Wednesday, 25 January 2017

My Forty-Fifth 16/17 Game - Swansea City u21s vs Coventry City

Bottom of the league, no hope, a whole world of pain, just your average week as a Coventry City fan. But for tonight we looked in the other direction, and if you squint hard enough, you can see the Wembley arch on the horizon. That can only mean one thing, it's Checkatrade Trophy Quarter Final time, where we travelled all the way to Swansea to see whether Me could move within one game of Wembley.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Charles-Cook

Dion Kelly-Evans
Willis
Turnbull
Haynes

Rose
Stevenson
Reilly

Lameiras
Thomas
Reid

Coventry City Substitutes:

Burge
Harries
Finch
Gadzhev
Devon Kelly-Evans
Bigirimana
Jones

That team doesn't contain a striker, George Thomas has scored 2 professional goals. Saying that both of them came in this competition. I said pre-match that we might as well admit that we're going to the dogs if we lost tonight to an under 21 side who's goalkeeper is 38, double the age of our midfielder Ben Stevenson. I was however quietly confident that we would get a win.

First Half

They may have been young but Swansea kept possession incredibly well, we couldn't keep up with them pinging it around the midfield, and when we did it was being passed back to either Turnbull or Willis. They then punted it to the attackers who were about a foot shorter than their marker, to be outmuscled. This whole cycle repeated for most of the match.

 One time this system kind of worked was when a loose defensive header came to George Thonas who sprinted forward only to misplace the final pass to Kyel Reid. It's the same story as with recent weeks, he lacks that end product. Tonight was no different, he was scared to shoot incase the world imploded or something. 

He could've been a real danger to the Swans defence had he just got the little bit more flair. The first real chance of the match came through Callum Reilly, his 18 yard attempt forced a fantastic save out of 17 years too old keeper Tremmel as he got his fingertips around it to push past the post. Before half time could come Ryan Haynes was booked for a very high tackle on the edge of the box. It was a miracle he wasn't sent off today.

Second Half

Adnan Maric came on at half time for Coventry Swansea in the place of Jay Fulton. The game hotted up slightly as the game went on, but it all came tumbling down when Haynes fouled McBurnie in the area with 20 minutes left and the same man converted. Everyone was deflated, the way we were playing I just couldn't see a way back. 

We needed one of two things, a piece of individual brilliance or a horrendous slice of luck to go in out favour, and that came in the perfect fashion on 85 minutes. Jodi Jones, after being subbed on, fell over the ball whilst going down the wing. Whilst trying to get back up he fell over again but won a foul from it somehow.

George Thomas delivered the free kick and despite what some places might say, it certainly didn't meet the head of Jordan Willis, Adnan Maric had tried to nod it away but instead put it straight into the top corner. That was our huge slice of luck, but we took it with 2 hands and went for the game to try and get a winner. 

Unfortunately we didn't manage to get it in normal time, leaving something which would make anyone, especially Coventry City fans, gulp. Reice Charles-Cook isn't known for his penalties, in fact he is actually laughed at slightly for it.

The hosts went first, and scored. George Thomas levelled the scores immediately with a great penalty. Then Cookie guessed prove the critics wrong and keep it out. Substitute Gael Bigirimana took the adavantage to make it 2-1. Byers equalised, but Kyel Reid kept the advantage with the Sky Blues. Charles-Cook pulled out a fantastic save to give Rubén Lameiras the chance to take the us into the semis.

The walk seemed endless, he put it on the spot, sent Tremmel the wrong way and take us within one match of Wembley. I'm still in shock now as to how me managed it, I'm not going to lie, we were dreadful and are lucky to be where we are, but who cares. As they say, Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be, we're going to Wembley. 

Looking ahead, the march to the arch is in full swing but the main focus still has to be the league campaign, and potentially the biggest game of the season is coming up on Saturday when we travel to Sixfields for the first time since that was our "home". Not only that, 1,500 City fans at the very least will be roaring the team on, some may be in the home end, some on the Jimmy's hill...

My Man of the Match - Reice Charles-Cook - The hero of the hour, saving 2 penalties which takes us into the semis. I can't thank the man enough. 


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

My Forty-Second 16/17 Game - Coventry City vs Brighton and Hove Albion u23s

When you think about it, being 3 wins from Wembley with only League One, League Two and Category 1 academy teams in our way seems very doable. The first step to the arch came tonight against Brighton's academy in front of a glamorous 2,085 crowd.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Charles-Cook

Kelly-Evans
Harries
Stokes
Haynes

Jones
Gadzhev
Bigirimana
Lameiras

Thomas
Beavon

Coventry City Substitutes:

Burge
Finch
Stevenson
Maycock
Rose
Reilly
Tudgay

 At last, the long awaited return of Chris Stokes, albeit for just the one half of a Checkatrade Trophy match that no one really cares about. It's the sign of things to come, but if Ryan Haynes keeps playing the way he is then Stokes could have some serious competition. Today though, he started in centre back given how short we were defensively, even Jack Finch managed to make it on to the bench.

