Sunday, 30 April 2017

My Sixty-Seventh 16/17 Game - Scunthorpe United vs Coventry City

45 games of pain, anger, bottling and rage have all led to this excruciating moment, a pointless trip to Scunthorpe when we're already relegated. How I enjoy following the City around the country. A free Saturday and a trip to Fulham taught me what a football club and stadium should be, well that's true if you ignore the clappers.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Dion Kelly-Evans
Willis
Turnbull
Camwell

Bigirimana
Gadzhev

G Thomas
Lameiras
Jones

Tudgay

Coventry City Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Thompson
Shipley
Devon Kelly-Evans
Reid
K Thomas
Folivi

Obvious changes to last weeks squad include the introduction of yet another academy product in the form of Chris Camwell. Both Kelly-Evans brothers were in the squad for only the second competitive time. The fourth Jordan in the squad, this one ending in Thompson managed to make it into the eighteen for the first time as well.

First Half

We started out on the attack, with Jodi Jones cutting in and sending one sailing over the bar on his weaker foot. However just moments later we had to be saved by Lee Burge when he managed to latch onto a loose ball which was just inches away from being struck home by Van Veen. The score however remained 0-0.

Later on Burge was called upon once more, with Paddy Madden being the attacker this time. Although on this occasion the save remained a lot more comfortable. Madden had another attempt on goal towards thee end of the first half but the Sky Blues' number one was on hand again to stop the home advances.

Somewhat against the run of play, Jones laid the ball off to Gadzhev. In one of the funniest goals I've seen this season, he had a go from 20 yards and with the help of a massive deflection, found the other corner. It didn't mean anything whatsoever but it was pleasant to see we had the capability of managing to go in front against a play off side, and take that lead into half time.

Half Time - Scunthorpe United 0-1 Coventry City

Second Half

It would be, putting it literally, a down right lie to say we were battering the Iron. They proved their dominance by coming out for the second half fighting, it took them a whole 7 minutes for their pressing to pay off. Kevin Van Veen opened his body up to curl the ball into the top corner from just outside the box.

In an attempt to try and grab a second goal, Kwame Thomas replaced Jodi Jones with 25 minutes left on the clock. We nearly managed to go ahead when the other Thomas, George forced an exceptional fingertip save from Anyon. This was a sign that we were coming back into the game, but as with most things Coventry City related, it all came crashing down in a ball of fire.

The Scunthorpe stand is rather close to the pitch...
Neal Bishop scored the second peach of the match with five minutes left on the clock, a long ranger which fund the top corner. Then something astounding followed, we all learned that Mark Robins has infact got quite a good sense of humour because Michael Folivi was allowed to play the last four minutes. There could be no possible reasoning behind this other than pure banter, which I rate in a manager.

What would have killed me with laughter would be if he bagged the equaliser, but unfortunately he didn't and we conceded a third in the last minute. He'll go back to Watford with 6 minutes played, and a Checkatrade Trophy medal thrown in as well because why not. He's just another hilarious contributing factor for this sad excuse for a season which was concluded by the fifth pitch invasion of the season, very apt.

I've got at least one more match planned before the season officially finishes, Leamington's Play Off Final match against Hitchin Town. My Sixty-Eighth and potentially final game of the season, and the third in 3 days. I'll be slightly disappointed not to reach 70 matches for the season but after tomorrow I'll be up on last year by 17.

As for the Sky Blues, I'll refrain from going into a massive rant now as I'll be saving it all up for a season preview which should be out in the week. Hopefully the retained list will be included by then so I'll have even more fuel to do a whole essay on why we're going to the dogs currently. But until then, enjoy the aftermath of whatever that season was.

My Man of the Match - Chris Camwell - To be fair to him, the u18 star was very good on his debut. Although him starting has made me slightly aware of the Aaron Martin syndrome flying around, he didn't play on the last day verses Oldham last season and no one knew why. That was until he was released the next day. Going off this, players in the firing line include Stokes, Haynes, Stevenson (sold) and Harries (sold). Unless of course they are just injured, but remember I said this...




Saturday, 22 April 2017

My Sixty-Fifth 16/17 Game - Coventry City vs Walsall

Today would be the last time that many Coventry fans set foot in the Ricoh Arena due to a boycott next season. Personally I have absolutely no idea what I'll be doing. Hopefully Joy Seppalla, Gary Hoffman and the mystery other businessmen make it easy for myself and a very large group of fans who are NOPM and on the fence. What people have to do is respect others opinions so we don't divide as a fan base even more than we already are.

To sign off at the Ricoh with a win would make this horrendous season ever so slightly more bearable. To say that there was nothing to play for for either side was a fair assessment, unless you count the potential to overtake Chesterfield to move into 23rd. That's how depressing the season has gotten.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Charles-Cook

Foley
Willis
Turnbull
Stokes

Gadzhev
Bigirimana

G Thomas
Lameiras
Jones

Tudgay

Coventry City Substitutes:

Burge
Rawson
Kelly-Evans
Shipley
Reid
K Thomas
Folivi

We have some youth on the pitch, but to balance it out Robins threw in the "retirement home" players like Tudgay and Foley instead of Kelly-Evans and maybe Kwame Thomas. On the plus side, no loan players started the fixture. Michael Folivi is still looking for an elusive appearance, part of me hopes he is given the last 30 seconds of Scunthorpe away, and scores the winner.

