Saturday, 27 February 2016

My Thirty-First 15/16 Game - Port Vale vs Coventry City

 Going to Upton Park to see West Ham play is all well and good but you have to remember where you came from, and typically, since I'd been to a neutral game in the middle, I had missed seeing the Sky Blues play. But this game was a biggie, we had lost our last 3, but some big talking points had happened between fixtures, mostly happening on transfer deadline day.

 Our defensive crisis needed quick fixing, and this was done, in the loan forms of Jack Stephens from Southampton and Baily Cargill from Bournemouth, positive signings, proven at this sort of level and anything is better than Peter Ramage. It turned 11pm and just as everyone was going to bed some horrible news came through, James Maddison had been sold to Norwich City for an undisclosed fee, but was loaned back until the end of the season.

 Firstly, yes I know he probably would have been offered a lot more money than he's currently on, but he is such an idiot. You are in a promotion race with your boyhood club, and instead of keeping all your focus on that and waiting 5 months to have a pick of either Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester City, you abandon ship to a team that may be in the same league as the one you just left next season!

 Aside from reptile attacking midfielders, the line up was a lot different to previous games. Charles-Cook started the game in goal, Lorentzson, Cargill, Ricketts and Stokes made up the back four, playing just in front of them was Jack Stephens. Rose and Fleck were the holding midfielders, Murphy and Judas played just behind Adam Armstrong. One thing I forgot to mention was the free transfer signing of Darius Henderson, who started on the bench.

 Early on in the game, Charles-Cook recovered well from a fumbled cross to stop to hosts from going 1-0 up. Cook was the subject again when he made a great double save to once again deny Vale from taking the lead. For the entire half we were under the cosh, and apart from an Adam Armstrong break away and a shot which wasn't troubling anyone, we had done nothing. Lorentzson also went off injured to be replaced by Peter Ramage.

 Out of absolutely nowhere, some fancy footwork from Maddison, put Murphy through on goal to round the keeper and slot home, somehow, we were leading at half time despite having been battered all game. Just a few minutes in Vale had a chance and from 18 yards forced a good save to parry wide. Just after, in possibly the best piece of goalkeeping I have ever seen, Charles-Cook reacted amazingly from a deflected free kick to get a hand to the ball sending it wide, astonishing.

 In the dying embers of the game, just when we thought we'd be able to hold on, Sam Kelly hit a wonder strike from 25 yards which even Reice didn't manage to keep out. However the match wasn't over yet, deep into injury time, from a corner, substitute Darius Henderson rose like a salmon and the ball looked destined to smash the back of the net, but it was not to be, it was cleared of the line as the game finished 1-1.

 A perhaps not deserved point, but we really need to get back to winning ways, we havehe perfect opportunity to do so, facing a struggling Bury at home, which will be 'AView From The Stands' number 33.

My Man Of The Match - Reice Charles-Cook - That save alone should warrant him the award this week, but if it weren't for him, we would have definitely lost that game, I believe this is only his second award of the season.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Stephen Pressley's Sacking - 1 Year On

 So this is new, not only is this not a Coventry City match, but it's not even a match at all, and yes, I know I still need to catch up with the games I have missed, but I saw that Steven Pressley was sacked as Sky Blues boss on this day 2015 and felt the need to write about it, times have changed, most certainly for the better, but my opinion wasn't this was this time last year.

 I'm not going to lie, I ranted on twitter, these were the specific words I used, courtesy of Timehop:

 "Steve Waggott says our budget is up in the top 6 of the division, you complete liar! Which division are you on about, the Conference South? You sir, are deluded! You are ridiculous at this club! That manager was the only one who could turn this club around. I guarantee you will employ either Neil McFarlane or Dave Hockaday because it's cheaper. They may be your only options, who would want to come to this club with no budget and the worst owners in the country, who would have made decisions such as selling Callum Wilson, which admittedly would have been hard, but you could have at least put up a fight!? Or even Carl Baker! What about him? He would be amazing in this squad! Anyway I've probably ranted enough. No-one cares what I think, especially Steve Waggott, who doesn't care what anybody thinks! Hopefully we can get a manager who's actually good!"

 That last line says it all, hopefully we can get a manager who's actually good. Oh boy we did, some of the things I said may have been a little bit off and harsh, but I was angry, I didn't know what was to come, I genuinely thought that could have been the beginning of the end. But here we are, 1 year later, a great manager, a great team. With automatic promotion still on the cards, in the words of D:Ream, things can only get better.

