Thursday, 24 March 2016

My Thirty-Fifth 15/16 Game - Coventry City vs Fleetwood Town

 So here it is, the overdue Fleetwood Town home match report from the end of February. Two weeks had passed since our 6-0 demolishing of Bury and the Sky Blues were obviously eager to carry on that form that we had been so desperate to see. A couple of talking points prior to the game starting were as follows, Jim O'Brien had somewhat been controversially loaned out to Scunthorpe United of his own accord as he just isn't getting the football he used to and has to commute from Barnsley just to sit on the bench.

 The other talking point is Fleetwood boss Steven Pressley's return to the Ricoh Arena, his first game as manager and the reverse fixture had ended in the Sky Blues stealing it in injury time thanks to a Richard Wood own goal. Charles-Cook started in goal for the Sky Blues, Ricketts, Stephens, Cargill and Stokes made up the back four. The favoured central midfielders of Vincelot and Fleck both started. Murphy, Maddison and Cole were in the attacking midfield slots playing just behind Adam Armstrong.

  The first half wasn't the best of affairs neither side could carve out an attack that is worthy of talking about. The second half however was more lively and the first goal of the game came just 11 minutes into the second half. A break down the right hand side from David Ball who put in a cross to an unmarked Wes Burns on the back post, he tapped in from a yard out. Jack Stephens or Sam Ricketts could both be blamed for not having their man marked leading to the goal.

 The Sky Blues looked very eager to get back into the game as soon as the goal went in. The way they instigated the fightback was with a triple change. Marc-Antoine Fortune replaced James Maddison, Ruben Lameiras replaced Joe Cole and Marcus Tudgay came on in place of Jacob Murphy. I wouldn't say they had an instant impact but you could certainly feel a difference in the way we played.

 A mix up in the Fleetwood defence occurred in the 77th minute, a ball was played through the defence and one of the centre backs let it run through to the keeper not knowing Armstrong was bursting through, he picked up the ball and squared it to Tudgay who forced the ball past Chris Maxwell. Not the best of goals but they all count, and the game now was a case of who can grab a winner, the momentum with Coventry.

 Just 5 minutes later and the third and final goal went in, against the run of play in my opinion, David Ball had the 'ball' 25-30 yards out. He struck beautifully into the top corner, an unstoppable goal which brought an end to a disappointing match when a draw probably would have been a fairer result. But all we could do was pick ourselves up and go again in our next match against Barnsley which I wasn't able to make it to, so the next match on 'A View From The Stands' is our home match versus Rochdale.

 My Man Of The Match - Chris Stokes - The left back picks up yet another award, however this time he was the best of a slightly below average bunch. Either way, this takes him joint level with Adam Armstrong in first place on four awards as the season is drawing nearer and nearer to a close

Monday, 14 March 2016

Expiring Contracts - Who Stays/Goes

 At the end of the 2015/16 season Coventry City are in a potential state of crisis. Most of our squad have contracts running out at the end of May, I will be looking into each of the players in depth and ultimately decide in my opinion whether we should keep them or whether their time at Coventry City is up.

 Aaron Martin - The centre back has played a big part this season due the injury of Reda Johnson and since his arrival from Yeovil I believe he has developed quite well, even if it was only for a back up in the Championship, I believe it is worth keeping him. If we stay in League One then he could be playing a big part next season should others leave.

 Connor Thomas - The longest standing member of the current squad, it may be hard to let him go but in my opinion it's something we may have to do considering he hasn't played a large part in the squad in years, promotion or no promotion, Thomas isn't needed.

 Chris Stokes - The ex Forest Green left back is the only player to start in every single game this season, proving he has been key. One thing that could decide whether he stays or not is the potentially season ending injury he picked up at Blackpool, until the injury news comes in I can't give a proper verdict, but assuming he is ok, Stokes needs to be kept.

 Marc-Antoine Fortune - This is a tricky one, recently he seems to be trying a lot more but prior to this he hadn't done anything all season, I'll have to look at his contribution from here on in but currently as I imagine he is on large wages, he may have to be on his way out.

 Jim O'Brien - If there is one person who will always give 110% in every game he plays in then that would be Jim O'Brien, but personally I can't see him staying. He has already made it clear he isn't exactly happy at being on the bench so forced a loan move to Scunthorpe. As he lives in the north and isn't happy with the commute, this could be the last we see of Jim in a city shirt.

 Ivor Lawton - I don't exactly have too much to say on this as I don't exactly know too much about him, but from what I have seen, he looks like a good prospect for the future so will be worth hanging on to. Hopefully he will start to make a larger contribution when he comes back from his injury.

 Sam Ricketts - Another tricky one, Sam will be 35 in October and despite him being the city captain and a good motivator, I'm not too sure we should keep hold of him. Whether that is Mowbray playing him wrong, or he just assumes he deserves a spot in the team, one year may be enough for Ricketts.