First Half

Much like in recent home matches, we started out on top, we had most of the possession and were making Walsall play our game. The first real chance came 10 minutes in when a Lameiras chance fell to Kevin Foley of all people, the right back isn't known for his shooting so stabbed straight at MacGivallray. Good early signs however.

Pressure is all well and good but when you're not converting it into any serious chances then it's worthless. Jones had a couple of decent chances down the left wing to put in some good crosses but both were far too deep. It's no secret that us Coventry fans don't like short corners, mainly because we groan every time we see a forward steaming towards the flag.

It was no different a few minutes before the break, but this occasion was very much different. Lameiras performed some great ball control to get past O'Connor and laid tried to have a shot but it was blocked away to the edge of the box. It only got as far as George Thomas though and on the side foot he struck the ball sweetly into the bottom corner, in off the post.

He could've made it two in two when Lameiras  again helped him out by playing him through one on one. The keeper however made himself big, forcing Thomas to put his chance wide of the mark. This was the final chance before the referee blew his whistle to signal half time, the Sky Blues took in a fairly comfortable 1-0 lead.

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Walsall

Second Half

Walsall had a reality check at half time and realised they were losing to bottom of the league so brought on Oztumer and Dobson. The former recently made it into the PFA League One team of the year and scored the equaliser at the Bank's back in October so must be alright. For the first section of the second period we weren't playing badly, we just didn't control the game as well and Walsall were getting back into it.

Off the pitch the atmospher was beginning to get slightly more tense, a Coventry fan was ejected for singing anti-Walsall chanting which is incredibly harsh whilst a couple of visitors were removed for a reason I am unaware of. Police and stewards were lining up at the front in anticipation of something happening in protest to the owners.

Tudgay had a half volley on the hour mark which he sent high and wide. Ten minutes later and an already booked Eoghan O'Connell brought down Thomas. Almost immediately he was given his marching orders. Chris Stokes was forced off through injury and was replaced by Rawson, he slotted in at centre back with Turnbull moving to the left back position.

This was followed by our final two substitutions, Foley left the field for Kelly-Evans and Gadzhev came off to be replaced by Jordan Shipley, who made his senior debut. Another product from the youth academy to make the step up to the senior side in recent times. They saw out the game well for a good 3 points. We're also no longer bottom of the league if you want to take the positives out of this season.

Full Time - Coventry City 1-0 Walsall

If we can come away from Scunthorpe with a win I'll be happy, not that it means much, everyone likes to see their team win... Fingers crossed Gary Hoffman can get closer to a takeover of the Sky Blues so I can sleep at night knowing I won't get lynched for buying a season ticket. Next Saturday I'm off to Fulham however which will help when trying to get to seventy games.

My Man of the Match - Vladimir Gadzhev - Considering he's been dreadful since joining, Vlad was brilliant today and finally looked like fitting the bill of the new Fleck. It's a shame it was a whole year too late. This is his second award of the season. I think the other was in pre-season to put things into perspective.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

League Two Preparation - CCFC Contracts - Who Stays/Goes

Much like every single year for us Coventry fans, we have to deal with a very large amount of expiring contracts at the end of the season. Last year, to put it lightly, Tony Mowbray made a hash of who to keep and who to let go. There were bizarre decisions like letting Aaron Martin and Reda Johnson go, neither of which to this day have been replaced.

We always knew it would have been tricky to keep hold of John Fleck but when Tudgay is on a reported £6,000 a week it makes you wonder, could we have done more? Then there were decisions like selling Romain Vincelot to Bradford which was just plain stupidity from Mowbray. I remember him telling me to trust him and that good signings were coming. Inevitably, 10 league games, Lewis Page and an Andre Wright thrown in for good measure later, he abandoned ship to leave Venus to pick up the pieces.

I don't want this turning into a season review, that's another depressing post for another time, I can't wait either. But the situation this time around is different because we have to prepare for another division, the fourth tier of English football. The lowest ebb for the club, but League Two is harder to get out of than most people give it credit for, leaving Robins with a tough task if promotion is the aim for the Sky Blues. Here is a player by player guide of the players who will potentially be leaving or signing on for the fight next season..

Lee Burge - It's started off very tricky, some might say that Burge has been one of our better players this season. He's certainly stood out in specific games such as Wembley where a fantastic save at the death of the game won us the trophy. However others argue he is too inconsistent to be relied on and that him and Charles-Cook are both number 2s. I don't imagine for one second our budget for next year is especially large (Depending on whether the rumoured takeover is real or not) so a new goalkeeper is a luxury we just can't afford. For that reason I would give Burge another year and pray he excels more, commanding his area certainly needs to improve.

He's been here for more than 3 seasons so that gives him legend status right?

Chris Stokes - Injury kept Stokes out for nearly a year but the ex-Forest Green left back has managed to work his way back into the squad. He was played as a centre back in the EFL Trophy final and played exceptionally, which really makes you wonder, should he stay there permanently? Especially with fierce competition for the left back spot with Ryan Haynes, this may be the best bet for him. Even if this is not the path he takes, Chris is used to the rough and tough of the lower leagues due to his time spent with Forest Green so will be a good player to have going into next season. Besides, I gave him player of the season for the 15/16 year so he must be at least alright.


