Saturday, 21 April 2018

My Sixtieth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Stevenage

Once you get past the fact it put a massive spanner in my Friday night plans, playing our game the day before everyone else takes a lot of pressure away from ourselves, win and it's heaped onto everyone surrounding us. If we picked the win here then Mansfield would absolutely have to get maximum points at home to Port Vale otherwise we've got one foot in the play offs. Anyway, that's me doing what I've been guilty of a hell of a lot recently, getting ahead of myself. Ahead of this massive Stevenage game we should have been looking at how we should have beaten Yeovil and what happened there. No excuses.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Kelly
Doyle

Ponticelli
McNulty
Shipley

Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Hyam
Bayliss
Barrett
Reid
Biamou

Just the one change from the side who somehow managed to nick a win at Crawley last week, Tom Bayliss out for Jordan Shipley, on the face of it, this seems like Robins forgetting to take his pills again but apparently Bayliss is practically dead inside and I'd rather have him raring to go against Lincoln wouldn't you? Still however he persists on starting Jonson Clarke-Harris even though Max's introduction last week was what gave us the ability to actually do it. On the other hand though it's always good to have a secret weapon off the bench if things aren't working out. I'd hate to be in Robins' shoes currently.

First Half

Quicker than you can say "Ei ai ei ai ei ai oh, up the Football League we go" Marc McNulty showed why we love him endless amounts. If we ignore the fact that the goalkeeper should have caught the ball, let alone palm it into the top corner, he's still done incredibly well to send two defenders to the cleaners before leathering it 30 yards. We were all in shock that we'd managed to do it so quickly, one of the 14 year old members of the yoof legion was so excited his bottle of coke went right over my head, cheers for that mate.

I'm glad we got the early goal, and Sparky wasn't finished here, the keeper redeemed himself a little bit by pushing his half volley round the post for a corner. Now we've struggled to make a real difference from corners, and this was hardly champagne football but it's a start. Shippers floated the ball in and met the header of Jordan Willis who nodded it down in the direction of McNulty who in the words of Cov's official Twitter "slots it past King". That's not quite what happened, it basically hit his thigh and bounced in. Either way he's claiming it and is steaming off celebrating his 20th league goal of the season.

We were looking comfortable and in control, Stevenage were nothing special to say the least, all you needed to do Rod was absolutely hammer the ball into next week like you do with every single clearance you've ever taken. He took his time and messed about with it a bit and Danny Newton managed to get a nick on it, giving it right to Alex Revell, 2-1. Everything was going so well until they pulled that out of absolutely nowhere. Thankfully though we didn't exactly collapse like you would expect us to, but instead took it as a wake up call.

Doyler received his usual booking when he nearly killed someone in frustration at actually conceding, but then after a bit of pinballing in Stevenage's box Shipley laid it off to Liam Kelly about 30 yards out, and my words from here were more or less "Kelly for gods sake why are you shooting from theeeee-OH MY SWEET JESUS WE'RE GOING UP." The strike was a thing of beauty, like he went, you know what, I don't care, and decided to Roberto Carlos it from one side of the box to the far corner, made all the more astounding being right behind it. Sorry for everything I've said Liam mate, you're a god. He even volleyed one onto the bar in a moment forgotten given how mental the first half was.

We were handed the game on a plate when Luke Wilkinson followed through onto Sparky's knee studs up, not much he could have done but he shouldn't have been so rash in the first place. This was right on the stroke of half time, and we went in at 3-1, had we not gone on and won I would have been so fuming that I'd have ditched the rest of the season. We wouldn't even deserve to be in with a chance of promotion if we bottled it that bad.

Half Time - Coventry City 3-1 Stevenage

Second Half

In terms of an actual quality second half, terrible, honestly can't remember anything worth talking about. In terms of entertainment, right up there, god knows why we chose this point in the season to burst into a 20 minute long rendition of Twist and Shout but I couldn't have possibly enjoyed it more. Just carrying it on, verse after verse was brilliant, even the Stevenage fans joined in at one stage. Take that other clubs, it's our chant (other than The Beatles) and always will beat your pitiful attempts, I'm looking at you West Ham and now Portsmouth apparently.


When we eventually finished the whole ground broke into a massive round of applause and came back even louder instantly with The Sky Blue Song. We may have lost a lot of fans over the past few years and dropped a few leagues, but the passion is still there, I just hope for everyone's sake we go up because I really think this could be promotion or bust you know. Let's not think about that though because I can think of no thought worse than getting stuck in this league.

Full Time - Coventry City 3-1 Stevenage

One. Step. Closer. We found out today that Mansfield drew at home to Port Vale thanks to a last minute equaliser (Luv u Tom Pope x), so we now have a three point cushion over Mansfield in eighth. Beat Lincoln on Tuesday and we are one whole point away from absolutely guaranteeing play offs. The aim should be higher though, we should go for fifth and somehow try and rig it to get Notts County. That's the dream, then like Wycombe at Wembley, we can all hope. All eyes are at Lincoln on Tuesday night, in my opinion the biggest league game since our relegation from the Premier League.

My Man of the Match - Liam Kelly - I apologise for ever being mean to you Liam, even ignoring the goal he was brilliant, a very adequate Tom Bayliss replacement. Obviously bring him back in on Tuesday in a heart beat but this 3 in the middle thing has serious potential, I'm already worried ahead of Tuesday. For gods sake just don't lose.