 Reda Johnson - Where to start with Reda Johnson? If Ricketts were to leave, Johnson is a ready made, already proven replacement as captain. There is just one problem with the big man, injury proneness. He's currently out injured now and will be back for next season were we to keep him but whether we will or not is a different question. In my opinion he should be lining up for the Sky Blues in August no matter what league we are in.

 Dion Kelly-Evans - One half of the Kelly-Evans full back duo, as I haven't seen any of him I can't really comment, but another 1 or 2 years on to the guys contract surely can't hurt. He won't be on that much money so he should stay so we can see how he develops, whether that be here or out on loan.

 Devon Kelly-Evans - The other half of the Kelly-Evans partnership, and exactly the same rules apply! Give him a contract extension so we can see how he develops, that is unless the Under 21s boss knows something I don't!

 Jack Finch - Similarly to Connor Thomas, Finch has struggled to make it into the first team recently through injury and other players such as Fleck and Vincelot being ahead of him in the pecking order, unfortunately, Finch's time may be up.

 John Fleck - The situation with Fleck has been made quite clear, if we go up, he stays. If we don't go up, he might want a challenge in the championship perhaps. He's what we need in the middle of the park, some Glaswegian fight. As much as I want him to stay, we might not have super Johny Fleck for much longer.

  Marcus Tudgay - Somewhat overlooked by Tony Mowbray, Tudgay isn't really given too much of a chance. When he does play, he always looks like he's going to score, but when all you give him is 20 minutes or so at the end of a game every 5 matches you won't get the best out of him. Apart from Armstrong, he is the only true goal scoring threat I see from the striking position every time he enters the pitch.

 Aaron Phillips - With Jordan Willis signing a new contract in the winter, Martin Lorentszon now being on the scene and one of the Kelly-Evans' possibly coming through in the next year or two, it might not be worth having so many Right Backs in the squad. The academy graduate may be hard to let go of but once again, we may have to do what we have to do.

 Darius Henderson - I can sort of see why we signed Henderson but like Tudgay, he doesn't get enough game time. On two occasions I have seen him nearly bag us points in the dying seconds of the game but is a big lump up front really what we need in this league?

 Stephen Hunt - Why on earth did we sign him in the first place, we already had too many attacking midfielders, I haven't seen to much of the man, but in my opinion, he is one of the first people we should be carting out at the end of the year, especially since we have a lot of depth in his position.

 Joe Cole - If somehow we are able to, we absolutely 100% have to keep him, he will be key in helping out our youngsters, with a wealth of experience to give to the youth players coming through, but now we have him back to full fitness, higher league clubs may be licking their lips at the prospect of having 56 England caps in their team.

 Peter Ramage - Another player which was brought in as a quick fix to a problem but ultimately failed and now can't even make it on to the bench, Ramage should be joining the queue behind Hunt on the "Washed up and past it" players. Harsh Words, but true.

 Martin Lorentszon - If like I said we do end up getting rid of Ricketts, Lorentszon is a very solid player with Champions League experienc, he is dying for a chance and in my opinion deserves one, give him one more year on his contract to prove himself.

 Loans

 James Maddison - We've gone from having a brilliant youth prospect on a contract for 3 years to having him until the end of the season on loan, we could be in the same league as his new side Norwich next season so it is unlikely we will be receiving Maddison next year.

 Adam Armstrong - The top goal scorer in League One has made his presence known, if Rafa Benitez somehow manages to keep up Newcastle and the Sky Blues get promoted this season, we MIGHT be getting him back for the 16/17 season.

 Jack Stephens - A nice young centre back replacement to our injury troubles, I assume he will be leaving in June but it's been nice having the junior saint and I wouldn't mind having him back were we to stay in League One.

Gael Bigirimana - He's not what he used to be, his big money move to Newcastle happened tooearly, unfortunately for Bigi, I wish him luck with the rest of his career but we shouldn't try and get him back for next season even if we don't go up.

 Jacob Murphy - On his day, a very good player, but is very inconsistent. He is also in the same boat as Maddison, literally with him being a Norwich player, we could be lining up against him next season, but in my opinion, he is too big of a risk to keep around.



Sunday, 13 March 2016

My Thirty-Third 15/16 Game - Coventry City vs Arsenal - Fa Youth Cup Special

  What is always important in supporting a football club is to keep an eye on the youth squad every now and again, so when I saw the youth squad were in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup against Arsenal and the game was being shown at the Ricoh Arena, I had to get myself down there to support the team.

 After a whole ticket fiasco outside the ground, we made inside to see the game already 5 minutes played. Fortunately, we hadn't missed any big events of the match. I was interested to see how the likes of the highly praised Bassala Sambou and Jak Hickman were going to perform. On the other hand, Arsenal had players with Premier League experience in Bielik and Reine-Adelaide.