I must confess I have Stokes on the back of my home shirt.

Dion Kelly-Evans - Arguably, Dion should have been played a lot more this season but has had Kevin Foley stealing his spot so hasn't managed many appearances. However the ones that the 20 year old right-back has played in he has looked very good. In fact I'd go as far as to say he's not had a bad game for us yet, so we should definitely look to give him perhaps another 2 years to see how his development continues. The one thing holding him back is he's only a little lad at 5 foot 5 so it's questionable whether he'll be able to cope with the physicality of League Two. Only time will tell, but he'll certainly have to bear that in mind.

He's so good sometimes it looks like there's two of him...

Devon Kelly-Evans - Dion's twin brother Devon has had next to no chances in the first team at all, but it's much harder to break into the side as an attacking player. The most I've seen of him is a bit in pre-season (including an astonishing 18 yard header against Nuneaton) and half an hour of competitive football at Norwich in the cup. That's not enough to make a real judgement on his future for me, but he captained the u23 side before being loaned out to Nuneaton themselves where he has scored his first ever senior goal. Judging by this we should give him another year or two to help him continue his development at the City, possibly sending him back out on loan. The situation should be reassessed in pre-season.

This is a different player, I promise.


Andy Rose - Poaching Rose from Seattle Sounders was a good acquisition at the beginning of 2016 and he became a regular in the City side after Fleck and Vincelot's departures. During our brief spell of good form around October time he was one of the best players in the team. There's a chance he would be in contention for player of the season if it wasn't an injury hampered season for Andy. A few niggles here, a knock there and finally medial ligament damage at Shrewsbury away in March when it looked like he'd fractured his skull. On his day he's a great centre midfielder but he's rarely around to have his day. On top of that he doesn't really look happy to be here in amongst all of the off-pitch problems. We need reliable players who want to be here and love playing for the badge, not to say Andy isn't passionate but as unpopular as this opinion may be, I would look at moving him on.

His thunderbolt against Bradford will always stay in my memories.
Jack Finch - This is going to sound a bit harsh, but why on earth is he still here? A still very much injured Chris Stokes made into the starting eleven ahead of Finch in January. To be fair to him, when he came on he looked alright, but it feels like he's been here for an age now doing not much at all. Which is the main reason it shocked me to my core he is only 20 years of age. Put it this way, last year when we announced our retained list, Finch was neither confirmed to be staying on or released. No one questioned it either, he just managed to stay in the u23s without anyone saying anything. If I haven't made it clear enough already, I would let Finch go at the end of the season.

This was the only photo I could find of him wearing this season's shirt, his portrait. Poor lad.
Gael Bigirimana - He came to Coventry as a refugee from Burundi at just 8 years old, knocked on the door at Ryton and asked for a trial. He went on to win Championship young player of the year 11/12, the year we went down at age just 17. Newcastle bought him for £1 million and effectively ruined his career for a good four years. He came back on loan last season and played fairly average, but returned permanently back in August and has been outstanding. A fall out with Russell Slade kept him out of the first team for a period of time but aside from that he's been in my opinion player of the season. He has the ability to get out of high pressure situation with ease, isn't afraid of anyone and would die for the badge. He even scored the first goal at Wembley for Christ's sake! I'm trying to be unequivocally clear here, Mark Robins must try everything to keep Bigi next season. I'd even go as far as to giving him the captaincy he's that passionate.

It's fair to say I'm a fan of Bigi at this club.
Kyle Spence - Spence is another player I've only seen glimpses of, mostly in pre-season but from the small amount I have observed, he's a very tricky winger. Much like Devon Kelly-Evans, we should give him another year or two to grow as a footballer. Maybe give him a loan move to a conference side or Nuneaton, you never know, he could burst onto the scene in League Two with us.

He ripped Rugby Town to pieces in pre-season, albeit eight tier Rugby Town.

Vladimir Gadzhev - When he arrived on a free from Levski Sofia near the end of last season Gadzhev was touted as the next Fleck. That now seems a distant memory as he has been reduced to the bench for most matches, rarely making it onto the field. In fact 18 year old Callum Maycock was higher in the pecking order than Vlad for most of the season. I'd put serious money on him leaving as you just don't see him around, he rarely appears anywhere. Perhaps a return to Bulgaria with his shiny Checkatrade Trophy medal is the best thing for him. 

His highlight for the Sky Blues was probably bleaching his hair blonde around January.
Ruben Lameiras - We have won the biggest percentage of games this season when Lameiras has started the match, but he is another one who may fall in the category of not strong enough for League Two. Despite this I'd still keep him on, and I would expect Robins gives him a new deal considering how much he has played since the manager's arrival. He's made it clear to fans his dislike of Slade and I don't blame him really. 

