1 victory over Wycombe Wanders in Saturday’s meeting at Adams Park.
Two first-half goals from the 30-year-old, who did not last beyond the half-time interval after sustaining a groin injury minutes prior to netting the deciding goal, helped Coventry clinch a fifth Championship victory this term and extend the club’s unbeaten streak to seven matches.
It was the instruction of Robins for his captain to remain on the pitch until the end of the opening period, and while that resulted in a timely goal to double City’s lead, the Coventry manager has mixed emotions about the loss of his skipper.
“I’m happy to take the three points, it’s a big three points for us,” he said.
“We’re one-nil up and then he’s injured and wants to come off, but I asked him to stay on which he did, because that takes away the opportunity to make a substitution and he’s got what turned out to be the winning goal.
“It’s bittersweet really for Kelly and bittersweet for us because we’ll miss him for a period of time now, but ultimately it’s a really good three points for us.
“The team changed around because Max Biamou had a knee injury which meant it was touch and go whether he travelled or not. Gustavo Hamer is one game away from a two-game ban.
“The game changed when Gus came on and we went two up front and scored the goals.
“We knew it was going to be a two-part game, we knew he [Gareth Ainsworth] was going to make the changes that he made – we’d looked at it and planned for it – but it’s really difficult when they’ve got somebody like Adebayo Akinfenwa who comes into the team and causes all sorts of mayhem.”
Incoming midfielders Ben Sheaf and Jordan Shipley were the sole changes for the trip to Buckinghamshire, the latter making a 100th Sky Blues start.
The hosts had more to shout about in the opening stages of the clash, going close through Matt Bloomfield’s volley and an Alex Samuel attempt from a corner kick which required a block by Leo Skiri Østigård.
Eventually, the visitors began to grow into the contest and almost netted with their first opportunity.
After some good work on the ball from playmaker Callum O’Hare, the ball was laid into the path of Kelly to flash a long-range effort inches past the far corner of the net.
But the Coventry skipper was successful with his next attempt from a similar position, thrashing the ball low into the corner from 25 yards out past the beaten Ryan Allsop on 34 minutes.
And the midfielder had the dream ending before his participation was curtailed early through injury, putting City in good stead for another three-point haul when nodding in Østigård’s header across goal following a deep free-kick from Hamer in first-half stoppage time.
A penalty drew the Chairboys back into contention just after the hour mark following a Sheaf push on David Wheeler inside the Sky Blues penalty area – Joe Jacobson beating Ben Wilson with the resulting spot kick.
Hamer was unlucky not to restore the visitors’ two-goal stronghold when a halfway-line attempt clipped the post and ricocheted away after beating the stranded Allsop.
While Wycombe threw caution to the wind and had the ball in the net at the end of the encounter, the raising of the offside flag confirmed a Coventry victory.
Eighteenth-placed Coventry host Huddersfield Town (14th) on Wednesday night in an 8pm kick-off.