Friday, 1 June 2018

My Sixty-Sixth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Exeter City - League Two Play Off Final

Finally, the day had come. After everything, it all came down to this, the day we would know for certain whether or not we'd be promoted. All it took to get there was one of the best, yet easily the most stressful of my Coventry City supporting life. Exeter were all that stood between us and a return to League One at the first time of asking, as well as a first promotion in 51 years. Not to be negative or anything but a loss would have been disastrous for the club, half the team would go, and we'd more than likely be stuck here for a few years. So it's fair to say it was a bit big...

Being in The Green Man from 9am onwards was eventful to say the least, the first couple of hours were quite chilled out, with everyone almost close to crying with nerves, but once they'd got a few £5 pints down themselves they were all a bit more relaxed. As soon as midday passed the atmosphere went from 1 to 100, it topped last years, everyone was having a great time flinging about the cans of Fosters they'd managed to sneak through the fences across the beer garden. The women walking around the garden selling jagerbombs must have made an absolute fortune as a side note.

Despite it being massively out of the way, we decided to head down Wembley Way to get the full experience, and basically just making sure we did everything that we forgot to last time and practically completed Wembley. Even spending a tenner on a scarf got ticked off the list (Not a half and half one), throughout the process of money exchanging hands it never felt like a good idea. Had we lost I'd be so disgusted that I'd probably have torched it. I was even tempted to buy a programme until I saw they were the same price, ten pounds for a programme, even last year they were half that.

Anyway, once I'd stopped myself from physically being sick at the sight of the price of any form of merchandise we bumbled into the ground and into our seats with still a good hour to go. Now I've got a friend who did all this last year with Reading in the Championship Play Off Final who lost on penalties to Huddersfield and his warning was the wait until kick off just sitting in your seat is the worst part of it all. My word he was absolutely right, the minutes were ticking down as you slowly watched the seats fill around you. JD from free radio's segment was as painful as you can imagine, I'm pretty surely he rarely does Ricoh games anymore so god knows why he was there. However this extra time did give us a chance to individually analyse the completely unchanged side.


Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Thompson
McDonald
Reid
Maguire-Drew
Ponticelli
Clarke-Harris

The away leg of the Notts County was one of, if not, the best performance by us this season, we were unbelievable in that first half. So why on earth would we make any changes unless they were forced? Everyone earned their spot in the Wembley side, and even if Sparky was still carrying a small injury which I doubt he would have been Robins would have been holding a gun to his head forcing him to play. Not that anyone would need to be forced to play in a Play Off Final at Wembley mind you.

First Half

Now our first half tactic was very simple, and practically the exact same as Exeter's, "For gods sake whatever you do don't f*cking concede", which resulted in a slightly dull affair for a first half. However saying that, we were a smidgen less conservative, in fact a little bit of me died when Marc McNulty was through on goal but couldn't get the ball under his spell to take it through so it was cleared. This was the first segment of what I'm choosing to call a very "open-mouthed" 90 minutes.

Shippers was doing well on the left, playing some decent one twos with Sparky, on a couple of occasions he got himself into great shooting positions but his weaker right foot let him down. The only real point I got nervous Exeter were going to score the scared first goal was when they scuffed a shot straight at Burge from 25 yards. It made up for all the nerves felt in other games though, it's like I'd been stabbed in the stomach and been spiked with a ridiculous amount of drugs because my heartbeat was erratic. The half time whistle came as a relief, we got a small break from the painstaking horror of the Play Off Final.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Exeter City

Second Half

What I like about Mark Robins is, he always knows the right stuff to say at the half time interval, but even by his standards this was silly. I don't know what words he came out with, or what on earth he put in the water, but it must have been something special because they all came out and played as if they had fireworks sticking out of their backsides. Our earliest chance came a couple of minutes after the restart when Sparky hit a cutback first time towards the top corner which was tipped round the post.

Both centre backs came up for the resulting corner, which was half cleared to Doyler about 35 yards out, he played a low hard ball into Willis, and as a Sky commentator once said, it was a 'lovely first touch' to tee himself up, and a 'brilliant second' to bend the effort into the top corner. It was a burst of emotions, elation as we'd just gone 1-0 up in a Play Off Final at Wembley was obviously the biggest and most prominent one. Next in line it was probably shock at the fact our centre back had just scored an absolute beauty like that one. Our longest serving player left at the club no less, an academy product who's stuck by us through thick and thin bagged the opener in emphatic fashion, you couldn't write it.

Going to use one of my many many cliches I've brought out for the last time this season now, but this really was the straw that broke the camel's back, we weren't sitting on the lead, we saw this as the start of a demolition job. McNulty muscled off his marker and his first touch took it away from them, he was alone but bounding forward and if there's one thing you don't want to do against us, it's back away from Marc McNulty. He reached close to the edge of the area and by this point Jordan Shipley had bounded beside him and picked up the lay off, hitting it first time, with the ball coming off the calf of a defender, it looped through the air in a perfect arc and into the top corner.

These were some of the best scenes I've ever had the pleasure of being involved in, the first goal was good, but now it was a sense that we could actually do this. This season we'd never lost when winning, and now we were 2-0 up with yet another academy product scoring, however lucky he and we may have been in the process. It reminded me of when a certain Mr George Thomas did a similar thing just over a year ago, except when he scored Oxford got one back and gave us squeaky bum time. This time around though we just kept going and going...