Sunday, 15 April 2018

My Fifty-Ninth 17/18 Game - Crawley Town vs Coventry City

After last week ended in almost tears when we conceded whilst still trying to haul everyone off the pitch in a huge match, we were dealt with our penultimate (maybe) away day of the season at Crawley for another match which requires the *big game* klaxon. Mansfield only went and won against Chesterfield in the early kick off so by the time we actually got round to our game we were outside the play offs. Anything but a win and everyone is at panic stations finding the nearest Peter Vincenti to eat alive.

Now, every now and again I like to stray off topic a tad and go a bit more personal if it has something to do with the day. I was out quite late on Friday night, never a wise move when your alarm is set for 6:45, so when it did go off and I'd had about an hours sleep I hit my phone in frustration in an attempt to snooze and get an extra golden 10 minutes in bed. Next thing I know, it's 8:15 and my mate is ringing me asking where I am as the coach is leaving. Not my finest hour but someone thankfully stepped in last minute so I was able to write another edition to the reports we all know and love.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Bayliss
Doyle
Kelly

Ponticelli
McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Stokes
Shipley
Reid
Barrett
Biamou

Mark Robins is a raving lunatic, but a bloody genius despite it. There's 5 games to go, we desperately need points and have a tough away game, so he completely changes the tactic and makes four changes to a side that played alright at Notts County. Who the hell am I to question the wizard himself though? Haynes was back in for Stokes, Biamou was out for Clarke-Harris, lord and saviour Jordan Willis returned from injury to replace Tom Davies and Shipley was out for none other than 60 second hero Jordan Ponticelli. This is not a drill, this is a 4-3-3, sparked probably by the fact we need goals and statistically the more strikers you play the more goals you might score. Also I don't think anyone knows who we're meant to play on the right wing so this did make some sense, even if it was a ginormous risk.

First Half

It was sunny, we were in a terrace, I couldn't see a thing but in the first attack of the game we only went and bagged. McNulty got played in on the right and drove down the flank, squaring into Ponticelli who somehow got it through a mess of players on the line, putting us 1-0 up. Now some people suggested last weeks celebrations caused the goal, and I'd disagree, this week however I'm absolutely sure they did. We've just gone 1-0 up at Crawley to barely send us back into the play offs, who in gods name decided that singing "We are going up" would be befitting of the situation.

In natural fashion, we immediately didn't know what to do and just decided to collapse, we got away without conceding a couple of times thanks to a couple of good point blank saves from Burge. To be fair to them, it was a beautifully worked goal, some quick passing stuffed our defence and Luke Young shot across goal and into the far corner. A great goal don't get me wrong but it was coming as soon as we switched off thinking the game was going to be a cake walk. Back to square one and not being able to see when we attacked thanks to sun and other goalpost.

This was still only about 15 minutes in, and it was beginning to be an awful game of football. It was the single worst passing display I think I've ever witnessed, neither side could string 4 passes together. Doyler in particular was even more sloppy with his passing than usual, Grimmer and Ponticelli appeared as if they physically couldn't play together by law or something. That continued for a good 70 minutes of the match, it was beyond laughable. It was going in our favour as well though, JCH caught onto a stray ball and his 25 yarder was parried over. Liam Kelly earned the final chance of the half when he won the ball back and made it to the edge of the area, but the shot was poor and it was comfortably smothered by Morris.

Half Time - Crawley Town 1-1 Coventry City

Second Half

Nothing really changed early on, it was still the same slightly below average standard where we weren't really creating anything, so to switch things up a bit Reid came on for Bayliss. Thankfully Robins realised this time he's a good impact player but your guess is as good as mine as to what it meant for our formation. Considering we couldn't really get the ball to him with Doyle and Kelly still giving it back to Willis at every opportunity it wasn't properly working. That's when we played our trump card, Maxime Biamou was on for Jonson Clarke-Harris.

The impact was instant, he was chasing down the defence so they had absolutely no time on the ball, just five minutes in he stole the ball back and managed to force it through to McNulty but again Morris saved them from going 2-1 down. In hindsight he really should have scored, however afterwards he hit an overhead kick just wide. We were getting closer to the goal, even Grimmer received the ball at the back stick, he probably should have hit it first time as by the time he'd taken a touch Morris was able to get across goal and get it away.


A minute later Biamou went through but was pushed wide, defenders had got back and it looked as if the chance had gone, he teed it to Ponticelli who out of frustration just leathered it at the goal. Whilst everyone else seems to be ignoring the fact there was a big deflection, that was what carried it into the corner. 2-1. Limbs are everywhere once again, we'd snatched it late on (probably) and both goals came from someone who all year we've been saying isn't ready, quite amazing. That's not to say he's the messiah some people are making him out to be however.

Now, we'd clued on after last weeks shenanigans to not go and concede late doors, and we were maybe a bit over cautious. The remaining 10 minutes was just watching Ponticelli keep it in the corner desperately trying to cling on, it was quite hilarious seeing 2 fully grown defenders unable to dispossess a 19 year old making the second league start of his career. We caught them out in injury time though, Ponts made it through the 3 players trying to rupture his achilles to slide into Kelly, he layed off to Biamou at the back post. Open goal. Keep in mind some of the goals he's scored for us, from about 4 yards out he scuffed wide, god knows if there was a bobble or whatever, but if it was level when that happened he'd have been crucified.

