Thursday, 30 March 2017

March to the Arch - Day 5 - Brighton u23s

With only 3 days left until 13% of Coventry goes to north west London I have reached the last 16 of the Checkatrade Trophy looking back at our run, and we got horrifically lucky by facing a bunch of kids at the Ricoh. In fairness to Brighton, they did bring a whole 10 parents and family members to the game to see them get ruined at the hands of an average City side.

Starting XI:

Reice Charles-Cook

Dion Kelly-Evans
Cian Harries
Chris Stokes
Ryan Haynes

George Thomas
Gael Bigirimana
Vladimir Gadzhev
Ruben Lameiras

Jodi Jones
Stuart Beavon

Substitutes:

Lee Burge
Jack Finch
Callum Maycock
Callum Reilly
Ben Stevenson
Andy Rose
Marcus Tudgay

I'm not sure what's funnier, that we were literally forced to play Chris Stokes in his unnatural position of centre back a solid 6 weeks before he was actually fit to play football again or that we had 5 centre midfielders on the bench. I say we played average because when it really comes down to it, it literally is kids we were playing against.

We were all over them early on but their keeper was a shining light in the team, Cian Harries had a flicked on header saved at point blank range early on whilst Jodi Jones' well placed low driven attempt forced him to change direction and palm it to one side. Possibly his best save of the night was from Bigi who on the half volley had a shot which looked destined for the top corner but Sanchez in net managed to get finger tips on it taking it over.

By no fault of the keeper, we eventually got our deserved lead, Beavon turned his defender well to play the ball to Lameiras about 12 yards out who with all the time in the world stuck it in the far corner. This seemed to open the floodgates a little, our power was proving way too much for the youngsters.

Jodi Jones has portrayed a lot of quality this season under the radar, he never seems to give up on a loose ball. We saw that once more early in the second half when he managed to keep it in on the right when all the defenders had assumed it was a lost cause. This meant he could roam into the box and pick out the perfect ball for George Thomas to nod into the roof of the net.

We then took our foot off the gas a bit until late on when Ryan Haynes did his thing and ran in free space, cut on to his right, and from about 20 yards struck in off the far post. Ladbrokes are offering 25/1 Ryan Haynes to score and Coventry to win, put your house on it. But I'm getting incredibly excited now, how about you...?

Come back again tomorrow where I'll be going over the Quarter Final win away at Swansea where there will be a story of tears, penalties, motorway closures and all around absolute #Scenes. Only one more working day left of the week which feels like it will never end.




Wednesday, 29 March 2017

March to the Arch - Day 4 - Crawley

I'm starting to have random fidgety outburst of excitement thinking about Sunday, but before looking forward, you have to look backwards and remember how we got here. That's exactly what I'm doing today with the fourth instalment of our route to Wembley where today I'll be remembering our victory over Crawley.

I'm not going to lie, it's probably the one match which you kind of forget happened. It was a cold  night in December just after we'd been ruined by Cambridge in the FA Cup. I find it funny how I remember the experience writing about the game more so than the the game itself. It was in the waiting room at Coventry station after in the middle of waiting an hour for a train. I got back at 11 and managed to produce this in my tired state if anyone wants a more detailed and serious report.

 http://aviewfromthestandss.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/my-thirty-fourth-1617-game-coventry.html?m=1

Starting XI:

Reice Charles-Cook

Gael Bigirimana
Jordan Willis
Jordan Turnbull
Lewis Page

Jodi Jones
Andy Rose
Chris McCann
George Thomas

Jack McBean
Marvin Sordell

Substitutes:

Lee Burge
Cian Harries
Vladimir Gadzhev
Callum Maycock
Ruben Lameiras
Kyel Reid
Marcus Tudgay

As I've stated, this game was one that just sort of happened, a whole 1338 people turned up, including about 6 Crawley. Sordell got his swansong goal before possibly the worst decision of Slade's tenure by letting him go, a simple tap in from about 3 yards with a ball coming in from Thomas. I honestly don't know what else there is to talk about the game was that dull.

I managed to get through a whole post by humorously talking about our formation and how for most of the second half we played Callum Maycock and Bigi at the full backs and still somehow managed to keep a clean sheet. It was very funny...