McNulty provided a small piece of magic again, he was on his way into a blind alley and then laid off to Grimmer, who had absolutely no business shooting from where he did, first time on his left foot. What do you know it's in the top corner. 3-0. Even if some people were still in a bit of doubt after Shipley scored, that had all been swept away. We're going back to League One. Biamou's season was ended due to injury with about half an hour to go, and we also saw the last of Marc McNulty until August, and he's made it absolutely certain he'll still be in sky blue in League One.

The Grecians still had a chance to have some impact in the dying minutes, Burge tipped Matt Jay's effort round the post and Kyle Edwards scored a beauty after brushing off Ponticelli in the last minute. No one was really worried, just maybe a bit of a "surely not" from one or two. Stockley nearly scored deep in injury time which really would have made us sweat. However, and it gives me immense pleasure in saying this, the referee blew the full time whistle and confirmed Coventry City's first promotion for 51 years.

Full Time - Coventry City 3-1 Exeter City


WE'VE DONE IT. WE'RE GOING UP. I KNEW IT'D HAPPEN ONE DAY. Everything about the day was so so incredible, this season has had it's ups and downs but it's finally been made worth it. It's easily been the best I've had in my life when supporting the City, and I'm even more glad I've got all of these reports and other little posts to look back on, even if this one is a bit late because I wanted to go into more detail...

We're not quite done for the season just yet, I should get a season review out next week or so, which I hope I'll go into big detail with. I may also do a couple of bits and bobs after that over the next few weeks but due to the extended season, the first game of pre-season is basically only a month away so the boys will be back kicking footballs again very soon. I'm looking forward to the Alicante tour just as much as next season being completely honest...

My Man of the Match - Jordan Shipley - Once again, it could have been any of them, and it was very tight between Shippers and Sparky, but what's edged it for me was that in a tight, quiet first half, Shipley stood out. He even capped off his stand out Wembley performance with a goal, even if it was a bit lucky, it's possibly the best feeling I've ever had celebrating a goal. Plus, he recognised me at the end from being involved in this wonderful photo at Notts County. See you all in League One. x







Sunday, 27 May 2018

That Preview Thing: The League Two Play Off Final

It's finally here, after 57 competitive games we've reached the final, the play off final no less. No matter your age, this is completely new territory for all Coventry City fans, we're one game away from our first promotion for 51 years. Over half a century since we confirmed our spot in the first division with a 3-1 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Highfield Road in front of 51, 452 officially but in reality almost certainly more. A gold star if you were one of them. I can only imagine what it would have been like.


Things have changed a bit since then, not only are we now back in the basement of league football, but we're at Wembley for the deciding game. The fact we didn't bottle it after Christmas and come 17th is a remarkable achievement in itself, let alone sweeping Notts County aside in their own back yard in the second leg of the play off semi. All of this has led to our second trip to the home of English football in as many years, and gives me another beautiful opportunity to use *that* photo again. Copyright infringement is a big thing so expect to see it for a few more years just yet.

Last Time Out

Notts County 1-4 Coventry City
Grant (44')           Biamou (6', 71')
                             McNulty (37')
                             Bayliss (86')

Easily in my top 5 favourite games of football I've ever been to, what a night it was, Max Biamou leathering an overhead kick in after about 5 minutes just set the tone. The feeling of victory was amazing, even if we don't go up, we'll always be able to savour that moment, although if that does happen I won't be able to see that silver lining for a few months yet. The second goal was a thing of beauty, and was just testament to how good we were in the first half. We let them back in before half time and ignoring the blatantly onside goal they had disallowed swallowed a lot of pressure quite well early in the second.

As soon as Max slotted home the third I knew we were going back, and Bayliss' run and finish was just icing on the cake. From one angle we were quite lucky to come out how we did, but it's undeniable we were the better team and are deserved finalists. Whether or not we got some decisions go our way, we're here, and we can't look at it any other way than that it's on merit because when you start doubting yourself, that's when you lose. Watching us on Sky though, Exeter must have been sitting in their own excrement.

Last Meeting

Exeter City 1-0 Coventry City
Harley (7')
13th January 2018

We somehow managed to go from automatic promotion places to outside of the play offs in the course of an hour and a half, howler from Willis and Burge let them in early on, they weren't even that good, we just didn't fancy turning up. It was chucking it down, and as I finally managed to fall asleep on the train home the ticket woman woke me up, horrible day. It wasn't an accurate representation of either sides footballing ability but The Grecians did sit on the narrow one goal lead quite well.

Before that I remember the game at the Ricoh back in September, they'd just gone on a 7 game winning streak and we dominated them. Jodi had an exceptional game and Devon Kelly-Evans rounded off a good performance by nutmegging the keeper in the last minute. Standard 2-0 win, happy times. I'd quite happily cut off my right arm to see us pull something out of the bag like that again.