Why is there even a debate he scored the winning penalty at Swansea in the Quarters of the cup.
George Thomas - Around August time people were slating Georgey because he wasn't bagging goals left, right and centre at the age of just 19. Since the turn of the year however he has been nothing short of remarkable and finds himself as top goalscorer, although that's not exactly hard. He's become a fans favourite after one moment in particular under a certain arch which every City fan will take to their grave. Apparently he is gaining interest from Leeds and Burnley but Robins needs to do all he can to keep hold of him because he would tear League Two apart.

He is immune from any criticism ever due to THAT goal at Wembley. Fact.
Ryan Haynes - The farce of Haynes being kept out of the squad for so long prompted me to start "#FreeRyanHaynes" on Twitter. Unfortunately it never got trending but everyone's favourite ginger left back/left wing back/left winger managed to get back into the first team in 2017 and hasn't disappointed. He's been an asset to the side ever since and once again like a couple of others would do extremely well in League Two if we're able to hold onto him. 

I love this photo so much that it was my Twitter header for a bit (@Handsey)
Nathan Clarke - He's one of the most passionate players I've seen put on the shirt, he would break his leg for the club. Everything you want in a leader of a centre back, which is why it's a terrible shame he's not very good at football. An old fashioned centre back, he doesn't care where the ball goes as long as it's not in his net. When he told the fans to up the atmosphere more at Sixfields despite all the flares disturbing the game depicts everything he is. In fact it's tempting to keep him on that alone. Maybe he'd be alright in League Two, he's got the build for it, I maybe wouldn't keep him but I won't be down-hearted if he stays.

It's rare I want a player to do well as much as I wanted Nathan Clarke to.
Kevin Foley - The fact Slade even signed him winds me up, not only is he not a very good right back, but he's also an abysmal centre midfielder. It's astonishing that he managed to make it into the side ahead of Bigirimana. This might be a slight exaggeration but signing Foley is a large contributing factor to our relegation, but that all goes back to Slade's incompetence.

He may be the nicest person in the world, but this image fills me with anger.
Marcus Tudgay - To finish on the contracted players, I can say for certain I know the outcome of what will happen to Tudgay in the summer. A few of us bumped into him at Rochdale and he said he's pretty sure he's leaving which tells you all you need to know. Some fans have found him to be a scapegoat which is quite harsh, it's not his fault he's 34 and his legs have gone. That's a bit rich coming from me however after my comments about Foley.

This photo may be from last season but it brings back good memories of last season.
Loans:

Callum Reilly - I was never a fan of him really, he's just been here since the New Year and not really done anything. I hope he makes something of his career at Burton but here he has done absolutely nothing at all.

Charles Vernam - He's made a whole 3 starts for us this season, one of two players Slade panicked and signed from Derby. He looked midly average from what I remember of him.

Farrend Rawson - The other Derby loanee, he's played a bit more but has had the same effect. I've seen him win about 2 headers since arriving in January.

Michael Folivi - If you thought Vernam was bad, Folivi has not played a single first team minute for Coventry City since joining from Watford on Deadline Day. The best part is, he first appeared in a match day squad at Wembley, meaning he picked up a medal. He celebrated like he'd done most of the work as well, incredible. I hope he actually plays before the end of the season so that isn't all he's remembered for. 

If there's one thing we do have going for us, it's that most of our younger and better players have fairly lenghty contracts. Players like Jodi Jones, Cian Harries and Ben Stevenson are all tied down until 2020 whilst Willis and Turnbull will also remain unless Robins says otherwise. Assuming we're able to keep everyone I hope we will, this is the base of the team for League Two. More additions are needed.

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Burge 

Kelly-Evans/Willis
Willis/Stokes
Turnbull
Haynes

Bigirimana
Stevenson

G Thomas
Jones
Reid

Beavon

Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Kelly-Evans/Stokes
Harries
Maycock
Lameiras
Spence
K Thomas

As a baseline that isn't bad, more additions are definitely needed but if we're able to start off with something along the lines of that then I will be happy. More depth is an absolute must and hopefully new head of recruitment Tommy Widdrington can be a big part of the build for next season. Fingers crossed we try and play something which will come out of the tunnel in August on Saturday against Walsall in our last home game of the season.

Monday, 17 April 2017

My Sixty-Fourth 16/17 Game - Rochdale vs Coventry City

Our first away game after falling to the fourth tier had been confirmed took us to Rochdale, who still have very faint hopes of making the play offs. However the match gave us an opportunity to play with no shackles on us, maybe give a few promising youngsters from our academy a run out. This idea was potentially fulfilled as Jordan Ponticelli and Jak Hickman were confirmed to travel with the squad.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Willis
Rawson
Turnbull
Stokes

Reilly
Stevenson
Bigirimana

G Thomas
K Thomas
Reid

Coventry City Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Foley
Kelly-Evans
Gadzhev
Lameiras
Folivi
Tudgay



Our hopes of seeing some youth get a chance were dashed when the team was announced and we decided against it. Injuries had meant that our squad was what it was, with the list of people out being in double figures. Jordan Willis was apparently walking wounded with an ongoing thigh problem meaning he had to be subbed off on more than one occasion recently.

First Half

For the first ten minutes or so we appeared to be the better side, our passing was good, pressing equally impressive. I could have easily seen us grabbing a goal if it weren't for Rochdale's solid defending, added onto that we have absolutely no attacking threat. Soon it was found out that we're all mouth and no trousers however so the game was taken over by the home side.