I've said all I can really, and I'm going to save your time instead of jabbering on about formations and ask a question to leave you with, how are you getting there on Sunday? Personally I'm going in a hummer limo, not driven by Lateef Elford-Alliyu like the guys at the Nii Lamptey Show tried to do but I'm sure it'll be as good all the same. Fingers crossed the Green Man is packed full of Sky Blue from opening. See you tomorrow where I'll do a slightly more detailed post remembering Brighton and Hove Albion u23 at home.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

March to the Arch - Day 3 - Wycombe (Away)

5 days remain, 5 whole days. It feels so close yet so far at the exact same time. But our third Checkatrade Trophy match takes us back to early November where we took on Wycombe Wanderers for the first of two encounters in the competition this season at Adams Park. Drumroll please, I was actually able to get to this one. Once again my shoutouts will come into play here, thanks to Tom for the lift to Wycombe. Norwich on top of that back in August for the 6-1 thrashing.

We needed to beat Wycombe if we wanted a home draw in the next round, and I'm glad we did, because Wycombe ended up drawing Millwall away. That wouldn't have been particularly pretty, not only is Millwall as a place not the nicest, but also we wouldn't have got through to where we are now. 

At this point in the season I was having continuous fits looking at every team sheet wondering why Ryan Haynes wasn't picked over Lewis Page, it still shocks me now. Cup games were his time to shine, so when I saw he made the bench here I was elated that Mark Venus still knew he existed. However that satanic job thief loanee from West Ham also made it on. Here's the full team:

Starting XI:

Reice Charles-Cook

Callum Maycock
Cian Harries
Jordan Turnbull

Dion Kelly-Evans
Jack Finch
Andy Rose 
Jamie Sterry

Ruben Lameiras
George Thomas
Jack McBean

Substitutes: 

Corey Addai
Lewis Page
Ryan Haynes
Gael Bigirimana
Kyle Spence
Jodi Jones
Daniel Agyei

Looking back, I can see why we got trashed in the first half, what on earth is that side? We've got an out and out right back on the left wing, an 18 year old midfielder in defence. I think at the time I was on the verge of some form of mental breakdown but in hindsight it's hilarious that we managed to win.

Night away games are my favourite kind of matches, because it's only the proper hardcore that go so it's just singing non stop for ninety minutes. I've gotten back at gone 1am with an early start the next day on more occasions than I would care to admit. I think there was about 250 of us there, which isn't bad for a near dead rubber match in a "tinpot" (until we became good) trophy.

Whilst games like this can produce magical moments and scenes to be remembered, they can also be extremely foul affairs if it doesn't go well. Take Wimbledon away in February for example, it was great, I did a Steve Evans run down the touchline and was ready to take 3 points back on the train with me. That was until we conceded in the 94th minute and I started kicking advertising boards in anger. Oh well, the Sainsbury's muffins cheered me up ever so slightly.

The point I'm trying to make is, when we went 1-0 down thanks to a poor strike from Stephen McGinn which took a deflection making it out of Cookie's reach I wasn't too happy. That was pretty much all that happened in the first half, it really kicked off in the second, 6 times to be exact. But before we saw any of that, Haynes got his reintroduction at half time. In fact we made a triple sub for a laugh. Jones and Bigirimana also came on in place of Rose and Lameiras.

After just 8 minutes of running around on a pitch finding his feet Haynes made a massive howler to gift it to Scott Kashket, who made it 2-0. An extremely undercooked pass back to Cookie meant Kashket was able to dance round him and have an easy tap in to double the lead. I was in a stage of grief that the moment I'd waited for so long turned out to be a funeral to his chances of staying in the squad.

The ginger Ronaldo had other ideas, a blistering run down the left and a Ronaldo chop later he had the opportunity to shoot. On his right foot he found the far corner to spark a revolution amongst the away team as well as saving me from a heavy twitter blasting regarding all of my "#FreeRyanHaynes" comments.

What made it even better, he did it again, Jodi did extremely well to keep it in on the far side and he played it across the box where Haynes shot back across goal and it trickled in the net. It was definitely Haynes' goal, that's what we tell people. It wasn't an own goal at all... If we keep quiet then maybe they won't take the goal off him.



Jodi then did some more magic on the right to feed the ball into a lurking George Thomas who this time didn't have to rely on the defenders putting it in for him and poked it into the back of the net for, funnily enough, his first ever goal for the Sky Blues. He's developed into a decent little player this season.

To put the cherry on the icing on the cake Haynes got his second assist of the game (technically) by unselfishly pulling the ball back to Biggie who after 6 years (ish) got his first goal for the club. This is when the magical eye elbowing incident happened. It confirmed we'd won the group so there was a big celebration and I nearly hit the ground after taking a large blow.