The Opposition

Exeter are one of a few teams, including us, who quite easily could have picked up an automatic promotion place if they had a bit more consistency across the season, instead they ended up fourth on 80 points, four off third placed Wycombe. With Notts County and Lincoln if you played them you knew what you were getting, effective and bloody annoying hoof ball. This isn't the case with Exeter, they play a fairly exciting brand of attacking football which saw off Lincoln fairly comfortably in the semis. At Sincil Bank they let them play their game and simply just defended it.

With the home advantage however, they took control of the tie and saw themselves 3-0 up not long after the break, Matt Green scored a consolation but in the end it wasn't enough. Exeter swaggered to Wembley as 3-1 winner on the night as well as on aggregate. Whilst some of the football they play is good to watch, they have relied on Jayden Stockley a fair amount, who's bagged himself 20 goals in the league this season. The main thing is to contain him. We all know a bit about Robbie Simpson from his spell with us, and he wasn't especially mesmerising, basically he's now 10 years older and isn't the greatest footballer in the world but can be nuisance to deal with. A bit like Stuart Beavon...

Potential Starting XI

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

You can't change the side from the 4-1 win against Notts, what would be the point? Nearly all of them staked a very valid claim to be called man of the match, have Reid and Clarke-Harris on the bench as impact subs in case of an emergency but if we get that team kicking it about like they did last week then we'll be in with a massive shout of bouncing back to League One. Let's just hope to god McNulty has recovered from the minor hamstring issue he had prior to County. His back is close to breaking with the weight of the city on his shoulders, just one more good outing and you can have the keys mate.

Prediction

As I've said, we've certainly got the ability to be dancing around on the pitch at full time, but Exeter felt the pain of a final defeat last year and will have learned from it. By no means is this going to be a formality. Final games never go as planned, and to not risk jinxing anything, I am absolutely not going to be making a score prediction. My nerves are already in pieces, that's just even more unnecessary strain right there. What I will say though is expect there to be a few goals, it could end up being a 3-2 or 4-3 either way. Whatever happens, extra time, penalties, we need to be prepared. If we win I'll be the happiest man in the world, let's not think about any other scenarios. Just for the love of God City, please.


Sunday, 20 May 2018

My Sixty-Fifth 17/18 Game - Notts County vs Coventry City - Play Off Semi Final Second Leg

The day had finally arrived, we'd had to put ourselves through the longest and most gruelling week of our lives all for the second leg of our play off match against Notts County. All the first leg did was make things even more tense with all the controversy surrounding it, however we were gift wrapped a way back into the tie with a late penalty at the Ricoh. My man of the match that night was Tom Davies, and he was dealt a retrospective 3 match ban for stamping. You couldn't make it up.

All of that meant we needed a win at County, a ground we haven't taken a victory home from since 1963 and who finished above us in the league. In fact this rounded off the play off semi finals, in all five leading up to it the home team in the second leg won, basically everything was pointing towards a Notts victory. However as our pretend motto says, we don't play by the script, so literally anything could happen. One thing was for certain though, I was an absolute nervous wreck, the day was spent mainly crying and rocking back and forth.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
McDonald
Maguire-Drew
Barrett
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Tom Davies getting suspended was a big blow to us, but it's not like Jordan Willis is a bad replacement, so he came in. Other than that we remained completely unchanged from the side who drew last Saturday. The word on the street was that Marc McNulty probably shouldn't have played after his head took a battering in training, as well as apparently something to do with his hamstring, from the off though, you really couldn't tell in the slightest.

First Half

Literally as soon as we heard the word go we were pouncing at the Notts County side like it was the last game of football we'd ever play. In less than 45 seconds, Maxime Biamou was played through on goal by a looping over the top ball from McNulty but I think out of general shock and surprise he got a chance that early on he scuffed it and the ball was immediately cleared. However, in the understatement of the century, he did go and make up for it ever so slightly a couple of minutes later.

A corner was whipped in and half cleared to Jordan Willis, he nodded it across the other side of the box where Maxime Biamou had his back to goal, got himself in the air, and flung his legs at the ball, striking into the far corner. One overhead kick is mad, two is an actual joke, how he can manage that is obscene. The fans were celebrating almost as much as the players, no one actually celebrated with Max, instead they all just sprinted towards the away end, amid a ridiculous amount of blue smoke.

On a personal note, I fell backwards onto the row behind in pure shock and elation, I wasn't even confident we'd do well, and we just came out flying and scored a worldie, it was almost too much. County were shellshocked, we were all over them, Doyler got a bit excited and as you can't get suspended for yellow cards at this point in the season he needlessly almost killed someone by diving at their shins.

We then pulled something off which is basically deserving of promotion, Shipley launched one about 60 yards straight to the feet of Marc McNulty, he squared it to Bayliss who carried to the edge of the box, dinking out to Liam Kelly. Somehow, barely even looking, he managed to pick out a ball through the sea of defenders to Sparky in acres of space, all he was left to do was stab into the completely empty side of the net. 2-0. Bodies flying absolutely everywhere.

Everyone was already booking their hotels at this point, and quite literally, as we were chanting "If we win, we're on the pitch" we let them get back in with a scrappy goal which was finished of at the back post by Jorge Grant. Grimmer was fouled in the build up by John Stead but Notts County fans only really see decisions that went against them because the whole refereeing situation is all a big conspiracy which we control...