Full Time - Crawley Town 1-2 Coventry City



Bloody hell, we could actually do this you know. This wasn't pretty by any means, but we got the job done, it was all made all the more sweeter given Swindon and Lincoln both lost. We're now up in 6th, I don't want to say it, I really don't want to say it. Friday night we've got Stevenage at home which is as winnable as they come, that means playing before everyone else and POTENTIALLY giving us the advantage over everyone else. It's all ifs and buts...

My Man of the Match - Jordan Ponticelli - He's going places this lad, he's a real poacher, similar to Gary Lineker, from inside the box he's deadly and his awareness won us the game. Saying that, he's nowhere near the finished article just yet, he needs to work on his all round game. Short passing is a key thing, and crossing another, if he's going to stray out to the right so much we need to know he's going somewhere with it. Maybe I'm being harsh though, if he keeps scoring at this crucial stage then we've got nothing to worry about.

Monday, 9 April 2018

My Fifty-Eighth 17/18 Game - Notts County vs Coventry City

Monday's slightly late April Fools Day joke needed to be treated as just that, a one off with no basis as to how our season is going to finish whatsoever. That's the only way we'll truly be able to get past it and make the final push and cement our play off spot, and we start that with possibly the biggest league game in a few years now. So nervously, off four and a half thousand of us plodded to Nottingham for a day which would provide every single emotion possible for the majority of us. It promised to be eventful, and it sure was.


I've been to a lot of pre-match pubs before, and I've seen some tense atmospheres, but crikey this one got very bad, very quickly. I won't go into details because, in the words of Danny Dyer and Phil Mitchell "I ain't no grass", long story short, a flare got set off and it escalated from there with all of Nottinghamshire steaming in thanks to a little bit of blue smoke. Well, at least they clamped down on it enough in the pubs so none got in the ground and there was absolutely no commotion whatsoever. Notice my hilarious wit and use of sarcasm there? Here all week.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
McDonald
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Haynes
Barrett
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Mark Robins showed how ballsy he was with that team selection, I was expecting a couple of changes, but five, is "I'm bloody angry still" territory. Dominic Hyam, Ryan Haynes, Peter "The Scapegoat" Vincenti, Kyel Reid and Jonson Clarke-Harris were all sent packing with Tom Davies, Chris Stokes, Liam Kelly, Jordan Shipley and Maxime Biamou all came back in respectively. Vincenti was banished out of the squad, and I assume he'll never play for the club again after Monday's witch hunt. Tom Bayliss was shifted back out to his completely unnatural position of right wing in his absence as we literally don't have another, fit, player who can play there. I miss Jodi so much.

Kyel Reid is better as an impact player so I'm glad he was dropped for Shipley, that's when we actually decide to sub him on rather than Josh Barrett for christ sake. The anger is already seeping through and I've not even got onto the actual football game yet, wow this is going to be an absolute treat. Ryan Haynes had a poor game against Yeovil, granted, but having Stokes and Shipley down the left is basically admitting we don't want to attack down the left side of the pitch.

First Half

The first fifteen minutes were spent with us tentatively trying not to make howling mistakes which will throw the game away without us even getting a look in. As soon as we got past the "Coventry 0-3 Yeovil" stage the game was actually able to properly start and we grew in confidence as the minutes passed, triggering the realisation that we weren't the worst football team in the world, contrary to what they may have thought in recent days.

It was a fairly dull first 45, but it would be fair to say that the hosts had the slight better of the game, Lee Burge answered his critics with a great one handed save from a volley, proving why he is LEAGUE TWO KEEPER OF THE YEAR and denied possibly the best chance of the half. I can't think of many that appeared on our behalf, maybe a sky high volley from Rod McDonald or Liam Kelly. If McNulty had an extra foot on the last defender then we'd have likely gone 1-0 up but the through ball escaped his feet by a matter of inches.

With his new found confidence of doubling his tally of goals for the club over the course of just one weekend, Maxime Biamou stepped up from 35 yards and pinged one miles over the bar. He was hungry for a goal and recently he's looked like the only one capable, so he was perhaps our only hope. That was until he went absolutely ape at the referee at half time for no apparent reason, getting himself booked and subsequently subbed off because he was about one shirt pull away from walking.

Half Time - Notts County 0-0 Coventry City

Second Half

Everyone's favourite cage fighter Jonson Clarke-Harris dived his way onto the field, before realising he couldn't win a free kick if the game hadn't actually restarted yet. Obviously that's some more of the adored humour I'm providing, but there is some basis to it, you're a good striker Jonson mate, but come on, no need to go down literally every time you're near anyone ever. Whatever the case, we started the better of the teams in the second half, the keeper nearly fumbled the ball into the path of McNulty but smothered just in time for Sparky to hack at his stomach.

The referee was dishing out yellow cards all over the place in the early stages, Liam Noble was booked for practically stamping on Doyler, he was fine don't get me wrong, but the referee very much bottled the sending off. Rod McDonald got one for almost decking him in reaction, and Shola Ameobi (Who's got to be in his late 40s by now) got in on the action by jumping in on the scuffle. In fact it's a wonder Noble wasn't sent off as there must have been two or three second bookable offences after this incident.