It was possibly the best away day of the season, saying that, there hasn't been many, but it meant we went into the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy where we drew Crawley Town at home in the round of 32 stage. Which will be day 4 tomorrow, not long left until my voice completely goes after the biggest culmination of City fans ever recorded. Unless you count 60s stories where people jumped the walls at Highfield Road and there was 60k packed in. But I'm going off topic...

Monday, 27 March 2017

March to the Arch - Day 2 - Northampton

The second game in our Checkatrade Trophy campaign and the second (and final) match in this tournament I didn't attend, this time because I literally couldn't get there. So my mystery destination this time is a house in Leicestershire, a little less glamorous than a hotel lobby in a sunny destination like for the West Ham match but I was equally glued to my phone looking for updates.

To add context, we had just won our first game of the season, Mark Venus' first in charge and were all treating him as if he were the messiah. We also thought that because we'd won one game against a bunch of kids that Wembley was sewn up already. A tad too early perhaps but we needed some form of optimism after the start we'd endured.

Starting XI:

Lee Burge

Jamie Sterry
Jordan Willis
Jordan Turnbull
Lewis Page

Gael Bigirimana
Vladimir Gadzhev

Jodi Jones
Chris McCann
Daniel Agyei

Marvin Sordell

Substitutes:

Corey Addai
Sam Ricketts
Cian Harries
Ben Stevenson
Devon Kelly-Evans
Ruben Lameiras
Marcus Tudgay

In perhaps the most bizarre start to a football match ever, there was 3 goals in the first minute. I'm not sure if this shows that football is the best sport in the world or that the quality on display in the early stages of this tournament was similar to the San Marino under 11s third tier. That's an ever so slight exaggeration but the point still stands.

The first goal came for us just 21 seconds in, the fastest ever goal scored at the Ricoh, and it came via a Darren Huckerby vs Man United style run from the underwhelming loanee Daniel Agyei. It was a good goal don't get me wrong, but why on earth has he not been closed down there, especially as a light breeze could take the ball away from him.

What makes it even worse is Agyei has gone on to make his Premier League debut since returning to Burnley, he was extremely mediocre so how that happened is beyond me. In typical Coventry fashion the perfect start wasn't allowed to happen, which was made evident a whole 60 seconds later. Willis somehow missed a routine interception and allowed Marc Richards the easiest of tap ins. Scintillating football on display.

Before the tenth minute was even reached we managed to take the lead once again, Jodi picked up the ball in the final third and unnecessarily ended the defenders career by nutmegging him. I won't even name him because I assume he's still recovering but once he was left for dead Jones cooly slot in at the far post to end a heart in mouth first section of the match.

Not only did it put an end to the first section, but it seemed to put an end to the match. A whole 90 minutes worth of action looked to have been packed into the first 8 for the most part. Now big shout out to Mitch and Tom for live streaming the match on Facebook and helping myself and other City fans in our hour of need. If it weren't for them I wouldn't have seen the Mitre Goal of the Year contender from Ruben Lameiras.

Chris McCann, who I assume nowadays is sunning himself in Atlanta occasionally hoofing a ball about and picking up £30k at the end of the week, played a perfectly weighted 40 odd yard pass to Ruben. He controlled it well and lofted it over Cornell exquisitely, honestly, why doesn't he play more often.

That was pretty much it other than Burge fumbling an easy ball and nearly gifting the Cobblers a goal but what's new there? A 3-1 victory which took us only into second place in the group, behind Wycombe on goal difference, but crucially, we were through to the knockout stages. To get a home tie though we needed to go to Wycombe away and get three points.

So just 6 days are left until the M1 experiences horrendous traffic, and the longest week of my life is underway. Anyone excited yet? I certainly am. Make sure you tune in tomorrow to hear tales of a 4 goal comeback, a brace from left back and me getting elbowed in the eye, well that can only mean Wycombe away.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

March to the Arch - Day 1 - West Ham u23s

A week. 7 days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes. 604,800 seconds. That is all that separates Coventry City and the home of English football, and to celebrate I shall be counting down the 7 games that have brought us to this point. Going all the way back to August, in our first match of the Checkatrade Trophy we all thought this format was diabolical and most of us stood by the B team boycott, but the less said about that the better.

As I say, the whole u23 teams being in the tournament was new and because we're human, we don't like change. It may seem a bit hypocritical that I am doing this on a match I wasn't even at, it was late August and I was on holiday so missed this along with the Northampton home match, sue me. But for the 2,096 people that did attend, they witnessed a 6 goal thriller.