Half Time - Notts County 1-2 Coventry City

Second Half

The collective feeling amongst the City fans was that the second half was going to go one of two ways, we'd lose 3-2 or batter them. The way it began, it really was looking as if it would be the former, we'd gone all Tony Pulis and decided that parking the bus when one goal ahead away in a game where the opposition are going to throw the kitchen sink at you was the best cause of action. I don't know who's bloody idea that was but it was a thick one. If things hadn't gone the way they did I would be crucifying various individuals.

Lee Burge has taken some stick this season, and I've always been a big defender of him and his work, but what a performance he had. Anything within 6 yards of him was either being claimed or sent into the River Trent with a belter of a punch. The key moment of his was John Stead shaking off Willis but Burge pulling off a fantastic save down to his right and flick it round the post. We were hanging on, and not long after we were dealt with our second huge slice of luck of this semi final tie.

The lumped a free kick into the box, it was nodded in the air and Forte beat Burge to the ball, heading it over him and into the empty net. Notts are already in raptures celebrating, scoreboard changed to 2-2, flags waving. However the linesman had other ideas, with his flag in the air calling it offside, you've never felt a bigger sigh of relief. However what we didn't see until after the game was that he was about a yard onside and it was a perfectly legitimate goal that had been disallowed. Oops...

This knocked the stuffiing out of the home side, and we were left to freely counter, with McNulty and Biamou playing a neat one two, the latter of which had the ball on the edge of the box. He pulls off a beautiful turn and slots it into the bottom corner like it was absolutely nothing. This was the point that we knew, as soon as ball hit net there was no doubt left in my mind, we're going back to Wembley. It was astonishing scenes, all the players and fans are in a big ball near the corner flag with legs in the air and everything.



To put the doubt beyond absolutely everyone Tom Bayliss did a Tom Bayliss and pranced through their entire team, shooting from 25 or so yards on the side foot, straight into the far corner. 4-1. 4-1 4 blooming 1. I've never been so happy as to how I was in those last 10 minutes, we've done it. The clock ticked down and we honsetly could have got 5 or 6 with Ponticelli's introduction. I encourage you to watch the full time reaction of the players if you haven't already, it's 7 minutes guaranteed to give you goosebumps and reduce you to tears.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

My Sixty-Fourth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Notts County - Play Off Semi Final First Leg

My birthday was on Friday, and normal people celebrate it and generally have a good time at the anniversary of their birth. This time round however, I was rocking back and forth in a ball wracked with nerves ahead of our first ever play off campaign. In fact the occasion is so big that I needed to add something onto the end of the usual generic title to commemorate it. After all, it was the first leg of our semi final tie against Notts County, the home one, with the Ricoh backing, and really, the one we needed to win.

Arriving at Coventry Arena train station 3 hours before kick off is quite something even by my standards, so once I'd settled my erratic heartbeat with a still not quite legal pint of Carling I went back to some more rocking in a ball. The walk back to the Ricoh was like some form of tsunami, my new coat was taking a right beating, as was the Ricoh pitch. Watching the ball travel on certain parts of that was honestly like a swamp, on other parts it was ice. In fact that game was barely playable. Just getting the excuses in early here boys and girls.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Willis
McDonald
Maguire-Drew
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Jordan Willis returned from having the trots but only made the bench due to Dominic Hyam's impressive display passing it round the back against Morecambe. That in itself is a brave call but as we've seen lately Mark Robins likes to show how big his testes are. This mean that only one change was made, legend of our time Maxime Biamou returned from his knock to replace Jonson Clarke-Harris. I was quite happy with the chosen eleven, but it became quite evident early on that the surface suited the visitors' style of play more than it did ours.

First Half

Personally I was just glad we didn't Lincoln it and throw away a big game extremely early on, so I calmed down a little when we made it to the 51 second mark still level. Once that was out of the way we actually had quite a bright start, we were making do with the constant unpredictable pitch whilst County were leathering it at Davies and Hyam. From open play they were making do but from set pieces the entire back four were like a circus, flinging themselves absolutely everywhere to stop it going in rather than calmly dealing with them. That said, it was us that had the first chance.

Jordan Shipley weighted a beautiful ball over the top to Sparky, with the angle looking tighter and tighter and the defenders getting ever closer he had to take one touch and go for it. I really thought it was in, so to see it cannon off the inside of the post when already mid-celebration was heartbreaking. I think this rattled the players a bit because the attacks became a bit more sloppy, partly down to them, partly to the pitch. Long story short it was a poor quality first half in terms of attacking football. 

The referee was one of those "Stop the game for absolutely anything" types and we were hard done by as every little niggle was being pulled up, Doyler was booked early on for dissent. He probably threatened his family or something even more Michael Doyle than that. Still though, we almost went ahead through a Gary Mabbutt-esque own goal. McNulty found himself down on the byline and aimed his cut back into Biamou but it was deflected in at the near post. Adam Collin got every single body part possible between him and the woodwork to stop it on the line. Despite screams of "EH? GIVE IT YOU NONCE", the referee looked at his watch and shook his head. Bloody goal line technology.

