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.

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