It was such a long time ago that Tony Mowbray was manager, since then three other men have managed the club, just to put that into perspective. Even the team seems weirdly different compared to what it is now, I forgot a few of them even played for us and how Mowbray tried forcing them into playing a 3-4-3. Here was the team we played:

Starting XI:

Lee Burge

Jordan Willis
Cian Harries
Jordan Turnbull

Dion Kelly-Evans
Gael Bigirimana
Chris McCann
Ryan Haynes

Ruben Lameiras
Marvin Sordell
Daniel Agyei

Substitutes:

Reice Charles-Cook
Sam Ricketts
Jack Finch
Ben Stevenson
George Thomas
Jodi Jones
Marcus Tudgay

So I was sitting in a hotel lobby getting Twitter updates on my phone for our match against some kids questioning what the point in life was, and what made it worse was the fact we went 1-0 down half an hour in at the hands of Antonio Martinez. It was shambolic defending and communicating from Burge and Willis which allowed him to just steal the ball and tap it in.

Thankfully however before I could jump in the pool clutching a toaster I saw that we equalised via at the time new signing Jordan Turnbull. A decent half volley after Harries pulled it back to him, a very scrappy goal but they all count. At this point I thought our experience should carry us to a comfortable victory, and in fairness, I was right.

Half time came and went and 3 minutes into the second period we took the lead when Daniel Agyei's Strictly Come Dancing style dribbling fooled the defenders meaning he was free to lay off to Lameiras. The winger who definitely doesn't get played enough now side footed in off the post. Things were looking up.

Captain I believe Willis got in on the action with less then 20 minutes left on the clock. Two substitutes combined in Jones and Tudgay from a free kick near the corner leaving Jordan to tap in. The rout was completed another couple of minutes later from Turnbull once again, in almost identical fashion to Willis' goal, a Jones free kick led to a fairly straight forward goal.

4-1 up with 2 minutes left, surely nothing could change this? It's not like Coventry City to tarnish a good performance, Kelly-Evans tripped their left winger up for no reason and got himself a second booking. It's a pity because he has turned into a great full back this season, maybe he's learnt from it well.

We weren't done there, but we conceded what can only be described as a screamer from Martinez as he volleyed, sliced, whatever you want to call it, it left Burge scrambling across the line unable to do anything. So it was a slightly less glamorous but still impressive 4-2 victory, 3 of the 4 goals came from defenders called Jordan. I found that mildly amusing from unnamed abroad country.

So that was day one, tune in tomorrow where I'll be reminiscing moments such as the fastest goal in Ricoh Arena history, and a goal similar to THAT Huckerby run verses Man United. Also, the second and only other game I didn't attend, so another mystery destination to be found out, what more could you want?

My Fifty-Ninth 16/17 Game - Coventry City vs Bristol Rovers

I'm not sure what's worse, the fact that I've missed 7 whole matches and that it's been 1 month and 8 days since my last post or that I'm writing this intro section at 2:39am completely after forgetting that the clocks went forward. The reason why I haven't done any games is down to various reasons which I won't go into. But here's a brief summary.

Game 52 - Wolves 1-2 Birmingham - Not a bad match for a total of £15 all things included, a lot less stressful than going to see my actual club. Some very decent Friday night viewing. MMOTM - CCFC exclusive unfortunately.

Game 53 - Coventry 1-3 Swindon - We remembered that we weren't actually that good at football and that the Gillingham victory was a one off by being smashed at home by Swindon. On a side note George Thomas scored a worldie. MMOTM - George Thomas

Game 54 - Shrewsbury 0-0 Coventry - We played quite well, it was funny seeing Shrewsbury fans all run down to the front, average age of about 13, all run down to the front ready to give it large but then the penalty was spooned down the middle at Burge's legs. Russell Slade's fued with Bigirimana finally came to blows when he was practically pinned down and forced to play him, funnily enough he played incredibly after Andy Rose looked like he'd been shot. Slade was sacked the day after though, replaced immediately by Robins. MMOTM - Gael Bigirimana

Game 55 - Coventry 0-2 Bradford - For the first half we played decent, first 20 of the second we switched off by which point the game was over completely. They're quite good though so I wasn't too bothered to see us lose. MMOTM - Ben Stevenson

Game 56 - Coventry 0-2 Southend - Possibly the pick of the bunch for poor performances this season, 2 dodgy goals early on and we displayed no signs of playing average football at all. It was painful viewing . MMOTM - Dion Kelly-Evans