Tom Bayliss got caught in between shooting and crossing when in the area so somehow managed both, it was a few yards away from McNulty but also a few yards from the far post. Just leather it at goal mate, get the stats up. Jon Stead stabbed at the side netting and there were a couple of other half chances but nothing amazing as the time ticked down. We'd displayed fight in the first half though, and hadn't bottled it under the lights and big crowd, whilst it was 0-0 the display was quite pleasing.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Notts County

Second Half

The first couple of minutes after the break were all City, it was really bright, Jack Grimmer flicked a header just over the bar almost immediately after the whistle was blown. Then at the other end he was involved in a cartoon style pile on the floor as him and Dan Jones both went to ground for a 50/50, the latter of which was very lucky to have it fall straight to him with Grimmer skidding into block 17. There was nothing lucky about what followed though, he crossed it in, (backwards, to those who are trying to claim it as offside) to Jonathan Forte, who backheel flicked it past Burge. 1-0. Somewhat undeserved but an absolutely beautiful finish sent the visiting fans into raptures and ourselves silent.

I may have overreacted a tad, it felt like the world was ending and our years of hurt were going to continue indefinitely when that goal went in. We've not won at County since the 60s, this first leg was a chance to give ourselves a head start. To draw is worrying, to lose would give us a mammoth of a task. What rubbed salt into the wounds was the attendance announcement, now I'm no expert, but surely there was more there than they said. 17,404 with 2,756 away would mean that there were less home fans in there than against Morecambe, despite more of the ground being open and blocks 14-23 being completely sold out. That just doesn't make sense.

Anywho, we'd lobbed Ponticelli on for Shipley and told him to do what he did last time at their place and try for the equaliser. Bayliss did some fancy footwork straight from the James Maddison school of excellence but when he turned his shot went just wide. Clarke-Harris was on for Biamou in another "do a goal" substitution with about 10 minutes left but whilst we were attacking, the final ball was seriously poor on our parts which massively let us down. Grimmer's was poor but I've seen a couple of people suggesting to drop him, which would be incredibly foolish. My player of the season

Stokes went for a hit and hope into the area which Collin half-heartedly punched away from the head of McNulty to Bayliss. It was a poor first touch but he made it level with Tootle, who flicked the ball away from him and out for a corner. Honestly, it went like this "Our ball yeah ref? WAIT WHAT?!", because for some unknown reason, Gavin Ward realised we'd been a bit hard done by so gave us the world's softest ever penalty. Even Bayliss himself was saying how he cleanly took the ball. Our poor luck had immediately changed, the block 14 yoof legion were already celebrating and giving it large. All I could think was about how Cov it would be to be literally gifted a chance to equalise and squander it. Sparky stepped up though, and of course he went and scored. 1-1.


This penalty cooly slots into my top 5 most celebrated goals ever, because I really didn't think we'd manage to pull it out of the bag, even if it was thanks to a diabolical decision. Then again, seconds after a completely not offside Tom Davies headed onto a defender's hand, which probably was a penalty. So I suppose it evened out on that front, plus for us not to have taken at least a draw to Meadow Lane would have been extremely harsh. We quite easily could have stolen a win mind you, but under the circumstances I'll take that.

Full Time  - Coventry City 1-1 Notts County

Undoubtedly, Notts have got the better result of the two sides, but it's a lot better than it was in the 86th minute. However once I'd minorly celebrated not losing after full time came, I realised the absolute state of what we have to do on Friday night. Go to Notts County, and somehow, however possible, get a win, whether that be in normal time or in extra time/on penalties. It's actually quite mad to think it'll either be one of the best or worst days of my life, it's fair to say I won't be getting much done this week. Oh well, see you there.

My Man of the Match - Tom Davies - Great game from the centre back, dealt with anything and everything extremely well, if we all ignore the violent conduct which he may end up with a retrospective ban for, he was brilliant. I'd still probably bring Willis back in for Hyam for the second leg to give us that extra bit of something but I guess we'll find out. Have I mentioned hoe huge it is yet...?

Monday, 7 May 2018

My Sixty-Third 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Morecambe

45 league games lead us here, the finale which almost certainly wouldn't be the last game. All we needed to do was not Cov it up and get at least a point at home to 22nd placed Morecambe, who also by chance only needed a point to confirm safety, the scene was set. I think we all knew what was going on when Robins said in his pre-match interview that "We'll see what happens", not implying that we'd actually try and win an easily winnable game.

There was enough people in the Ricoh that they had to move the point of segregation along a whole block. People are starting to come out of their caves, roll on next Saturday, where we've got to be topping 20,000 at the absolute minimum. All it took to get there was one of the dullest on pitch 90 minutes of football known to man, but were you expecting anything else? That didn't make it any less hilarious to watch.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
McDonald
Haynes
Maguire-Drew
Reid
Ponticelli
Biamou

Just the two changes from the abusement of Cheltenham were both referred to as forced, presumably picking up a knock, Max Biamou dropped to the bench probably being deemed not worth the risk with Jonson Clarke-Harris replacing. Everyone's favourite conspiracy theory resurfaced yet again with Willis out of the squad, is he injured or has he apparently got a transfer to Rotherham agreed in principle for the fourth transfer window in a row. I mean it's almost definitely the first but who knows? I'm a big fan of the fact that we brought Hyam back in instead of McDonald. Top work Mr Robins.