Tom Bayliss stopped a counter attack from progressing by dragging their winger down on the left and got a yellow of his own. He's really learning from being partnered with Doyler. Now, onto the nit and grit of the second half, the hosts won a corner, which was met in the air by Jonathan Forte, completed unchallenegd, and into the far corner. Not only was it a poor goal to concede, but not in a million years should it have counted, at the time I was annoyed we'd allowed it to happen, but when you look back at the highlights and see Lee Burge wasn't allowed to actually move to what would be an easy save, it adds a ridiculous amount of petrol to the already massive fire.

Now we had to chase the game, again, what didn't help was Mark Robins' refusal to bring on our best impact player Kyel Reid. After 10 minutes of dilly dallying and a couple of half chances, Jordan Ponticelli came on for Bayliss. Of all players, Bayliss. Kelly or Shipley would have been more logical, now we had even less creativity than before. We were going for the tactic of, the more players you throw at them the more likely we are to score.

Those were my exact thoughts at that time, and I'll say them to not seem like I knew what I was talking about, because of course it went and worked. A goal mouth scramble goes down with about 5 minutes left to play, Kelly had the best chance but Collin one handed pushed it to the side, and somehow they half got it away. It really was looking like we'd never do it if we didn't score there. McNulty flung himself at the clearance with a poor overhead kick, it bounced straight up to Ponticelli, who contrary to my previous words, provided some incredible creativity and came out with an audacious back heel flick into the far corner. 1-1.

Ignoring maybe the Checkatrade run last season, and possibly a few of the FA Cup goals this season, this was the most I've ever celebrated a goal. It was so unexpected, so when we actually did it everyone lost their absolute minds, there were a few on the pitch, a whole load of pyro, and personally when I wasn't on the floor I was jumping on complete strangers in disbelief that we had managed to keep our season alive at the death of the game, with Jordan Ponticelli bagging his first league goal. There was now a real sense of passion from the team, we could really go on and do this. *Sigh* and as we all know, this is when we are at our weakest.


Let's get one thing straight, absolutely no way did the celebrations lead to our downfall, that is a ridiculous statement. They were big, but that's to be expected, the only player who can be described as overwhelmed was Jonson Clarke-Harris, who couldn't pass up the opportunity of about 30 people careering into him, so went down like a ton of bricks, even if they were his own fans. Liam Kelly spooned a clearance, and before you know it it's cannoned right into the path of Big Shola, who's squared it and somehow Forte forces it in. The elation turned to almost tears, it was painful, all of our work had been for nothing.

Full Time - Notts County 2-1 Coventry City

At the time it seemed like the absolute worst thing in the world, but somehow, we're still in the play offs, we actually got very very lucky on that front with Mansfield losing 4-3 at home to Crewe and Swindon dropping points against Carlisle. Now we've just got to hope they do the same again on Tuesday night, leaving us able to still cling on to 7th place. We can't keep relying on other results though, a huge reaction is needed at Crawley on Saturday. Anything other than making the play offs then this season is a failure, it's now or never.

My Man of the Match - Michael Doyle - In the style of the official Cov MOTM, I'm unsure who to give it to, so I'll just fling it to Michael Doyle. No one was especially stand out, but I can think of a couple of reasons not to give it to some other players so Doyler is going to take it for his consistent performance. He played a couple of good balls here and there and on another day one of them might have resulted in an assist. However if he skies a 25 yard volley again in the 95th minute instead of bringing it down and playing some football then I might cry.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

My Fifty-Seventh 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Yeovil Town

I know I have trouble with describing games sometimes as City always conjure up new ways for me to be surprised roughly once a month, but this, let me tell you, was something else. Never in all my life have I seen something so spineless, diabolical, unexpected and downright disgusting. In honour of the shambles it's time for the return of "Rant not report" which got a few run outs last season, it only really appeared this season when Forest Green turned us over at the Ricoh but I'm sure most Cov fans will agree with me, this tops it.

Now obviously in this league there are no easy games as the cliche goes, but before the game given our recent form, personally I was there going "We have to win, SURELY", as I did with both Barnet and Grimsby. On Friday we did well to nab a point late doors in the pouring rain which gave me a fair amount of confidence, and there weren't even any new injury concerns, which was confirmed to us when the team news was released.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
McDonald
Haynes

Vincenti
Bayliss
Doyle
Reid

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Stokes
Davies
Shipley
Barrett
Biamou
Ponticelli

Given he chipped a ball across a box to Biamou for the goal last week, Kyel Reid apparently warranted a return to the first team with Jordan Shipley making way. Maxime was unlucky not to get back in the side as well but JCH is still in relatively good form. To quickly put it out there, I wouldn't be surprised if Carl Baker's footballing career is over, he missed out yet again with an ongoing calf problem, with only 6 games left and his age, it's not exactly looking good for him. Hopefully for sentimental value he gets at least a few minutes before the season is out to help us get over the play off line. That's if we don't grossly bottle it by throwing points away like there's no tomorrow. (Spoiler Alert x)

First Half

Let's break this down a bit, to begin with I'll just analyse the first 15 minutes of the circus, then I'll get onto the rest of the match. First four minutes or so were ok, a bit slow mind but nothing in particular bad, then our metaphorical bubble was jabbed at by a 6 year old with a needle throwing a tantrum. Not sure why said 6 year old would be entrusted with a sharp object in the first place mind but a metaphor is a metaphor and I'm still very angry at what I was forced to witness. Now, quickly before all of that, go easy on Burgey eh?