 Despite our success, I still believe Pressley was slightly hard done by, as soon as Tony Mowbray came in, and as soon as we stopped trying to buy the Ricoh, money started to come in, we had our first cash buy in 2 years with the purchase of Romain Vincelot, and we are attracting loan players of the calibre of Adam Armstrong and the permanent signing of Joe Cole is a prime example.

 Whether this is the owners injecting more money into the club or the pure stature of Tony Mowbray in the game, it has worked. Going up or not is a different story, whilst I would love us to get automatic promotion, and with it still being doable, Play Offs is looking like the more likely end to the season. If we want that 2nd place spot, wins against the likes of Gillingham, Wigan and Millwall are crucial. But I have belief.

 In my opinion we have the strongest squad in the league, but with a lot of our players still very young it's a case of who can hold their nerve. We have already been shown cracks in defence but these have been quick fixed with Cargill and Stephens. But how long is the glue going to last? With all the pain this club has suffered in recent years, we deserve some success.

 I appear to have gone off topic, as for Pressley, he took over Fleetwood Town and in his first game lost 1-0 at home to who else but the Sky Blues. 12 months after his firing and our next game is low and behold, Fleetwood Town at home, Pressley's Ricoh return, I feel like I say this about every game, and it very much applies to each one, but it really is a must win against the relegation threatened side.

 Hopefully you enjoyed something a bit different, once again I promise I will catch up again, and apologies for the Glue metaphors, I felt they were very fitting, next 'A View From The Stands' will be our Port Vale away trip. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

My Twenty-Ninth 15/16 Game - Coventry City vs Scunthorpe United

 How to describe what's been going on for the last 2 games, I have no words, but it's not the Coventry City that has been playing for 4 months coming out, it's a different team, a very winnable game against Southend United had come and for the second time in 2 games I could say we deserved to lose, another case in which we arguably deserved to lose was the away fixture to Scunthorpe early on in the season, so here we are, a big chance for revenge and a big chance to get an absolutely crucial 3 points on the board.

  One Scunthorpe man that was no stranger to the Ricoh Arena is Gary McSheffrey who began the game on the bench, as for the Sky Blues, Charles-Cook started between the sticks, Stokes, Ramage, Ricketts and debut-making Martin Lorentzson made up the back four. Vincelot and Bigirimana played as holding midfielders due to John Fleck still being suspended. Jacob Murphy, James Maddison and Stephen Hunt were the attacking midfielders, with Adam Armstrong returning at striker.

 As I've said, we really needed to win this, and we came out looking like we wanted to. Just a few minutes in and Jacob Murphy stole the ball off the last defender in the box made it past him, and looked ready to get into a scoring position but was brought down, arm across his body, leg blocking his run, you name it, it was a stone wall penalty. Everyone could see it, but the one man who mattered waved it away, along with the huge protests that followed.

 5 minutes later, Scunthorpe had a corner, it was headed down and an un marked Tom Hopper latched on to the loose ball and smashed past Charles-Cook. We were 1-0 down, again. The final talking point of the first half was after Chris Stokes' good pass into Armstrong who forced a good save, but once again, we found ourselves losing at the break, this time perhaps not deservingly so. But either way, we were.

 We came out in the second half fighting, with Adam Armstrong having a good shot on goal, but as was shown in the first half, we need to take our chances, and we had another example of this shown to us. Much like the first goal, from a corner the ball was whipped in, and very easily Murray Wallace managed to nod the ball in at the near post. We were 2-0 down, but with half an hour remaining, there was still time to get back in the game.

 A recurring theme of the game was the unwillingness of the referee to get his cards out, especially Luke Williams, the amount of bookable fouls he gave away was ridiculous. This was made even worse so when he walked out of the game without any card to his name. Incredibly, Romain Vincelot was the first player to pick up a booking. It was Vincelot that nearly scored when he headed just wide of the goal. We were running out of time and lives.

 5 minutes remained and we were throwing everyone forward, a beautiful 1-2 between Maddison and Stokes led to Maddison being brought down in the area, this time the referee gave the penalty which Armstrong coolly converted. Had we left it to late? Only the very short amount of time would tell. 2 minutes later in frustration, Vincelot gave away a stupid foul. Whilst I agree he should have been sent off, the referee seemed all too happy to send him off. This put a spanner in the works and as much as we tried, we couldn't get the equaliser, we had lost our third game in a row.

