Coventry City are just one game away from the Premier League after they secured a 1-0 aggregate win over Middlesbrough in the Championship playoff semi-final on Wednesday night.
Following a stalemate in the home leg, Michael Carrick’s side were perhaps seen as the favourites to progress to the final at Wembley to take on Luton Town, but there was another resolute defensive display from the Sky Blues to continue a fantastic season.
Clean sheets have been vital for Robins’ side and Ben Wilson earned his 22nd of the campaign with another shutout at the Riverside Stadium last night, with Gustavo Hamer’s second-half curler enough for Coventry to progress.
What happened in Middlesbrough vs Coventry?
Chances were at a premium in the first half, with Darragh Lenihan’s header perhaps the closest either side would come to the opener, in what was a nervy atmosphere at the Riverside.
Jamie Allen then spurned a glorious opportunity to give the away side the lead when he failed to get a strong connection on a cross, but it wouldn’t take long for the Sky Blues to score the only goal of the tie.
The ever-willing Viktor Gyokeres latched on to a ball over the top and took the ball around Zack Steffen, before unselfishly leaving it to Gustavo Hamer, who sidestepped a defender before curling into the top corner.
Although Matt Crooks did have the ball in the back of the net, and Cameron Archer hit the bar, both Middlesbrough attackers were offside, as the hosts struggled to create any chances of note.
It is for this reason that, despite Hamer scoring a wonderful goal and hitting the crossbar with a fearsome free-kick, it is arguably Luke McNally who was Robins’ true hero on Wednesday.
How did McNally play against Middlesbrough?
As per Sofascore, the centre-back would earn a superb 7.9/10 rating for his performance, which ranked him joint with Hamer as the best player on the pitch from both sides.
During the 90 minutes, the 23-year-old would contribute a hugely impressive five tackles, five interceptions and two blocks, all of which are an increase on his season average of 2.3 tackles, 2.5 interceptions and 0.8 blocks per Championship game.
Former professional footballer Stephen Elliot dubbed him one of Coventry’s “monsters” for his display and suggested that his physicality could be a difference-maker against Luton in the final.
This is certainly backed up by his performance against Boro, as he contributed a further seven aerial duels won, four clearances and wasn’t dribbled past once, as he kept the dangerous Chuba Akpom and Cameron Archer quiet.
After seeing his parent club Burnley win the title, McNally will be hoping to make it two promotions in one season when the Sky Blues face up against the Hatters at Wembley next weekend.