Walsall away was always a big occasion during our League One days being one of the closest things we got to a derby. Still clinging to that memory, we drew them away in the Checkatrade Trophy Group Stages, really only a win would do after a last minute free kick consigned us to defeat at home to Shrewsbury in the opener.
Coventry City Starting XI:
Coventry City Substitutes:
You could tell that we really didn't care whether we defended the title or not by the fact we were willing to take the fine on the chin, with 10 changes made. The only player to keep his spot was Jack Grimmer, whom took the armband for the night. The bench was made up of purely under 23 players, amongst them of course Jordan Ponticelli. Not a day has gone by when I haven't seen someone scream for him to be thrown into our winning side.
Aside from the fact that we won it last season, there are many reasons why I love the Checkatrade Trophy. Michael Doyle was doing the shooting training for one, whereas Devon Kelly-Evans and his dad were in the away end to cheer on Dion. Walsall appeared to put out a relatively strong side, with Daniel Agyei of all people spearheading their attack.
Somehow, our B Team managed to dominate Walsall for the majority of the first half, Stuart Beavon had an early chance but it was cleared off the line. In fact last ditch blocks and clearances were usually what was keeping the hosts from going behind. It seemed the whole of the midfield and attack had a go but Roberts and co. we're preventing it all.
On a rare attack, Walsall midfielder Zeli Ismail ventured into the area and was dragged down somewhat softly by Peter Vincenti. I'm not saying it wasn't s penalty, he had every right to go down and Big Pete had no reason to be that physical with him. Either way, despite a tussle with Agyei, Ismail himself stepped up and calmly slotted home. Vincenti nearly redeemed himself instantly but headed straight at the keeper, which was the last action of the half.
Half Time - Walsall 1-0 Coventry City
About 70% of fans went weak at this knees when Ponticelli was introduced at the break, Beavon was the one whom he replaced. I make it sound like I hate the guy, I don't, I want him to be a bagsman as much as everyone else, I just don't think it's worth the risk when we're winning games like we are. Saying that, he made an instant impact by drawing a foul in the area from Walsall keeper Liam Roberts.
Obviously, Marc McPenulty stepped up to take the spot kick and did what he does best by netting and levelling up the game with only 8 minutes of the second half played. He's only 14 away from having 20 penalties this season (including friendlies that is), and if I were you, I'd put serious money on that.*
This seemed to the straw which broke the camels back, as just 5 minutes later McNulty was played through but rather unselfishly squared it to Ponticelli. It was a heart in mouth moment, obviously you want him to score but can you deal with the "I told you so" storm which would inevitably follow? Fortunately, it was the latter of the two.
Steaming down to the front and celebrating with Chris Camwell was a personal highlight, I don't care what people say. This Trophy has provided me with some of the best memories possible, and I love it for that. Saying that I hope the whole B Team thing is scrapped ASAP, but equally we probably wouldn't have won it last season had they not been in there. Swings and roundabouts.
Bilal Sayoud came on for Callum Maycock to make his first ever senior appearance for the club, a highly rated youngster we signed from the Nike Academy who I believe can play absolutely anywhere on the pitch. We looked to be seeing the game out for a good 2-1 win, but that wasn't to be. In injury time, there was a big goalmouth scramble which was halted when *sigh* Daniel Agyei, poked home. Walsall grabbed at least a point late on. But due to the weird rules it goes to penalties.
Instead of individually talking about every penalty, I'll do a list, because even I, a man of many many words, cannot talk random rubbish about about some blokes booting some leather at a net from 12 yards. The new ABBA shootout format was to be taken right in front of the City fans, well, after we'd all jumped into the empty end behind the goal.
Marc McNulty (Coventry) - Missed - 0-0
Erhun Oztumer (Walsall) - Scored - 1-0
Luke Leahy (Walsall) - Scored - 2-0
Peter Vincenti (Coventry) - Scored - 2-1
Ben Stevenson (Coventry) - Scored - 2-2
Daniel Agyei (Walsall) - Missed - 2-2 (HAHAHA)
Amadou Bakayoko (Walsall) - Scored - 3-2
Jordan Shipley (Coventry) - Scored - 3-3
Jordan Ponticelli (Coventry) - Scored - 3-4
Joe Edwards (Walsall) - Missed - 3-4
(Coventry City win 4-3 on penalties)
So after a head scratching penalty shootout we gained a crucial extra point. Now all we need to go through is to beat West Brom u23s and for Shrewsbury to win or draw (and win on penalties) with Walsall. That would mean an away tie in the first knockout round, I think. We won the bloody thing last season and I still don't know how it works.
More crucially though, we face Barnet on Saturday where in theory we could go top. Or at least we could gain places as those above have very tough games. Apart from Notts County that is, they have Forest Green at home. Mark Robins says he backs us for promotion, which scares me, it feels very much like the time Mowbray said "I've learned from the time I was top at Christmas with Middlesbrough and we finished outside the play offs" and then the exact same thing happened with us.
My Man of the Match - Jack Grimmer - I don't get why he gets so much stick along with Chris Stokes, he's been great this season, and was a good makeshift centre back. I just hope he rips everyone apart on that flank from now on so people calling him a "weak link". This puts him on four MMOTM awards this season, the most out of everyone. That may be a mistake on my part, Jodi Jones has easily been the best player this campaign.