 Another defeat, our only saving grace was that both Burton and Gillingham had been defeated. On the other hand you could see this as an opportunity missed. Either way, that's that. The Thirtieth 'A View From the Stands' is the first premier league instalment, so look out for that.

 My Man Of The Match - Chris Stokes - He made runs down the left side and even managed a back heel at one point, is there anything he can't do? This takes him to three awards, up there with the big boys now is our Stokes.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

My Twenty-Eighth 15/16 Game - Southend United vs Coventry City

Our home record was in tatters, we were 6 points off leaders Burton whom has 2 games in hand and 4 points off second placed Walsall who had just the single game in hand, we were in desperate need of a win to try and keep up with them, but our defensive crisis was bad, we only had one fit centre back in Peter Ramage, who had last played for a club in India, and the other player we were using in that position was Chris Stokes who can do a job but isn't perfect.

 Before the game even began we were hit with bad news, Adam Armstrong and Jacob Murphy were both ruled out with injury, already our chances of winning were dealt a massive blow. Number one goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook began the game in goal, Ricketts, Stokes, Ramage and Haynes made up the back four, John Fleck missed out through suspension so Bigirimana started alongside Vincelot in the holding midfield positions. Jim O'Brien, Joe Cole and debut making Stephen Hunt played in attacking midfield with Marcus Tudgay as the lone striker.

 The game began with a chance for the Sky Blues, out of nothing Jim O'Brien from 30 yards out took a shot which forced a good save from David Bentley who tipped over the bar. A poor piece of defending just minutes later saw Sam Ricketts blast the ball at an attacker chasing him down, somehow it ended up in the path of Jack Payne who took it past the last defender and smashed into the far corner to put Southend 1-0 up.

 Sam Ricketts was the culprit again when he was caught out of position on a Southend counter attack, a ball was very easily played through to Tyrone Barnett who slotted past Charles-Cook to make it 2-0 just half an hour in, very poor, minutes later and O'Brien's deflected shot hit the outside of th post but that was the best chance at a goal we had all half. Going into half time something needed to change, and we tried something. Marcus Tudgay was subbed off, supposedly because of an injury, in favour of James Maddison and Joe Cole was moved to the striker position.

 Early on the second half, former Sky Blue man Gary Deegan tripped Maddison and got sent off, given his second yellow card. This would be a lot sweeter had we not been 2 goals down by this point, however, we had a chance to get back into the game. Maddison had a chance which went just round the post, we made subs as well in an attempt to come back. Ruben Lameiras came on for Ryan Haynes and Marc-Antoine Fortune replaced Romain Vincelot.

 We were caught short at the back, Lameiras gave the ball away cheaply and Southend countered, Barnett sprinted past the entire defence and was brought down in the box by Charles-Cook who picked up a yellow. It was Barnett who stepped up to take the resulting penalty and scored. 3-0 Southend. Sky Blues fans were beginning to seep out the exits with 20 minutes still to play. Both Cole and Fortune had chances in the remainder but it was no use, the game ended 3 goals to 0.

 No excuses, we were awful, the future without players like Armstrong and Murphy looks bleak, the defence definitely needs tightening for starters. Hopefully we can get our act together in 'A View From The Stands' 29, a home match to Scunthorpe United. Perhaps one of the biggest matches of the season due to the league standings.

My Man Of The Match - Jim O'Brien - Similarly to Maddison against Burton, he was the best of a bad bunch, almost scoring on a couple of occasions, good old Super Jim, getting his second award of the season.

Monday, 15 February 2016

My Twenty-Seventh 15/16 Game - Coventry City vs Burton Albion

4 days after the 1-1 draw with Walsall and we were in a tricky situation, we were under pressure to beat top of the league Burton. 4 points from 6 in games verses Walsall and Burton, as well as doing the double over the brewers would put us in a great position, and with our home record, you could put in a good case that would see us do so, it all depends on which Coventry City side turns up.

 I'll start off this section as I always do, Charles-Cook began the game in goal, new man Peter Ramage started his first game in the infamous Sky Blue shirt alongside Sam Ricketts in the centre back positions. Chris Stokes and Aaron Phillips were on either side of them, Fleck and Vincelot started in the middle of the park, Lameires got a rare start with Maddison and Murphy. League top goal scorer Adam Armstrong began as the lone striker.