The highly rated Nathaniel Mendez-Laing went on a great run down the right, beating Stokes and his inch perfect cross was met by the head of Ian Henderson who nodded it straight past Burge. Henderson is in a list of players who always seem to score against us now, others include Billy Sharp, Leon Clarke and Nicky Ajose.

It was a very quiet fixture, we offered little to nothing in the form of shots thanks to the Dale nullifying everything whenever we got within 30 yards. The closest we came in the first 45 minutes was a couple of free kicks taken by Gael Bigirimana and Callum Reilly respectively. Both were wasted however, not even making it past the wall.

Half Time - Rochdale 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

As has been said previously, the game was very much a dull affair, so the first action of the second half came ten minutes in. The same two players as the first goal combined once more, Mendez-Laing played through Henderson who trickled it past Burge with unnerving ease. The Sky Blues keeper was helpless on the ground as he watched the ball roll past him into the net.

We haven't scored 3 goals in the league all season so it's fair to say 3 points now didn't look likely. Robins didn't give up hope however, so made a double substitution, off went Reid and Kwame Thomas, on came Lameiras and Tudgay. Interestingly, a few of us bumped into Tudgay outside the ground and he said in certain terms that he won't be staying on next season.

Some people may be pleased as he's not excelled this season but my take on it is, it's not his fault he's 34 and his legs have gone so he doesn't really deserve the stick he gets. Especially since he seems to work as hard as he can every time he enters the field of play. In fairness to Marcus, when he came on today he did seem half decent.

Our final change came with fifteen minutes left on the clock, Willis exited yet again with Dion Kelly-Evans taking up his spot at full back. Tudgay took the armband. This was met with chants of "Tudgay is our leader, Tudgay is our leader...." from the City fans in the away end. Willis came closest for us all match, a volley from five yards out which was blasted high and wide, that sums up the whole day.

With just 2 minutes remaining Ben Stevenson went down with what appeared to be a very serious injury, after a few minutes delay he was stretchered off wearing a neck brace but he has since been confirmed to be OK. According to Mark Robins it looks like it might be concussion. It didn't look as bad as Andy Rose's at Shrewsbury last month, in fact at the time fractured skull was rumoured.

After this 5 minutes of injury time was played out with a 2-0 Rochdale victory being the final result. It didn't surprise me that we would be going back from Lancashire empty handed, and it certainly wasn't a game I'll look back on and remember as being one for the ages either. It does however take us within 2 games of the end of a terrible season for everyone involved.

Next up we have Walsall at home, our final match of the season at the Ricoh Arena. I would say it is my last home game for the foreseeable future but I see myself crumbling and buying a season ticket next year. Hopefully the rumoured takeover happens so I can happily purchase one with my morals still firmly intact.

My Man of the Match - Gael Bigirimana - Apart from almost slicing someone in two towards thee end of the first half Bigi passed very well. One thing I did notice, he was exceptionally good at getting out of high pressure situations with the ball calmly. It is essential we try our absolute hardest to keep him for League Two next season.

Friday, 14 April 2017

My Sixty-Third 16/17 Game - Coventry City vs Charlton Athletic

With just four games left, we still somehow had our heads above water thanks to a good run we had put together, winning four out of our last five. Once more however only a win versus Charlton Athletic would do if we were to be alive going into Easter weekend, with Rochdale on Monday being the next stop.

Before I can even talk about the football first the attention has to be on the pre-match protests between both sets of fans. A march from The Cherry Tree to the Ricoh Arena with fans arm in arm to fight against both SISU and Roland Dutchatlet. Following this the match was delayed by 15 minutes due to 2,500 pigs thrown on the pitch, much like at The Valley in October.



Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Willis
Rawson
Turnbull
Haynes

G Thomas
Stevenson
Bigirimana
Jones

Beavon
Lameiras

Coventry City Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Stokes
Foley
Reilly
Reid
K Thomas
Tudgay

According to Mark Robins, we had "13/14" players missing for this fixture today, a couple of them being forced to play bruised on the bench. For example Willis had to start at Right back despite not being over his ongoing thigh problem which has affected him in recent weeks. Despite a couple of injuries though we had a decent side out which should have been capable of beating a Charlton side who's form has been sketchy lately to say the least.

First Half

Once two waves of pigs had been cleared up by stewards, ball boys and players, the match was finally able to get started properly. As we have learnt this season, the players don't react too well to the protests, that's not me saying that they're a bad thing by any means. They should learn to deal with them, but here is just a few.

Charlton Away - Pigs - 3-0 loss
Sheffield United at home - Pitch Invasion - Concede immediately after
Bolton at home - Whistles - Concede last minute
Millwall at home - Tennis balls - Concede immediately after

The point I'm trying to make is that they don't react too well to them, so I wasn't expecting us to come out of the blocks raring to go. I was right to be fair, early on the Addicks had the better of the chances, with Nathan Byrne having the pick of the bunch. He met Da Silva's cross with no one around him but his header crashed against the bar.