Game 57 - MK Dons 1-0 Coventry - We didn't play badly, just not very good at all. MK took advantage of our average performance and scored a belter from about 25 yards, not really much you can do. MMOTM - Jodi Jones

Game 58 - Coventry 2-1 Port Vale - Completely out of nowhere we decided to play some decent football. Kyel Reid scoring a goal of the season contender along with Kwame Thomas' backheel finish. We slipped a little conceding a fairly simple header but all in all it was a decent performance. Not that any of that matters. MMOTM - Kyel Reid

That takes us back to now, where we hosted potential play off dark horses Bristol Rovers in a game which is a dead rubber for us, but crucial for them, which we saw with the 4,000 visiting fans in the away end. In the least cruel way possible, I thought it would have been great to see us ruin their day and come out as victors.

Coventry City Starting XI:
(4-4-2) Burge – Willis (C), Clarke, Rawson, Haynes – G Thomas, Reilly, Bigirimana, Reid – Beavon, Jones
Coventry City Substitutes:
Charles-Cook, Turnbull, Kelly-Evans, Stokes, Stevenson, Lameiras, Vernam
Bristol Rovers Starting XI:
(4-3-3) Lumley – J. Clarke, Lockyer, Burn, Brown – O. Clarke, Lines, Sinclair – Bodin, James, Gaffney
Bristol Rovers Substitutes:
Mildenhall, Leadbitter, Mansell, Harris, Easter, Montano, Moore
First Half
It was a very back and forth 90 minutes with both sides attacking for the duration but it was Rovers who had the first serious attempt on goal, with Billy Bodin’s shot being blocked wide. We hit back immediately however with Jodi Jones’ free kick forcing an outstretched save from Lumley. Then again ten minutes later the Sky Blues switched it from one full back to another, Ryan Haynes played it across to the back post where Jordan Willis was waiting. His header comfortably saved.
On the half hour mark the gers had a free kick of their own when Lee Brown shot straight into the wall from 20 yards, with the follow up equally blocked and cleared away. Tom Lockyer got the first booking of the match after a tactical foul stopped Jones from crossing into the box with the potential for Stuart Beavon to finish. The striker however was left waiting, the resulting free kick gave him a chance to take the lead but once again City couldn’t get past Lumley.
Half Time – Coventry City 0-0 Bristol Rovers
Rovers weren’t playing to their usual standards so something had to be changed, which was done when Leadbitter and Moore replaced James Clarke and Gaffney respectively at the break. This seemed to do the trick as they had us on the ropes for the first section of the second half. Luke James and substitute Byron Moore both had chances to put the away side ahead.
City made our first change when Dion Kelly-Evans replaced Willis after he looked to have picked up a knock on the hour mark. Meanwhile the final Gers substitution was made with 25 minutes remaining when Harris replaced Jonny Burn. Moore had another chance when the Coventry defence was caught napping, he broke through the middle but shot wide of the mark.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, we started taking control of the game and nearly took the lead via Jones’ volley which was skied over the bar from Reid’s cross. The 19 year old winger seemed to injure his knee in the process and was taken off for Ruben Lameiras to come on. The Sky Blue pressing carried on and with 10 minutes remaining the deadlock was broken when George Thomas struck a beautiful half volley after Beavon’s through ball when it crept in at the far post. 
The final Coventry change of the match saw them tighten up in defence with Stokes coming on for winger  Reid, which meant they kept a clean sheet, but invited in pressure for the remainder. Lee Burge was put to the test and made an acrobatic save deep into injury time tipping over the bar. 
Full Time – Coventry City 1-0 Bristol Rovers
As I've said, it doesn't really matter too much, but it was nice to see us come away with three points and all but kill Rovers' play off hopes. I can't help but think we would have been battered had that been under Slade but instead of Robins. We showed real signs of being a functioning football team, it's just a shame it's too little too late.

Next match, and my sixtieth, is just your average trip to north London with 45,000 other Coventry fans in the Checkatraade Trophy final. Nothing too big. I will be building up the clubs biggest moment in years by doing a weeks worth of preparation called 'March to the Arch' looking back on what brought us here.

My Man of the Match - George Thomas - Georgey has gone under the radar this season but has been one of our best players. He's scored goals in the cups as well this season, getting us to the final, so deserves to be in the starting eleven at Wembley. I'm giddy even thinking about it.