A cross was put in, it should have been an easy routine catch for him, but he fumbled it, and before you know it Alex Fisher taps it in from a yard out. Yes, that was a howler, and it's not the first time it's happened this season, but people are very quick to forget how good he's been all of this season, and even on Friday when he single handedly kept us in it. Have a go all you want but to say how poor he's been always been for us is incredibly unfair. Anyway, as we learnt after half time, Liam O'Brien isn't the second coming either like people seem to think, but that's getting ahead of myself.

We were preparing for 90 minutes of hoofball and us struggling to break them down because that's the sort of team they are, then before you know it Doyler of all people gets pushed off the ball, both Hyam and Rod go to the same player, leaving Zoko in acres of space to stick past Burge and make it 2-0. A whole 11 minutes played, you start to think the game is out of our hands already, and that was confirmed a whole 3 minutes later when another defensive howler gave them another goal.

A big ball over the top was missed completely by Grimmer, so Burge was in a race to the ball, which he lost Fisher gets there ahead of him and dinks over to make it 3-0. We were losing 3-0 at home to Yeovil bloody Town after 15 minutes, I've seen us begin to bottle promotion a few times since I've been alive, but this, was special. In amongst all of that Marc McNulty stuck a ball in across the box where Vincenti could have just stuck his leg out and we'd have equalised. Sparky also met a Kyel Reid cross from about 2 yards out and somehow managed to miss an open goal. Those go in and it *may* have been a different story where we're not chasing the game from the literal off.

Anyway, as he's the official Coventry City scapegoat, Vincenti was subbed off after a whole half an hour, which leads me onto another point. Peter Vincenti is not the devil, and he is also a living, breathing human being who plays for the club we so dearly love. The whole witch hunt aimed at him is cruel now, yes he might not be the most technically gifted, but he still tries his best every time we pulls on the shirt, and it means a lot to him as we saw when he ran over to the fans when he scored versus Grimsby and/or Luton, I'm not sure which it was. What good is sarcastically cheering when he gets subbed off going to do to anyone. He wasn't even the worst out there. Either way Biamou got a much earlier berth into the game than anyone expected.

As we got ever closer to half time, that "Stop, stop, he's already dead" GIF taken from The Simpsons was being plastered across Twitter, especially when they would have had a fourth if it weren't for the flag going up. So we did go into the break 3 goals down, but the worst part of it was, we quite easily could have had three of our own. However the referee put us out of our misery and ensued a 15 minute period of sulking and checking the odds on 3-3 and a Maxime Biamou hat trick.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-3 Yeovil Town

Second Half

Unless he was injured, which it didn't look like he was, then what in gods name was the point of wasting a sub on taking Burge off for O'Brien. The games already gone, changing the goalkeeper isn't going to do anything. However I did find it a tad funny that they both ended up conceding the exact same amount of goals, deeming this even more pointless than anyone originally thought, but again, that's getting ahead of myself.

We were all sat there just thinking, if we get an early goal, then MAYBE. We only went and did it, Tom Bayliss was on the floor and just hacked at the ball and somehow it played McNulty straight through, he cuts back to Biamou. 3-1. Everyone's steaming back to the half way line with the ball so quickly, with the chants of 'Sky Blue Army' so loud, the players so pumped, and 43 minutes of the match left to play, we couldn't, could we? Absolutely not you fool, it was 4-1 within mere minutes. Hyam was so easily muscled off the ball he might as well have not even been there. Zoko tapped it past O'Brien and we all got back to seat sulking.

Now most had left by this stage, but the rest of us were just lying down in our seat wondering why we actually did this to ourselves, plus the game had died down a bit. It got to a point where Biamou just shot a volley out of frustration from 30 yards, and what do you know, top corner. 4-2 and Sky Sports Goal of the Day, mental scenes. Josh Barrett came on for Haynes with about 15 minutes to play, leaving Kyel Reid at left back, which no man should ever have to witness.

We were continuing to go for it and on another day it could have quite easily been 4-3 or 4-4, but to remove all hope from anyone's mind, Sam Surridge got a free header in the box and weakly headed in at O'Brien's near post. He quite easily should have saved that but people won't mention that bit. Biamou still wasn't finished and hit the bar a few minutes later, the carnage if he'd scored a hat trick off the bench to triple his league goals tally. As a right kick in the teeth though, deep into injury time Surridge got another, rounding off the worst day of the season and one of the worst losses in recent history.

Full Time - Coventry City 2-6 Yeovil Town


Can we brush this off as an anomaly? God I hope so but that was absolutely diabolical. It feels like every time they give us a small glimmer of something good it's snatched away. Automatics are gone now, there's no point in hoping for them, the gap is too big, play offs can be our only aim for the remainder of the season. Notts County away on Saturday was always going to be big, now it is earth-shatteringly massive. We have to go there and get a result, even a draw wouldn't really be good enough, so a win is the option. A sold out 4,100 allocation are turning up, so hopefully the team do too.

My Man of the Match - Maxime Biamou - I mean no one was particularly good, but Biamou, Bayliss,  maybe Reid and at a push McNulty could walk away with at least some credit. To score a brace coming off the bench is good at the best of times, to do it in this case was especially great. Everyone will forget the goal because of the result but it was outstanding and won Sky Sports Goal of the Day.  I'm glad he's finally found his shooting boots at such a crucial stage of the season. Any other day he scores a brace and it actually means something and we don't concede 6 at the same time.