This appeared to be a wake up call as we came in to the game after this and began to take control. The pressing paid off just before the half hour mark, luck also came into the equation however. The ball fell to George Thomas about 15 yards out and he struck into the bottom corner, albeit via a slight deflection.

Jodi Jones very nearly doubled the lead as the game neared half time, he escaped his marker and forced a fingertip save from Declan Rudd from just outside the area. Bigirimana was also allowed to have a free run to give an opportunity for a shot on the stroke of half time but it was comfortably saved.

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Charlton Athletic

Second Half

For an unknown reason, potentially tactical, Stuart Beavon didn't come out for the second half and was instead replaced by Kwame Thomas. The substitute almost had an instant impact with an attempted backheel goal after a poor corner. Unfortunately it wasn't to be however as the ball was cleared away.

We were firmly on top, George Thomas had a chance to give us some breathing space but was denied by Rudd once again. Against the run of play, Patrick Bauer was able to head into an empty net, Lee Burge made a hash over coming out to claim it. We didn't fold after this however, we carried on pushing, trying for the winner

Chances after chances after chances came, but we just couldn't seem to get the winner. The biggest chance of the lot was an semi open goal header from George Thomas which he somehow put wide. That was the one that just prove it wasn't to be, one final corner with Burge in the area was our final hope. But nothing came of it. The whistle was then blown, we were relegated.

Full Time - Coventry City 1-1 Charlton Athletic

We've known we're going down for some time now, ever since Northampton away I've known personally. It all became real when the referee blew his whistle though, there was a pause for about 5 seconds after it happened as people tried soaking it all in. Personally I just put my head in my hands trying to forget this diabolical season.

I apologise for this but I'm going to get slightly personal. I was managing to contain myself from tears as we clapped the players off but that soon changed. My dad is abroad so wasn't able to attend the match, he rang me to ask what happened and that was when I broke down as I was forced to say the words "We're down".

I sat in my seat for a solid 20 minutes after the match finished, in fact I might never have left if it weren't for someone near enough dragging me out. But that's football I suppose, you have your highs and your lows. It just feels like Coventry City is filled with lows and rarely any highs, Wembley being a notable anomaly.

It's a cliche but you really have to pick yourselves up and go again, this time it just means next season. Hopefully Robins and these potential new owners can build next season for us to make a real challenge for promotion, if there's one thing you don't want, it's to get stuck in League Two. Also, I'll be able to get a solid few more grounds done on my 92.Out of all 118 posts I've written on here, this was the hardest to do, every letter pressed makes our fate that little bit more real to me.

All we can do now is play for pride, first stop being Rochdale on Monday, I don't know why I'm going either. But I'll be close to seventy games by the end of the season, that's another silver lining at least. A couple of non-Cov matches will be added as well, such as Fulham and potentially Leamington's play off fixtures.

My Man of the Match - Gael Bigirimana - A Kante-esque performnce from the academy midfielder, he's been easily one of the best players for us this season and I believe I've given him the most awards by far. All will be revealed in my depressing season preview available when, funnily enough, the season finishes.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

My Sixty-Second 16/17 Game - Coventry City vs Peterborough United

Our Wembley jubilation was brought crashing back down to earth on Wednesday with our 2-0 defeat away at Sheffield United. This killed off any small glimmer of hope that some people may have had, as everything is now all but mathematically confirmed. In fact going into the match there was a very real chance we could be relegated, a loss confirmed it, a draw would keep our heads barely above water unless Port Vale, Gillingham and Oldham all drew. Even a win and we could have been down, but that relied on the 3 teams aforementioned all picking up 3 points.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Foley
Clarke
Turnbull
Haynes

G Thomas
Stevenson
Bigirimana
Reid

Lameiras
Beavon

Coventry City Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Stokes
Kelly-Evans
Reilly
Jones
Folivi
Tudgay

The hero of the hour returned to the first team after recovering from his Wembley hangover which carried over on Wednesday whilst Stevenson also made it back into the starting eleven. Willis' ongoing thigh problem meant that Kevin Foley had to play right back, personally I would have gone with Dion Kelly-Evans but who am I to question our lord and master Mark Robins.

First Half

After the match I described our performance as 'annoyingly good' on Twitter, and I branded it so because you can clearly see this side is way too good to be relegated. If we hadn't have messed around for so long by sticking with Venus for so long and then wrongly appointing Russell Slade then god knows where we'd be. Tony Mowbray resigned in September, we would be at least upper mid table had Robins come in then.

For a team in the top half, Posh were below par by a long stretch, we ran rings round them from kick off. The first real chance came from a corner however, George Thomas whipped it in and it met the head of the very much improved Jordan Turnbull but was agonisingly cleared off the line. Originally it looked like it might have crept over but I seriously doubt it did in hindsight.

Nearly half an hour in and we very nearly saw something earth shattering, Stuart Beavon hit the post with an overhead kick close to the penalty spot. Had that attempt gone in I would have most likely stopped watching football, because you wouldn't be able to top that, I could die happy knowing I'd seen it.

We carried on pressing but the attacks were matched quite well, Lameiras alone had two or three attempts nullified. Seven minutes before the break and Martin Samuelsen went down in the area after being body checked by Turnbull. Although he did appear to go down slightly easily, the fact of the matter is, a spot kick was awarded.