  It was Hickman who opened the scoring, surprisingly putting the Sky Blues ahead mid way through the half. Tyrell Robinson equalised for the visitors when he beat the offside trap of the City defence to slot past former Arsenal youth prospect Corey Addai to make it 1-1. This took the match into half time.

 In the second period, Reine-Adelaide shot which was cleared off the line magnificently, this was the closest that either team could get as extra time beckoned. Both teams were clearly putting their all into going for this game, it could have gone either way, so when Arsenal made it 2-1 from the kick off of the second period of extra time, it could have been heartbreak for the Sky Blues.

  This could have been too much for such young players to handle, that could have been it, but no. In the 121st minute, a ball was played to Hendricks on the left wing, he turned his man, played it into who else but Sambou to make it 2-2 in injury time. There were scenes of jubilation from not only the city players but the fans as well, all 11 players, 7 subs and a selection of about 50 Sky Blues fans, including myself, were all taking part in a massive pile on. You could see by the faces of the players how much it meant, but the job was far from done, the game went to penalties.

  The first miss of the shootout was Dan Smith for Coventry but Keto saved to his right, Ben Sheaf missed for the Gunners, as did Adelaide. With the chance to win it, Whitmore stepped up with the chance to win it but once again the keeper saving to his right. Decisively, Hendricks missed the final penalty to send Arsenal to the Quarter Finals of the FA youth cup.

 A valiant effort from the Sky Blues, a great run which was ultimately brought to a halt by a lottery, there was many things to be proud of. The next 'A View From The Stands' could be one of 2 things, a non-Coventry game or another thing I have planned, stay tuned.

 My Man Of The Match - Bassala Sambou - That last minute goal alone is enough to win him the award single-handedly, I can't quite explain it, but the joy felt for a goal in an Under 18s match was something special, I will count this towards the leader board, so congratulations Bassala on your first and possibly only award of the season.

Monday, 7 March 2016

My Thirty-Second 15/16 Game - Coventry City vs Bury

 Over a month had passed since our last win, we needed to win against Bury, as promotion seemed to be slipping away from us very quickly, with the likes of Millwall, Southend, Bradford, and Sheffield United all closing in on us. Hopefully our new look defence has had time to gel, helping us tighten up and focus on attack rather than parking the bus from the start to the finish like against Port Vale.

 The theme of this days match was the annual legends day game, with sky blue past players in attendance. In the empty north stand, a picture of the biggest Sky Blue legend of them all was brandished, the day after his memorial service at Coventry Cathedral. A gigantic Jimmy Hill was watching as the Sky Blues on, if that's not an incentive to win I don't know what is.

 As for the team, Charles-Cook started in goal behind a back four of Ricketts, Stephens, Cargill and Stokes. Fleck and Vincelot were holding the midfield for the first time since Burton, Maddison, Cole and Murphy were in the attacking midfield with Armstrong up top. This is our strongest team in my opinion. Another notable thing was Leon Clarke's Ricoh Arena return, this time on the team of Bury.

 If there was any way we could put our bad form to bed, we needed an early goal, and that was exactly what we got, a Joe Cole corner played to Chris Stokes who volleyed into the top corner putting the Sky Blues 1-0 up on 4 minutes, then only 8 minutes later, Cole put the ball in from a free kick for Cargill to stab in at the far post, 2-0 city.

  15 minutes in, a quick free kick from John Fleck to Maddison who turned the defender and smashed into the far corner, a quarter of an hour in and it was 3-0, at this rate the full time score would have been 18-0 to the Sky Blues. Unfortunately, it didn't finish this way, but the goals certainly didn't finish there.

  After the third goal went in we appeared to take our foot off the gas slightly, Leon Clarke went through but shot straight at Charles-Cook's face, on the stroke of half time the ball came to Fleck 35 yards out, right in his range, he took two steps and struck beautifully into the same corner Maddison had scored from previously. Not for the first, or even second time this season, we found ourselves 4-0 up at the break, showing no signs of stopping.

 With 20 minutes to play, Cole played the ball through to Armstrong who took the ball passed the last defender to smash home to make it 5-0, just 2 minutes later he managed to double his tally for the game, this time the keeper got a hand to it, but not enough to keep it out, and that was how the game ended.

 What a massive win, we really showed signs that we had turned a corner, hopefully, the only way from here is up. The Thirty-Third 'A View From The Stands' is something a lot different to everything I've written about before, so look forward to that.

My Man Of The Match - Joe Cole - If you would receive an award for a hat-trick of goals then equally I should give it to Cole for his hat trick of assists, despite how biased I am towards him. This puts him in joint second place with Charles-Cook and Lameiras, all trailing Armstrong by one on four.