First Half

I'll be doing minimal match analysis because I'm not sure people want to hear about various on twos between Tom Davies and Michael Doyle. Speaking of the captain, he had bags of space 20 yards out so spanked one towards the top corner, Barry Roche, who had a splendid game might I add, tipped it over the bar. This was in the third minute or so, and is one of only two chances we managed to bless ourselves with.


The second was brought onto us by Chris Stokes, he accidentally found himself bursting down the left wing having been played through by a deflection, shimmying past his man he threaded into Jonson Clarke-Harris. His touch teed it up in the air and on the volley Roche pulled out another fantastic save. SEE Sunderland fans, we did try! A bit... Tom Davies at the other end stopped a cross from being tapped in at the back post by flinging his legs at it, taking it out for a throw.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Morecambe

Second Half

If you thought the first half was tedious and dull, then have I got a treat for you. It was so blatant that we were playing for a draw that it was laughable, Barnet were 3-0 up which meant we only needed a goal to condemn Morecambe to non league football. At our end though it didn't make one shadow of a difference whether we won or drew, we'd still be playing Notts County and finishing sixth. So it was a series of sideways passing and occasional sighs from a selection of Cov fans.

A personal highlight was substitute Maxime Biamou realising he was in a 3 on 3, panicking, turning and immediately feeding Callum Lang in for the counter attack. It was astonishing to watch, as the minutes ticked down no one was worried because why should we be? Mansfield and Lincoln were failing to score and we weren't exactly going to concede. As Tom Davies saw a 80 yard long ball out for a goal kick he screamed "COME ON" at singers corner, and when the full time whistle was blown, they did.


Full Time - Coventry City 0-0 Morecambe 

Streams of fans came onto the pitch, should they have, probably not, does it matter? Not really. It's not exactly harming anyone, even if it is ever so slightly tinpot. In fact the two things Cov fans were told not to do came true, as a flare was also set off to complete block 14 bingo. Once we'd all got off and the players had come back out for a lap of honour it dawned on me, we're in the f***ing play offs. (Censoring that in case my mums decides to have a peek at this) That means constant anguish and pain, I don't think I could mentally take yet another failure, if we're not heading to Wembley by 10:30 Friday the 18th of May then god knows what I'll do. I'll more than likely do a play off preview in the week.

My Man of the Match - Tom Bayliss - Actually looked like providing some attacking drive, he'll be incredibly key over the 2 play off legs. In fact that goes for anyone, we literally can't afford to have anyone making a mistake now, we need to be spotless, Bayliss along with a lot of this team hasn't experienced play offs before. The likes of Doyler and Sparky need to step up more than ever. *Gulp* See you Saturday.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

My Sixty-Second 17/18 Game - Cheltenham Town vs Coventry City

The day that promised so much had finally arrived, and I woke up feeling absolutely foul, any questions regarding why were responded to with no comment. All that would have gotten me up today was the last away day of the regulation season at Cheltenham, my 67th of the 92 Football League grounds for those keeping score. A semi short coach journey and a lot of breathing into a plastic bag later and we're in in the centre before 11, a common theme of the season. Four hours of lying on a table and drinking water in a Wetherspoons later and it was time for another segment of what mental selection has Robins thought up today.


Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Haynes
Barrett
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Scratch all that, he's a tactical genius. As much as I love Haynes, Stokes coming in probably did need to be done after Tuesday night. Same with Davies for Rod, he's been getting away with a lot of poor mistakes recently so to see him dropped for in my opinion, this seasons unsung hero Tom Davies was quite pleasing. Clarke-Harris played quite well for about an hour on Tuesday night but overall has been quite poor recently so Maxime The Dream returning was a good shout.

First Half

I mean I know we like to get an early goal to settle our nerves, but the way we lined up was downright astonishing. The only players not on the halfway line ready to attempt the 100m dash to reach the launched ball were Michael Doyle and Chris Stokes, all of them steamed off as soon as the whistle was blown and in natural fashion Doyler pinged it straight out for a corner. Still, start as we mean to go on, even if we did revert to the 4-4-2 instead of the 1-2-7 immediately after the ball was lobbed back in.

Cheltenham as a team are poor, they score a lot but concede more, so I'm assuming Robins' tactics were as simple as "Yeah, you know that Mo Eisa who's scored a ship ton of goals? Yeah, stop him." Burgey made a great one handed save early on to push his tight angled shot past the post, they showed some good early signs but once we got a foothold of the game it became a mere formality. In fact it was actually quite mean the way we went about it, Mowbray-esque, the good season not the one where he jumped ship after 10 games.


It all began with some amazing thinking from captain, leader, legend Michael Doyle. As soon as he won a foul he grabbed the ball, threw it down and pinged it down the line to Shipley, first time he played a great cross into Bayliss, half-volley, 1-0. Goalkeeper in a pile on the floor, boy wonder steaming off into the corner in celebration. Smoke bomb on the pitch despite West Midlands Police's massive warning the day before calling all Cov fans very naughty, there have been 29 so far apparently in league games, now make that 30.