Saturday, 31 March 2018

My Fifty-Sixth 17/18 Game - Newport County vs Coventry City

Easter Weekend is finally upon us, with games now coming in thick and fast ahead of the end of the season we've got barely any time to stare agonisingly at the table wondering how and where we're going to finish. Last time out we handed it to Grimsby in a very routine performance, which we really need to do, we've got a few of those sorts of games left this season so to dispatch of them all with ease would be perfect. Newport away however isn't really one of those games, so when I saw the weather forecast, I'd have taken a point and ran, ran so very far.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
McDonald
Haynes

Vincenti
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Stokes
Davies
Barrett
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

Completely unchanged, and why shouldn't we be? Everyone was brilliant last week, as Gary McSheffrey put it, it was like a training session. Tom Davies got back onto the bench for the first time since breaking his collarbone at Forest Green nearly 2 months ago, but considering how well Hyam and McDonald have been doing there's no need to break them up. The return of King Carl Baker drags on for another game as according to his Twitter he got man flu in the week. I'll honestly be devastated if we never see him in a City shirt again, maybe Monday is the one.

First Half

Possibly being the wettest any man has ever been in Newport's open roofed terrace, we started easily the better of the two sides and it took just 7 minutes for us to have a real chance. In a switch up of roles, Clarke-Harris crossed into Shipley who only managed to hit the side netting from close range. It was a tight angle and all that but he really should have hit the target at the very least. Positive early signs however. It honestly seemed like we must have had about 30 corners in that first half, Shippers was floating every single one in but unfortunately the hosts are good at set pieces defensively as well as maintaining the most goals scored from them in the League this season.

It became clear quite early on that this wasn't the best game of Marc McNulty's career, he blasted one very good chance over the bar and then later on when one on one with the keeper he skied a chip from about 12 yards. As we all know by now, if we start well and score early on, then we're more than often fine, but if we start well and don't score, we struggle to maintain it and just start to deteriorate as the match goes on. Even though we were all over them, this was the case today.

Dan Butler put a weak cross in from the left side, and Rod McDonald wasn't tight to his marker, leaving Amond the ability to flick on which gave Mickey Demetriou all the time and space in the world to tap in past Burge at the back stick. It's happened time and time again, we had so many opportunities to stop them going ahead, mainly through McNulty, and we didn't. It's unfair to criticise him though given how much he's stepped up since Jodi's injury back in November.

One thing that gave me a small glimmer of hope going into the break was that we came roaring straight back at them after the goal, and Haynes very nearly curled one into the top corner on his weaker foot. Had we got the swift reply it would have been happy days, instead it was an ever so slightly miserable, drenched 15 minutes for us all as Newport headed in with, it's fair to say an undeserved lead. But what can you do, if we don't put our chances away and they do then you can't really call it that.

Half Time - Newport County 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

In what I can think is only an attempt to grossly annoy us, Frank Nouble plodded on the pitch for The Exiles. Whilst this time we had the poorer start of the two sides, we were so close to equalising just 5 minutes in. On a break, Clarke-Harris shot across goal and Demetriou skewed the clearance out, the ball could have gone literally anywhere, but instead it managed to go straight into the arms of Joe Day. Luck at its pure finest. Actually, that's probably a bit hypocritical as about a minute earlier Matty Dolan grazed the post from about 25 yards.

Just after the hour mark past, I think we got the call to action and the wake up call we so desperately needed, because god knows how we didn't concede in this minute long period. First of all, Burge made one of the best saves I've ever seen from point blank range to flick a header over the bar. It's probably beaten only by Reice Charles-Cook's save from that free kick at Port Vale a couple of years ago. From the resulting corner they got yet another free header in the box, and out of nowhere Dominic Hyam flung himself at it to scoop it over the bar. Still shellshocked, they put it in the box from a corner once more, this time the header was right at Burge and he was able to pull it to his chest.


God knows how it was still 1-0, but I think Robins knew at this stage something needed to be done. Kyel Reid was on for Shipley, and a couple of minutes later because he was badly limping, McNulty was off for Ponticelli. Let's just hope he's alright and this was just a minor blip because god help us for the run in if not. Then finally with about 15 minutes left Vincenti made way for Maxime Biamou who went out to play on the right with JCH and Ponticelli up top. The three of them could probably just about scrape 10 goals in all competitions this season.

We won the ball back in a good position when Reid picked it up about 35 yards out, he drove with it and as he reached the box he dinked it across to the far side in a Wembley-esque motion. It looked as if he'd missed everyone, but it was in fact much better than that, as like an lion hunting for pray, Maxime Biamou came steaming in towards the back stick and first time on the volley found the small gap between the keeper and the post. 1-1. Limbs everywhere. The French Pele stepped up when we needed him most.

We could, and probably should have snatched all 3 points in the last 10 minutes as it was all Cov. In fact I'm pretty sure there'd have been deaths in the away end had Rod McDonald's last minute header not been cleared off the line. There definitely should have been more than 4 minutes added on given the amount of time that was wasted and stoppages for injuries, but the referee ended up blew for full time letting the game finish 1-1.

