Coventry City were handed a narrow defeat by Scunthorpe United on the opening day, after a late goal denied Mark Robins’ side a point on their League One return, following Tony Andreu’s spectacular opener.
With the August sun blazing down on the Ricoh Arena, the Sky Blues made a positive start in the first-half, controlling the early tempo.
A darting run from Tom Bayliss inside the first 5 minutes appeared to set the tone for City as, time and again, they looked to get in behind the Iron defence, using the pace of both Biamou and new signing Jordy Hiwula.
Despite City’s early dominance, though, Scunthorpe carried a constant threat, with Lee Novak heading just wide of Liam O’Brien’s far post in the 13th minute, a chance that seemed destined for the back of the net.
The exciting City frontline continued to link up well without creating any clear-cut chances, while solid defending helped keep Nick Daws’ side at bay throughout the opening 20 minutes.
Midway through the first half, however, and the game suddenly sparked into life. The home fans roared as Max Biamou appeared to be brought down in the box, only for the referee’s assistant to flag for offside.
Encouraged by a bright start to the game, the pressure on the Iron defence continued, as the impressive Hiwula was once again unleashed on goal only to see his right-footed drive fizz into the side-netting.
However, Scunthorpe appeared to grow in confidence and were fast to respond with Scunthorpe captain Novak hitting the post with a header from a Cameron Borthwick-Jackson corner, just before the half-hour mark.
This back-and-forth ignited both sides, as City’s new-look backline showcased their battling qualities moments later.
A header from Iron defender Charlie Goode was cleared by Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling, which was then followed up by a goal-line clearance as Andy Dales looked to put the visitors ahead.
Not to be overshadowed on the team’s return to League One, the Sky Blues ended the first-half with a flurry of chances to leave fans optimistic at the break.
Tony Andreu fired a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that was pushed onto the post of Rory Smith’s goal after the 22-year-old was called into action, with ten minutes remaining in the first-half.
Recent arrival from Fleetwood, Hiwula, also had another attempt at goal before the interval, but it was Biamou that had the standout chance of the first-half.
After debutant Brandon Mason had his cross headed away by Goode, the 27-year-old striker attempted an audacious overhead kick from outside the area that saw Watson scramble the ball to safety.
The vigour that had dictated the first-half continued into the second, with veteran midfielder James Perch forcing O’Brien to tip the ball over the bar, after the 32-year-old fired a volley from distance.
Though, having threatened in the first period and spurred on by the vocal Sky Blues support, it was the returning Andreu that broke the deadlock, curling in a delicious free-kick from the edge of the box on 52 minutes.
The 30-year-old spent the majority of last season on the side-lines, but there seemed to be an air of inevitability as the former Norwich midfielder stepped up to fire the ball beyond Watson.
With the crowd in full voice, Mark Robins’ side seemed to reach another gear, as City created chance after chance, immediately after taking the lead.
Following his goal, it was Andreu who seemed to at the heart of every attack, with the Frenchman firing just wide, after Bayliss hit the crossbar with a looping effort, five minutes after opening the scoring.
New signing Abu Ogogo also came close to opening his account for the Sky Blues, with the former Shrewsbury captain’s volley striking the woodwork, just after the hour.
Despite all the home side’s positive play, City suffered their first setback of the new season, as Stephen Humphrys put the Iron on level terms on 69 minutes. Teed up by Duane Holmes, it was a debut goal for the 20-year-old Fulham loanee.
In a bold attempt to inject some fresh impetus into his side, Mark Robins made a triple substitution on 76 minutes, with 19-year-old centre-back Jordon Thompson being handed his Football League debut, as well as Jonson Clarke-Harris and Jordan Shipley arriving from the bench.
The game struggled to regain its earlier rhythm following Scunthorpe’s equaliser, and the Sky Blues’ day soured as Andy Dales put the Iron in front on 81 minutes. Signed from Mickelover Sport this summer, the 23-year-old rounded off a smart move with a tidy finish into the left-hand corner, from just inside the area.
The late drama continued, as Mark Robins’ hunted for an equaliser in added time. Andreu attempted to replicate his earlier exploits, when a free-kick from close-range had Watson at full stretch.
And it wasn’t long before Watson was called into action once more. A deflected shot from Jordan Shipley found Hiwula, whose swivelled shot produced the finest save of the match.
Despite City’s late surge, however, the Scunthorpe backline held strong to deny City a share of the spoils on the opening day.
Sky Blues Xl: Liam O'Brien (GK), Dujon Sterling, Dom Hyam, Jordan Willis (Thompson, 76), Brandon Mason, Michael Doyle (C), Abu Ogogo, Tom Bayliss (Shipley, 76), Tony Andreu, Jordy Hiwula, Maxime Biamou (Clarke-Harris, 76).
Subs: Corey Addai (GK), Jack Grimmer, Junior Brown, Jordon Thompson, Jordan Shipley, Jordan Ponticelli, Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Scunthorpe United XI: Rory Watson (GK), Jordan Clarke (Lund, 65), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, James Horsfield (Ojo, 55), Stephen Humphrys, Andy Dales, James Perch, Lee Novak (C), Charlie Goode, Cameron Burgess, Olufela Olomola (Holmes, 58).
Substitutes: Jon Flatt (GK), Funso Ojo, Matthew Lund, George Thomas, Duane Holmes, Kyle Wootton, Lewis Butroid.