Once we'd all calmed down from our celebrations the news came through that Yeovil had gone 1-0 up at home to Mansfield, which meant at that stage, a play off spot was confirmed. This was celebrated as much as the goal, and I'm fairly sure as soon as we found this out Grimmer rounded his marker and floated it in beautifully to the head of Marc McNulty. Top corner, 2-0, easy peasy. They were right push overs this lot, so we weren't done there, by a long shot. Shipley got in on the action by running in to meet Biamou's low cross and leathered it at the back stick.

The first half was that mental I can talk about a goal in just a sentence at the end of a paragraph, not having to draw out three sentences on what my reaction was, crazy. Anyway, talking of odd reactions to a goal, I'm pretty sure players were bored by the time Sparky capitalized on some shocking defending to lob Flinders, who could only get a hand to it as it trickled in. None of them reacted, like it was a chore at this stage, the job was done so just let them get the ball and go in at half time weeping as we book our Wembley hotels.

Half Time - Cheltenham Town 0-4 Coventry City

Second Half

Everything was going perfectly, surely even Coventry City couldn't blow a 4-0 lead in the second half, which is exactly what we were thinking when they got a penalty. Another note on that penalty, yes, it more than likely was outside the box, but I have two responses to that. 1. It really doesn't matter at all. 2. If it was outside the box then the rules of football mean Burgey would've been sent off for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. Instead he only got a booking, same with Doyler for some apparent reason. So, in a way, we got very lucky that Mo Eisa was given the chance to send him the wrong way and give them a consolation around the hour mark.

Things were a bit still as we'd just found out Mansfield had equalised and were only a goal away from spoiling the party. That was until Biamou added to his own Goal of the Season competition with possibly the best yet. McNulty stopped suddenly on the byline, sending the sliding defender into the stand and leaving a gap for him to cross in and Biamou to OVERHEAD KICK in the fifth. I was right behind it and didn't really celebrate it, instead just falling over in shock at what Maxele had achieved.

This has been somewhat overlooked given how mental the game was, but it was an astounding goal. Bayliss was hauled off for Reid because the game had just been put beyond doubt and he's a hugely important player who needs to be fresh at all times. The same was the case with Sparky, but not before one last bit of magic, he beat the offside trap and burst down the left, everyone's expect him to go for Biamou again but he had other ideas and bent one into the far corner. 6-1. Poznans everywhere, EZEH EZEH EZEH.

Ponticelli replaced him and JCH got 10 minutes in place of Max so he didn't end up smashing any plates or anything like that. By our standards the last ten minutes were poor, we didn't even score a screamer on anything, perhaps trying to save it for next week, which annoyingly now means more as play offs aren't confirmed. Yeovil are no longer forgiven for the 6-2 after letting in a later winner, now Mansfield have a glimmer of hope to nip in. Other results however went our way, we're back into 6th.

Full Time - Cheltenham Town 1-6 Coventry City

If we can't get a point at home to Morecambe then we don't deserve to be anywhere near play offs, however the also only need a point to guarantee safety, so a draw would suit both sides. Sunderland fans loved hearing about that let me tell you. Still though, we can still get 5th and should be aiming for that as we'd end up being at home second, and allow us to achieve yet another pitch invasion. As a final note, I don't care if it's Morecambe at home, if we achieve play offs next week I'm steaming onto that poorly kept hallowed turf. If we bottle it and come 8th I'll never speak to any of you ever again.

My Man of the Match - Marc McNulty - Probably not even the best player, but my law of the land is that if you score a hat trick then you get Man of the Match, and this is his second of the season, taking him up to 23 goals this season. Stop it now Marc it's getting silly. Everyone was incredible though, from Burge right through to Sparky himself. See you all next week, try not to think about how in a month we'll either be high as a kite or crying and preparing for a 5 year stint here.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

My Sixty-First 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Lincoln City

Here it is, the big game klaxon was firmly out and used so much that it was almost worn out, our long-awaited, snow delayed game in hand at home to Lincoln City. Even thinking about it was making me incredibly nervous, picking up literally any form of points would basically guarantee our spot in the playoffs. A loss and we’ve got Mansfield, who thankfully for us, are absolutely terrible, breathing asthmatically down our neck. I had two predictions for the game, the first being a horrifically dull 0-0er, the second being a mental goal fest with over 5 goals.


Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Bayliss
Kelly
McDonald
Shipley


Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Stokes
Barrett
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

Now I know Robins has gone a bit mental with his team selections recently, but playing the 4-3-3 on Friday night we were awesome, so why oh why did he drop Jordan Ponticelli for Tom Bayliss and switch it back to a 4-4-2. It just doesn’t make sense, if you’re going to drop anyone drop Shipley, then have Doyle, Kelly and Bayliss as a three pronged midfield. It just felt as if we were setting up for the draw from the off, and whilst I’d take a point and run, is incredibly foolish, which we found out in literal seconds.


First Half


Now McNulty’s goal against Stevenage was quick, but this is seriously taking the mick, Lincoln started off with the theme they would adopt for the 90 minutes, hoofing it at our scared stiff back four. We reacted as we also would for the duration of the game, panicking and bottling the clearances, it was half launched away to the edge of the area where Matt Rhead leathered one top corner on the volley. 51 seconds that took, in a game where we just needed to keep things simple and at a low tempo for the first quarter, we conceded after 51 seconds.