Full Time - Newport County 1-1 Coventry City

It's disappointing we couldn't go away with 3 points, but we dug very deep to get that point when we were far from our best in spells of the game. We're still in sixth, results went relatively in our favour, and that's now 7 games unbeaten. This is certainly a point gained as opposed to two dropped. However it does mean we have to absolutely beat Yeovil on Monday to cement a play off spot and keep the automatic dream alive. 7 to go... Also, on a more personal note, this is the 200th post I've done on here, so thanks everyone for actually reading them so I have the motivation to carry on.

My Man of the Match - Lee Burge - If he doesn't make that ridiculous save we lose that game, it's as simple as that. I've said this so many times before, and I'll say it again, he's as good a keeper as we could get and in my opinion is the best since Westwood. However even now he'll skew a kick now and again and is crucified for it. Honestly, could we actually do better? He's one of the players of the season. I'll forever back him.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

My Fifty-Fifth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Grimsby Town

In horrible conditions, we got a great result at Crewe last week, and it could and probably should have easily been more. As the various tweets from the players said, we've got 9 more cup finals to go, with Grimsby at home being the next stop. After realising Russell Slade shouldn't be anywhere near professional football a bit too late they've found themselves in deep trouble having not won in 17. prior to the match. They were on the worst run of anyone in England, everything was pointing towards us winning, so naturally I was a nervous wreck worrying.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
McDonald
Hyam
Haynes

Vincenti
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Stokes
Kelly
Barrett
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

Part of me feels a tad sorry for Liam O'Brien, he played great last time out in a rare chance but I think Robins made a good decision bringing Burge back in, he's the more reliable option when it comes down to it. Thankfully Bayliss passed a late fitness test and was able to start as he's a real game change, saying that if Kelly shows the same attacking prowess as he did at Crewe then we need not worry about him and Doyler being too similar. As for our lord and saviour Carl Baker, despite finally getting international clearance, he's tweaked his calf so we'll have to wait another game or two for the return. This news was crushing to the child in me who really wanted to see him, Doyle and Gary McSheffrey play on the same pitch for a final time. Probably the only three players you could get anywhere near using the 'legend' tag with since dropping out of the Premier League.

First Half

To get this out of the way before actually getting into the football so it doesn't become tangled in the chances of an eventful 90 minutes, the booing of McSheffrey, not having that at all. It was a small minority, made of mostly of people in Singers Corner, and obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion and all that, but why? He's a childhood hero of many City fans, including me, so it hurt a bit to hear some people slag him off for no logical reason. It's understandable people don't want to applaud an opposition but why does that mean you should abuse him. Personally I clapped him and properly wanted to belt out "HE COMES FROM COVENTRY, HE'S BETTER THAN HENRY, MCSHEFFREY WOOOAHHHH", but thought better of it with the likelihood of being lynched quite high.

Onto the actual reason we were there, and I had it in my head if we didn't score in the first 20 minutes or so then it'd be another game like Barnet where we'd struggle to string 3 passes together and would end up being lucky to scrap a 1-0er. Now I wouldn't go as far as saying we were playing badly, but Grimsby just edged the game. If Zak Mills' header hadn't been cleared off the line by their own player then things could have gone a whole lot differently. Luckily though, this was as close as they got in a dry first half an hour.

As we neared the end of the half we lacked a spark of sorts, it was just a bit dull, we couldn't form anything and the referee wasn't really allowing the game to flow, constantly blowing up for fouls. However we ended up using this to our advantage, close to the corner flag, dead ball specialist Shipley floated one right into the mixer with Vincenti meeting it and glancing it past McKeown, giving him his second goal in as many home games. Speaking of which that's the eighth wonder of the world, where on earth has THIS Peter Vincenti come from? His form since coming back into the side has been exceptional, especially for someone who picked up the nickname Bambi for a solid 2 months. Personally I prefer Big V.

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Grimsby Town

Second Half

It really took the edge off going in at the break leading instead of needing to come out really pressing, and even though it's very cliche, it really is the best time to score. Even more so when it's against a side so poor and shot of confidence, all of this gave way to possibly the best second half performance of the season. Well, bar maybe Lincoln, but this was more impressive given the lack of Jodi Jones or Duckens Nazon. For the first 10 minutes of the second half, it was all City, but they were just about keeping us at bay. It was only a matter of time, but I'm not quite sure anyone expected it to come via a Michael Doyle 50 yard Pirlo-esque pass.

The skipper won it back just inside our half and beautifully weighted a ball over the top to Clarke-Harris, his first touch with his head left him through on goal. Everything about the type of player he is made me think he'd absolutely smash it at the goal, if it went in it was a bonus, however what he actually did put him up in my estimations even more. With Marc McNulty steaming in he fed him the ball for Sparky to have an easy tap in, making it 2-0. Given the state of the opposition's current form that was basically game over already.

We were passing it about so easily it was borderline bullying of Grimsby, and we were doing it even without Nathan Clarke in the side, quite magnificent really. Ever been on FIFA and the guy you're playing is so bad you just try and get as many shots in as possible? Well for a good chunk of the match we were forced to watch Jordan Shipley and Jonson Clarke-Harris spoon shots over from about 40 yards. Amongst all this Bayliss and Vincenti went off for Kelly and Reid to give the slightly injured/not completely match fit players a rest in a game practically already won.