 What I did like though is that Russell Slade is giving this competition some thought, playing a fairly strong team with Beavon as captain even though he's played 70 minutes in a Coventry shirt. Lameiras and Jones finally had their chance to shine given the pressure was off. Stevenson on the bench sparking even more rumours we were keeping him safe before he goes to Brentford.

First Half

I'm going to be brief because it's not the most interesting of matches. Although saying that it was a great performance for the 1/16th full Ricoh Arena. We dominated right from the off, having half chances all throughout the first half. The young Brighton keeper was having an astonishing game to say the least, we saw this when Lameiras' volley was saved from point blank range.

 Robert Sanchez was keeping everything out. his best save of the match came half an hour in when the ball came out to Bigirimana from a corner and his first time volley was tipped round the post. Eventually our dominance paid off 4 minutes before the break when Lameiras beat his man to the cross and flick it into the far corner.

Second Half

Chris Stokes' return was cut short as he made way for Jack Finch, easing him back is exactly what needs to be done. But we carried on pressuring the young Southern side, just 5 minutes in we doubled our lead when Jodi Jones' clever run down the right led to him playing the ball into George Thomas for him to get his second goal of the competition.

Captain Beavon was replaced by Tudgay so we can save him for the crucial league match on Saturday against Chesterfield. Adding another twist in the never ending Stevenson tale, he entered the field of play with 15 minutes remaining to take the place of Vladimir Gadzhev. Slade has confirmed since that we have rejected more than one bid for the midfielder, so maybe, just maybe, he'll stay for the rest of the season.

 The game was beginning to drown out, that was until the 89th minute when Ryan Haynes cut in on to his right and failed to be closed down. He bent an effort off the far post, on to the other post, and then in. If the win wasn't ensured before, it was by now. We're through to the quarter finals of the Checkatrade Trophy, not the most prestigious of things to say.

 We are in with a serious chance of winning this tournament, provided we don't get screwed in the draw, by getting Bradford away or something along those lines. A nice home draw to Swansea u21s or Yeovil will do nicely. Before we can talk about that though, we must look forward to Chesterfield on Saturday. An absolute must win, no doubt.

My Man of the Match - Jodi Jones - It could have been a number of people being completely honest, but Jodi just edges it for me. This is his third reward of the season if I'm not mistaken, hopefully he gets his chance in the league and takes it with two hands.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

My Forty-First 16/17 Game - Watford vs Burton Albion

Championship team Burton are currently struggling in the league but today turned their heads toward the FA Cup, which didn't give them any sort of relief whatsoever as they were simply brushed aside by Premier League team Watford. 

Watford Starting XI:

Pantilimon
Britos
Kaboul
Deeney
Cathcart
Doucoure
Sinclair
Ighalo
Kabasele
Capoue
Mason

Burton Albion Starting XI:

McLaughlin
Flanagan
Brayford
McFadzean
Williamson
Dyer
Naylor
Palmer
Miller
Varney 
Harness

First Half

Early on it was obvious the Premier League side were the dominant force in comparison to the visitors, however in the first 15 minutes they were hit with the blow that Craig Cathcart had to be substituted off as he had picked up a knock. Sebastian Prodl filled in for the defender. This didn't stop the Hornets though as just 6 minutes later Brandon Mason beat the last defender and his low cross found Kabasele at the back post. The defender tapped in to give the hosts the lead.

Odion Ighalo nearly instantly doubled Watford's lead when him and strike partner Troy Deeney teamed up but the Nigerian international's shot fired over the bar. The Brewers recently extended the loan of Will Miller but he only lasted 33 minutes, and was replaced by Jamie Ward. Capoue had a chance which was saved well by McLaughlin on the stroke of half time but the Hornets led by just the one goal going into the break.

Half time - Watford 1-0 Burton Albion

Second Half

Albion started the second half a lot better, but couldn't convert the chances they had into goals, Luke Varney had a header go just wide. Cracks were beginning to appear in Watford's defence, something which Burton should have capitalised on but didn't manage to in the 15 minutes they had dominance before it was fixed with the substitution of Kaboul going off to be replaced by débutante Brice Dja Djede.

Luke Varney was next to leave the field after he spent 8 minutes down injured following a collision with Costel Pantilimon, it did look bad and Nigel Clough has since said "He's not in the best of shapes, he's had to go to hospital. He got a whack in the rips or somewhere around there and he's struggling to get his breath at the moment so he's going to get checked out, hopefully it won't be too bad."

With 13 minutes of normal time left on the clock Jerome Sinclair went on a great solo run from the left and cut in, on his right peg he found the top corner to all but seal it. The remainder was played with Burton deflated from the second goal and Watford sitting back with no need to go for a third goal which meant the Premier League side are the ones going into Monday's Fourth Round draw.

Full Time - Watford 2-0 Burton Albion

 Next up I'm off to Brighton u23s in the Checkatrade Trophy at the Ricoh, like I've said before, not very glamorous but we're three wins from Wembley and I'm sure people will go to matches the closer we get to Wembley.