The 3,300 travelling Lincoln fans couldn’t believe their luck, I on the other hand was standing there in disbelief that we had managed to Cov it up so spectacularly and quickly. The yoof legion took out their anger on the black cloth where most were unable to make it past a whole 4 stewards to get to the Imps fans they were so intent on meeting and apparently battering. The 40 stone bloke with his top off simply laughed in their face as Burge tearfully launched it back to the halfway line.

Lincoln are a very nippy team, and I don't mean that as if they're quick or anything, more that they'll literally do anything off the ball to stop you from proceeding, but who am I to judge, it works. Burge claimed the ball and went to throw it out quickly so Rhead flung his elbow at the keeper, Michael Doyle responded as Michael Doyle does by throwing him to the ground and Burgey had already pelted it out. Somehow the referee didn't blow for either of these incidents and we were able to counter attack, Clarke-Harris advanced down the left with loads of space and got away from his marker to play to the edge of the box. Steaming in after running about 60 yards Tom Bayliss side footed it into the top corner. 1-1. Incredible scenes.

The yoof legion were rowdier than ever, and the 40 stone bloke with his top off was nowhere to be seen, and I was even more shocked than before. Conceding in the first minute is one thing, to actually bounce back and equalise is unheard of, we'd got a new found confidence and were looking like scoring again every second. Lincoln however were looking weak, I don't even have to make a joke about what's coming anymore because it's that obvious. Ryan Allsop, yep, the one that 3 seasons ago Lee Burge ousted out of the team, hoofed a goal kick and McDonald bottled the headed clearance.

It was flicked on over Willis who I can only assume was swearing profusely at his defensive partner after Ollie Palmer picked it up and effortlessly tapped it past Burge. However before I could even think of anything I'd write about how angry I was Tom Bayliss came prancing down the right and squared one across to Shipley. He turns the defender and spanks it into the bottom corner. 2-2. Incredible scenes yet again.

What's even the point in telling you all how ecstatic we all were? As it went to pieces AGAIN within just minutes, we couldn't hold out for the four minutes until half time. It was the exact same thing, a hoofed ball into the box, a bottled header by Grimmer, Burge came but the striker got there just before him, shoots straight at his chest. Fair enough they got lucky it bounced straight back to Palmer who tapped into an empty net but to even be in that situation is horrific. My two personal "Players of the Season" combining to gift them a third.

I'm beginning to get to the end of my tether with Burge, I've defended him constantly because he's had a good season and deserved it, but the mistakes are becoming more and more frequent now. Robins would have to be completely crazy to drop him though, because O'Brien is certainly no better, that's not to say changes have to be made though, that's getting ahead though, as half time came to us abruptly after a 5 goal thrilling 45 minutes.

Half Time - Coventry City 2-3 Lincoln City

Second Half

I promise the review of this half will be at least a bit calmer, as the anger stopped until full time and just turned into sheer disappointment. Lincoln were happy to sit back here and whilst we had the better of the ball we weren't really doing anything with it at all, the tempo had slowed right down when it desperately needed to pick up, Bayliss shooting over from about 20 yards was the only real thing of note until Biamou came on for Clarke-Harris. He instantly won a header at the back and it would have been 3-3 if it weren't for Allsop. Surely I'm not the only one who remembers him being awful...?

Then came the defining moment of the match, we were growing more and more in confidence and Max was steaming into the area. All you need to know is he hit the ground after contact from a Lincoln defender, whether or not it was a penalty is a whole different matter. I was so far away I couldn't tell you but the referee's view was so clear that he had to make the right call. Someone in the Block 26 "I don't care how much you love City, I'm not standing up" group will be better placed to tell you.

Either way everyone goes up claiming and Jones waves it away, and like a scene from a play, Lincoln broke on us. It's dinked across to the right where Rhead floats one towards the back post. Everyone's screaming for our League Two Goalkeeper of the Year to come out and claim that whilst he's doing the hokey funking kokey on the goal line. Eventually he does but Frecklington is laughing at his as he pokes it under. 4-2, everyone's crying and licking wounds, even the yoof legion haven't got the energy for the arm flailing anymore.

Notes for the rest of the game, umm, Ponticelli missed an open goal from 3 yards out just as 7 minutes of added time were announced but other than that that's about it. The referee blew up on a top 3 contender for most painful defeat of the season, potentially in there with Notts County away, Forest Green at home, Yeovil at home and Morecambe away, because that whole day was an absolute shambles.

Full Time - Coventry City 2-4 Lincoln City



I was as angry as anyone last night let me tell you, but there's 180 minutes of football left in the regular bit of this season and we're still in the play offs. All we can do is go out Saturday all guns blazing, Mansfield are that poor we might not even have to pull much out of the bag. They've got Yeovil away, and as we all know, they're capable of ridiculous things at random points, if we better their result then we're in. The actual play offs though, that's another matter for another day.

My Man of the Match - Michael Doyle - Spread a few passes quite well, but mainly, rugby tackled a man to the floor, hit someone in the face basically, and came away without a booking. Hero of our time. Captain, leader, legend. Give him a life time contract, I don't even care.