With 15 minutes left we won a corner, we'd learnt by this point they were diabolical at defending set pieces, so when an unmarked Dominic Hyam got up it wasn't looking good for them. He nodded it back into the six yard box where Sparky, also completely unmarked, was waiting. McKeown got the faintest of touches to take his header onto the bar but he couldn't do anything about the rebound. 3-0, and now it was put beyond doubt, we'd batted away another side in our quest for promotion.

Biamou had the final 10 minutes to do what he does when he replaced Clarke-Harris in our final substitution of the match. He nearly joined the party with not long to go, beating the last man, but scuffing the effort straight at the keeper, kind of like his goal at MK but with some competent goalkeeping this time round. Reid also had his usual shot from 20 yards across goal which is comfortably saved, one day it'll go in Kyel, one day.

We still weren't quite done, Reid once again pranced down the left and floated a cross in towards Biamou but it was headed away 12 yards out. Considering the ball was literally behind him, Marc McNulty did bloody amazingly to volley it and hook it back into the top corner for the pick of his now hat trick. You could tell how much it meant to him to finally get one, and only 4 days ago people were suggesting we start Ponticelli as he's not scored enough from open play lately... Madness really. This nicely rounded off a great day and a wonderful performance.

Full Time - Coventry City 4-0 Grimsby Town


Not sure I liked that, I think we played a bit *too* well, we need to save some playing good-ness for everyone else. In all seriousness, wow, we absolutely needed to beat them and did so in emphatic fashion, if we keep playing like that against the lesser teams then play offs will be a mere formality, but I din't say that. I'm not sure I particularly want to utter the words "automatic spots" as it's tempting fate and there's still a while left yet. One game at a time and all that, originally I would've taken a point at Newport on Friday, but Crewe beat them at home yesterday, so why the hell can't we get another 3 points?

My Man of the Match - Marc McNulty - It's an unwritten rule on here, and indeed in most places, that if you get a hat trick, you have to get man of the match. It's a very elite club, the most recent members are Jodi Jones, Adam Armstrong, Jacob Murphy, and believe it or not Freddie Eastwood. He deserves it, and this takes him to 18 league goals, 21 in all competitions. His third this time round was possibly his best for the club, while the other two were real poachers finishes. Let's just wrap him in cotton wool and bubble wrap for this run in.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Coventry City and the Promotion Curse

A lot of things come to mind when you think, "What's funny and depressing about Coventry City?" Well self-conscious, where on earth do I start. After a lot of elimination ruling out the Sixfields season and SISU, you'd have to settle on a stat mainstream media outlets love to roll out year on year. We've gone the longest out of any of the teams in England without finishing in the top six of any league. 48 years to be exact. Now our nearest challenger is a good 30 years beneath that, and I think you'd struggle to find a similar team around the world to achieve a similar feat.


The 1969/70 season, we'd been in the top flight of English football a mere two seasons ahead of this campaign, and yet we went on to achieve sixth position, above the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. It seems unthinkable now, but we were actually quite good, and that season even earned us our one and only European Tour in our history. The 1970/71 Inter Cities Fairs Cup saw us leather Bulgarian side PFC Batev Plovdiv 6-1 on aggregate before we bowed out to giants Bayern Munich. A special gold star to those who were at either leg of the 7-3 overall defeat, either the 6-1 loss in Germany, or even the famous 2-1 win in the second leg at Highfield Road.

We spent the remaining 31 seasons of our top tier residence outside of the elite few in the country, throw a cup final win in there to make it all seem meaningful. Then as we all know, the pain really started when we dropped out of the Premier League thanks to Paul Merson and a 3-2 loss at Villa Park in 2001. Ever since then we've tried and failed to get promoted pretty much every time, all we've achieved is another two relegations, and our club is absolutely nothing like it was 20 years ago now we're in League Two.

That's not to say we've not come close, in our first season in the First Division we were fourth with seven games to go having just beaten Norwich 2-1 at Highfield Road. Things were looking promising, we had a big chance of bouncing straight back, and our massive stadium was well underway in terms of production. We lost literally 6 of our last 7, picking up only one point, we ended up eleventh, a whole 9 points off play offs. This marked the tone of a lot of the Championship era.

In Aidy Boothroyd's first season in charge we were playing some great football and found ourselves fifth just before Christmas, but by the time we reached April we had one win in 17 and had just lost in the last minute to bottom of the league. We were 20th, carry on and we might have even gone down the year, but thankfully we managed to halt the slide and finish 18th on 55 points. That was pretty spectacular and all it did was prolong the drop to League One for another year.

The one most fresh in the memory, was the 15/16 season, 21st November 2015, a Jacob Murphy hat trick sends us top of the league. It was honestly the best football I've ever seen us play. (Keep in mind the league and the fact I'm young) Despite glimmers of hope against the likes of Crewe and Bury by absolutely battering them, we threw it away once more, coming eighth. Looking back at that side, had everyone stayed fit we should have walked the league.

"We're right in the middle of a promotion push, what the hell are you throwing this negativity on us for?" I hear you cry. Well, for that exact reason. As we actually find ourselves within touching distance of breaking the record as old as time, we need to ask ourselves the question of whether we can break the curse. We're in the top seven, carry on this form and we could even make automatics. Just take it one game at a time, we've got a favourable run, who knows, we might just do it...