My Man of the Match - Etienne Capoue - No one stood out but Capoue did the job at both ends of the pitch today. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

My Fortieth 16/17 Game - Coventry City vs Bolton Wanderers

 I'm not sure if it's sad or impressive that I've managed to reach 40 games at the turn of the year, personally I'm going to go with the latter and say that it illustrates my passion for the Sky Blues and the beautiful game. Now it's been a very busy 2 days since our last fixture, Marvin Sordell has moved to Burton (I'm struggling to cope) and we have replaced him with 3 players in the form of Nathan Clarke, Stuart Beavon and Callum Reilly.

 Given that Sordell was our top goalscorer it's a massive gamble but I have respect for Slade as it's something that needs to be done when you're in the position that we are. I'm liking Slade so far but I didn't expect him to be a miracle worker and for the side to gel in just a day, I was expecting us to get nothing out of the match as pessimistic as it sounds.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Sterry
Clarke
Turnbull
Haynes

Thomas
Rose
Reilly
Reid

Beavon
Tudgay

Coventry City Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Kelly-Evans
Gadzhev
Bigirimana
Stevenson
Lameiras
Jones

 All 3 newbies were involved in the first 11 today, interestingly Lewis Page wasn't involved at all so Ryan Haynes came in. In fact the only loan other than Reilly whom was in the squad was Jamie Sterry, that says it all about Slade's intentions with what to with the loans. Might I add I agree with him that the only one I would have kept is Sterry.

First Half

 One thing that hit me in the first 20 minutes was a sense of shock about how well organised the pretty much completely new look City side was, especially against a team in 2nd place battling for promotion. However we did have a brief scare when Sammy Ameobi's grass cutter from 20 yards skimmed the post to Burge's right. We also had a half chance however when Beavon turned the last defender and on his weaker foot dragged it wide.

 Beavon was at it again on the right flank, he muscled off his marker, shimmied past another defender and put in a beautiful cross to Kyel Reid on the back post, he headed it back across goal where Tudgay was waiting to nod in and score his 100th professional goal. It was an all round wonderful goal, Kyel Reid got the assist but all the work must be credited to Beavon.

 I wasn't too sure what Burton fans meant when they say, he won't get as many goals as you'd hope but he'll do all the work for a lot of them, now I do, it was a magnificent piece of play. This goal came just 8 minutes before half time, I had no problem with us sitting back and taking the lead into the break as long as it wasn't the tone for the second half.

Second Half

 Bolton very much picked up their game and I could see us conceding unless we kicked on and tried for a second, unfortunately, we didn't do that. On the 67th minute Haynes made a poor error of judgement, the ball was lumped over the top in an attempt to find Gary Madine, it was going miles past him but Haynes had a firm grip on his shirt.

Madine knew he wasn't getting there and went down very easily, but the blame still has to go down to the City left back, you can't do that in those areas, the outcome will always be the same. The penalty was given, and up stepped substitute Zach Clough who sent the keeper the wrong way to put us back to square one. Now that we had conceded I really thought that Wanderers would take charge and get a second to defeat us, how wrong I was.

  Ryan Haynes didn't let his mistake get to him and went on an incredible run, I think he's managed to get past four men before he laid it off to Beavon. From about 20 yards he opened his body up and let fly, Alnwick was rooted to his spot as the balled flashed past him into the bottom corner. Almost instantly, we managed to retake the lead which was met with the Coventry fans going into raptures.

 Now Bolton were throwing lots of pressure at us, and we were failing to counter it with enough attacks. We had caught them out however when Tudgay and Thomas were facing one defender with 15 minutes remaining ready to kill off the game, Tudgay laid it off to Thomas who slotted in under Alnwick, only to be pulled back for offside. Now I for one can't confirm as I was on the other side of the stadium but I heard from someone on twitter who was in line with it that it was onside and there was no question. I'll let you ponder on that.

 In the 91st minute something called 'WhistleGate' begun. Bolton kept on attacking and we kept dealing with it, but when they pulled a ball across the pitch there was a sharp blow on a whistle in the crowd which Lameiras and Reilly appeared to mistake for that of the referee's so understandably stopped even though Reilly could have easily picked up the ball had he known.

 The visitors however kept playing and one 'Classic Parkinson' ball into the box later it fell to Clayton, who's deflected shot found the bottom corner. This broke me, that's 3 out of our last 4 games that we have conceded in the 89th minute or later to drop crucial points. Had we seen those games out we would be well clear of the relegation zones.

 That's football I suppose, sometimes it plays out against you. What I will take out of today is though, if we play like that every game for the rest of the season there is absolutely no way that we are going down. We aren't playing until next Tuesday which is against Brighton u23s in the Checkatrade Trophy, I can barely contain my excitement. Before that though I'm off to Watford on Saturday to tick off another ground for the 92. I might report on it but I'm not sure, given how my consistency with neutral games has been lately it's pot luck.

My Man of the Match - Stuart Beavon - Considering it was his debut and he signed for us yesterday he had an astonishing match. Making all the right runs, passes and even contributing a goal. Hopefully he can pick up a few awards because 2 of the front runners are Sordell and Stevenson. One of which is gone and the other heavily rumoured to be on his way out, it'd be a bit awkward if no one overtook them on 4.