 The games first piece of action to note was a free kick 25 yards out in favour of the city, James Maddison stepped up to take it and everyone was on the edge of their seat ready to jump up and celebrate given his set piece track record, but it wasn't to be, the keeper made a good save but wasn't tested too badly, still 0-0. Next it was Burton's turn to have a chance on goal, a ball was played over the top for Stuart Beavon to stab at goal but Charles-Cook made a good save to keep it out.

 Not long later and James Maddison danced past 2 defenders and from 20 yards struck and it looked destined for the top corner but was kept out by an acrobatic save from McLaughlin. Charles-Cook made a similar save when the Sky Blues were fooled from a corner to leave a free chance 20 yards out with none of our players challenging but it was turned round the post which took the game into half time.

 4 minutes into the second half and a ball over the top presented no real danger but Aaron Phillips attempted to chest back to the goalkeeper but ultimately miss judged it so it was straight in the path of Callum Butcher who tapped past Cook to put the brewers 1-0 up, another cheap goal to give away due to defensive mistakes to add to list. This goal killed off most of our confidence, just a few minutes later Stuart Beavon was un-marked from a free kick and was allowed to run right into the box to strike at goal but the Sky Blues got lucky when the ball cannoned back off the bar.

 It was a long ball over the top once again that caught out our defence when Beavon was played through but this time we weren't as lucky, he smashed into the roof of the net but put Burton 2-0 up. We had already made 2 substitutions, taking off Lameiras for Marcus Tudgay and Gael Bigirimana replaced Aaron Phillips. In a last roll of the dice, just after Beavon's goal Joe Cole came on for James Maddison but ultimately it wasn't enough the came ended 2-0 and our uneaten home record was gone.

 Those 2 results had hurt us, we really needed to pick up the pace in our away trip to Southend United a week later, and that will be 'A View From The Stands' number 28, all games from this point onward are pretty crucial to our season, but soon thee will be another non-Coventry game to look out for, and perhaps the most "glamorous" game yet.

My Man Of The Match - James Maddison - The best of a bad bunch, but at least he was able to get shots away on goal and came closest to scoring. This takes him to 2 awards for the season, despite barely playing through injury. He's one of our own...

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My Twenty-Sixth 15/16 Game - Coventry City vs Walsall

Still unbeaten at home, and coming off the back of a 5-0 away win at Crewe, the future looked bright for the Sky Blues, but we had 2 crucial games ahead of us, Walsall and Burton at home, get 6 points from these and we go top of the league. Not winning either of these games could prove fatal to our season.

 In the 10-day period between fixtures, we had signed Cole permanently on a free transfer until the end of season from Aston Villa, extended Gael Bigirimana's loan until the end of the season, loaned out young defender Cian Harries to Cheltenham Town and finally signed Stephen Hunt and Peter Ramage on short term deals, a busy January so far for the Sky Blues, and more transfers promised.

 Once again Charles-Cook started in goal for the Sky Blues, in front of him were Phillips, Ricketts, Stokes and Haynes. 4 full-backs in our defensive line, but Chris Stokes and Sam Ricketts are both capable centre backs if needed and in this case they were. Vincelot and Fleck started as the centre midfielders, O'Brien, Cole and Murphy were attacking midfielders ahead of them, with Adam Armstrong once again as the lone striker.

 The first action of the game came half an hour in and we won a free kick on the left side of the pitch, Joe Cole whipped the ball into the box for Chris Stokes of all people to flick on into the far corner to put the Sky Blues 1-0 up. A huge goal for the team and one that took us into half time brimming with confidence. What we needed to do was keep the lead and push for another if possible.

 On the hour mark Joe Cole made way for James Maddison. What we began to do from here on in was defend our 1-0 lead. We do this way too much, there are instances where it has paid off, Port Vale being one example of this. But on other occasions, Swindon, Oldham, Doncaster, we lose the lead. This was another of those occasions, 10 minutes to go and Rico Henry crosses the ball in to an un marked Tom Bradshaw who volleyed home into the bottom right corner, Charles-Cook had no chance.

 Unfortunately we finished the game and drew 1-1, putting pressure on us to beat Burton Albion just 4 days later, another huge game, and the one which will be 'A View From The Stands' number 27. I am miles behind with these and am really hoping to catch up at some time soon. Soon fixtures include another non Coventry City match, so look out for that.

My Man Of The Match - Chris Stokes - A solid performance at left back was capped off by that flick on of a header which, believe it or not, I called it that he would be first goal scorer, earning him the title of King Stokes, and taking him up to 2 awards for the season.