Craig Mackail-Smith was the one to step up, he tried to blast it down the middle but Burge managed to get a vital leg on to it, sending it over the bar. The miss has actually given me an idea for a post which may or may not be out in the week. Knowing my consistency most likely not but it'll be a light-hearted theory as to how we still have our collective heads, barely, above water.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Peterborough United

Second Half

At the break Kyel Reid went off and was replaced by Jones, and he had an instant impact, albeit psychological. Beavon got to the edge of the box and tapped to Lameiras, he switched it on to his left foot and with the perfect grass cutter into the far corner he made it 1-0 to the Sky Blues. The nearly 11,000 that attended were creating a great atmosphere.



In fact I think there was a rendition of 'Twist and Shout' which lasted at least 10 minutes going on 15, it's incredible that even in the situation we're in. What a perfect advert for potential new owners looking at the club, it proves to them that Sunday was a one off. Perhaps ones from the far east, China maybe, whom have ties with the likes of Joe Elliot and Gary Hoffman. Of course I'm speaking totally hypothetical here...

Back to the football and Peterborough had their only other serious attempt on goal along with the penalty, it was at no fault of our defence, Junior Morias decided to let one fly from 25 yards and it smacked the post. Marcus Maddison's rebound was smothered by Burge. With 20 minutes remaining Stevenson went down injured, it was probably slight relief to the players to have a water break from the 20 degree heats.

Stevo was eventually taken off and not risked for the final 20 minutes and on came Callum Reilly. The Sky Blues were happy to see the game out from here, Thomas had an attempt saved well by McGee but as Posh were offering little to nothing, we happily took our foot off the gas to play it safe and come away with the 1-0 victory.

Full Time - Coventry City 1-0 Peterborough United 

I'm currently in four minds about the remainder of the season, it's as if I've got multi personality disorder I keep changing my mind. Number one is, yes we're all but down, but keep fighting for as long as possible and see how long we can last, all while building for League Two next season. The second is more morbid, I want us to be down so we're put out of our misery and are able to focus on League Two.

The third is, when we are relegated, I'd like it to be versus Charlton this Friday, because then the experience would be a lot more bearable as their fans would console us rather than take the mickey. The final one is, win all four games, hope one of Gillingham, Bury and Shrewsbury don't gain any more points, and if they do, no more than one. All of this happening whilst we manage to make up 10 goals on goal difference, Swindon, Port Vale and Chesterfield go down nicely without a fight. Leaving us to finish on 47 points just outside the relegation zones. Easy.

Next up we have Charlton on Good Friday, where there will be a protest march, fans united together, and maybe a few things lobbed on the pitch. Whether it be pigs, elephants, or even people, I'm sure something will happen. But will these potential new owners see this in a good or bad light, only time will tell.

My Man of the Match - Gael Bigirimana - I don't care how much he has to give him, but for the love of god Robins needs to keep hold of Biggie in League Two. Promise him the captaincy or something, he's the perfect material and would potentially drag us kicking and screaming to promotion. Imagine keeping him and Stevenson in the fourth tier with a clinical goal scorer up front. We'd rip the league to pieces.

Monday, 3 April 2017

My Sixtieth 16/17 Game - Checkatrade Trophy Final - Coventry City vs Oxford United

So here we are, Wembley, 30 years on from that infamous FA Cup victory over Tottenham. This time though the competition was different, the stadium was different, and the team was certainly a lot different to the one that lifted the cup. But we were looking to be celebrating being winners all the same as everyone descended on North West London with a class day ahead.

I've never seen anything like it before in my life, personally I went in a limo but Coventry station was rammed early on, and when I stopped off at Toddington services there was honestly more people there than there was at Swansea away in the Quarter Finals. That's not a dig of any sorts, it just proves how large our fanbase has the potential to be.

From the Green Man at 10:30 until kick off, there were seas of Sky Blue everywhere you went, it was crazy to see. Flares in the pubs, everyone singing and having a good time. But just to soak everything in I made it into the ground early and that's when the team hit me in all of its glory.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Willis
Turnbull
Stokes
Haynes

G Thomas
Bigirimana
Stevenson
Reid

Lameiras
Beavon

Coventry City Substitutes:

Charles-Cook
Kelly-Evans
Harries
Gadzhev
Jones
Folivi
Tudgay

It's near enough what I'd have gone for, if Stokes is fit to play then perfect but Kelly-Evans is really becoming a decent full back so maybe deserved to start. I felt sorry for Charles-Cook whom has played all of the matches since Wycombe away and if it weren't for his penalty heroics at Swansea we wouldn't even be here, but that's football I guess.

You can't help Kwame Thomas being injured but it's disappointing, but that meant Deadline Day signing Michael Folivi actually got his first sighting on the bench, and what a place to get it at, crazy. Lameiras instead took his place playing with/just behind Beavon. Annoyingly though Chris Maguire started for Oxford. You know, that one who scored 2 free kicks for us against MK Dons a couple of years ago.

First Half

With over half of the stadium covered in City fans, the game kicked off and the theme brought about was one that lasted for most of the match, Oxford with lots of possession. They managed to pass it around quite well but we defended well and played the offside trap to perfection in the early stages, but it was fair to say we were on the back foot.

10 minutes in and everyone was gearing up for the minutes applause for Yellows fan Steve Dyer who sadly recently passed away, this was due to happen on the 12th minute followed up by a similar mark of respect for Jayden Parsons on the 15th. One of our own who died at the beginning of last season, which devastated many Sky Blues fans.

The reason I say all of this should have happened is because immediately before this period of respet was due to start, Jordan Willis' cross was poorly cleared into the path of Gael Bigirimana who slotted home in the bottom corner. Everyone went absolutely mental, the phrases "Scenes" and "Limbs" are thrown around a lot these days but this time they were serious.



What a weekend for Bigi by the way, becoming a father on Saturday and then giving your side an early lead at the home of English football in a cup final, and you could see how much it meant to him as he fell to his knees celebrating. He's just a player who no matter what, you can't dislike, he arrived at Ryton with his boots as an 8 year old refugee from Burundi asking for a trial and now here he is. An absolutely astonishing story, meaning I was ecstatic that it was him who gave us the lead.

In all the mayhem the minutes of applause slipped our minds' but Jayden probably would have found Bigi's goal enough respect all the same. But the Burundi international was playing out of his skin, which you could see as the excitement got the better of him leading to a couple of silly fouls and a booking close to half time.

Like I said, Oxford were keeping the ball well but weren't doing anything with it, so they didn't have a shot on target until the second half. Meaning we went in to the break quite happy to say the absolute very least.

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Oxford United

Second Half

City came out for the second half, surprisingly, on the upper foot, I assumed Oxford were going to do what Play Off standard teams usually do and take control of the game but as is said by many people, cup finals are different. Saying that there was a scary moment when United looked to be through on goal but decided for some reason to wait for Jordan Willis to get back and put in a challenge.

Then everything turned even crazier than before, a nice one-two between Haynes and Reid gave the ex-Bantam winger space to rip into. His cross went to the edge of the box where George Thomas took down extremely well and let fly on the half volley. It flew into the bottom corner like it was drawn there by a magnet, some people are under appreciating how good the strike actually was.

Ever not known what to do with yourself when your team scores because you're that excited? Well after Georgey doubled the lead I felt that so just stumbled about jumping on various people throwing my arms everywhere, limbs. Both teams then made a sub each with half an hour remaining, Sercombe replaced Football Manager 2015 hero Ryan Ledson whilst Kelly-Evans came on for Willis who had picked up yet another knock, something seems to be niggling away at him because that's the third time recently he's had to go off.

Then the dreaded moment arrived, we gave away a free kick in a dangerous position with Maguire still on the pitch. He dipped it over the wall with ease but Lee Burge got up well to stop it from getting under the crossbar. With just 15 minutes left on the clock you really begin to believe but then
that belief comes crashing down to earth after one moment.

A corner for Oxford was played to 20 yards out the other side of the box where the city defenders failed to come out to meet Liam Sercombe who was ready to unleash a shot. Given everyone was still in the box, Burge saw it very late so by the time he did he couldn't get enough on it to stop it meeting the bottom corner and bringing the Yellows back into the game.

This sparked something which I believe people call squeaky bum time, it was a head in hands final 13 minutes, with every Oxford attack leaving you fearing the worst. Rob Hall was one on one with Burge just 2 minutes after their goal but the City graduate became big to prevent the collapse from happening,

The seconds were turning into minutes, to try and brake up play and maybe help push for another Jodi Jones came on for official man of the match winner George Thomas. The goalscorer Sercombe was booked for a poor tactical foul on Kyel Reid who was looking to mount a serious attack with just 4 minutes left.

The fourth official indicated 5 minutes additional time, something which was as painful as hypothetically hearing you're adopted. Once again another substitution was made to time waste, putting it bluntly. Marcus Tudgay made his banter appearance for the last minute of the five added on. Even that was nearly enough to make us concede.

One of the scariest moments of my entire life ensued after 95 minutes were played and Oxford had a corner, the ball was played in and headed towards the bottom corner by Rob Hall I believe but Burge pulled out an incredible save to scoop it away. The rebound however was guided past him and had to be cleared off the goal line by none other than Gael Bigirimana. I've never been more relieved than to see Burge collect that. Almost immediately after the final whistle was blown and met by a roar from the Sky Blue Army.

The party then began, Jones came sprinting straight over to the fans and it started to sink in, we'd won the Checkatrade Trophy. The lap of honour came from the players who looked absolutely delighted, and deservedly so. After the season we've had, all of the on field pain, off field pain, and everything in between. It's all amounted in this, who'd have thought it? It's staggering.

I'll never forget this day, the elders had '87. I had '17, this is the best day of my life and it will take some topping. But for now that'll have to be put to one side as on Wednesday night we travel to Sheffield United away in a game where if we want to stay up we literally have to win. It's 6 wins from 6 or nothing. But if I see what I did today then you never know...

My Man of the Match - Gael Bigirimana & George Thomas - Honestly, it was so hard to pick a man of the match so I plumped for not only the two goal scorers, the two best performers. I'd like to thank them for helping provide the best day of my life, god knows how many awards they're on now, I need to go through them and have a count.