Sunday, 20 May 2018

My Sixty-Fifth 17/18 Game - Notts County vs Coventry City - Play Off Semi Final Second Leg

The day had finally arrived, we'd had to put ourselves through the longest and most gruelling week of our lives all for the second leg of our play off match against Notts County. All the first leg did was make things even more tense with all the controversy surrounding it, however we were gift wrapped a way back into the tie with a late penalty at the Ricoh. My man of the match that night was Tom Davies, and he was dealt a retrospective 3 match ban for stamping. You couldn't make it up.

All of that meant we needed a win at County, a ground we haven't taken a victory home from since 1963 and who finished above us in the league. In fact this rounded off the play off semi finals, in all five leading up to it the home team in the second leg won, basically everything was pointing towards a Notts victory. However as our pretend motto says, we don't play by the script, so literally anything could happen. One thing was for certain though, I was an absolute nervous wreck, the day was spent mainly crying and rocking back and forth.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
McDonald
Maguire-Drew
Barrett
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Tom Davies getting suspended was a big blow to us, but it's not like Jordan Willis is a bad replacement, so he came in. Other than that we remained completely unchanged from the side who drew last Saturday. The word on the street was that Marc McNulty probably shouldn't have played after his head took a battering in training, as well as apparently something to do with his hamstring, from the off though, you really couldn't tell in the slightest.

First Half

Literally as soon as we heard the word go we were pouncing at the Notts County side like it was the last game of football we'd ever play. In less than 45 seconds, Maxime Biamou was played through on goal by a looping over the top ball from McNulty but I think out of general shock and surprise he got a chance that early on he scuffed it and the ball was immediately cleared. However, in the understatement of the century, he did go and make up for it ever so slightly a couple of minutes later.

A corner was whipped in and half cleared to Jordan Willis, he nodded it across the other side of the box where Maxime Biamou had his back to goal, got himself in the air, and flung his legs at the ball, striking into the far corner. One overhead kick is mad, two is an actual joke, how he can manage that is obscene. The fans were celebrating almost as much as the players, no one actually celebrated with Max, instead they all just sprinted towards the away end, amid a ridiculous amount of blue smoke.

On a personal note, I fell backwards onto the row behind in pure shock and elation, I wasn't even confident we'd do well, and we just came out flying and scored a worldie, it was almost too much. County were shellshocked, we were all over them, Doyler got a bit excited and as you can't get suspended for yellow cards at this point in the season he needlessly almost killed someone by diving at their shins.

We then pulled something off which is basically deserving of promotion, Shipley launched one about 60 yards straight to the feet of Marc McNulty, he squared it to Bayliss who carried to the edge of the box, dinking out to Liam Kelly. Somehow, barely even looking, he managed to pick out a ball through the sea of defenders to Sparky in acres of space, all he was left to do was stab into the completely empty side of the net. 2-0. Bodies flying absolutely everywhere.

Everyone was already booking their hotels at this point, and quite literally, as we were chanting "If we win, we're on the pitch" we let them get back in with a scrappy goal which was finished of at the back post by Jorge Grant. Grimmer was fouled in the build up by John Stead but Notts County fans only really see decisions that went against them because the whole refereeing situation is all a big conspiracy which we control...

Half Time - Notts County 1-2 Coventry City

Second Half

The collective feeling amongst the City fans was that the second half was going to go one of two ways, we'd lose 3-2 or batter them. The way it began, it really was looking as if it would be the former, we'd gone all Tony Pulis and decided that parking the bus when one goal ahead away in a game where the opposition are going to throw the kitchen sink at you was the best cause of action. I don't know who's bloody idea that was but it was a thick one. If things hadn't gone the way they did I would be crucifying various individuals.

Lee Burge has taken some stick this season, and I've always been a big defender of him and his work, but what a performance he had. Anything within 6 yards of him was either being claimed or sent into the River Trent with a belter of a punch. The key moment of his was John Stead shaking off Willis but Burge pulling off a fantastic save down to his right and flick it round the post. We were hanging on, and not long after we were dealt with our second huge slice of luck of this semi final tie.

The lumped a free kick into the box, it was nodded in the air and Forte beat Burge to the ball, heading it over him and into the empty net. Notts are already in raptures celebrating, scoreboard changed to 2-2, flags waving. However the linesman had other ideas, with his flag in the air calling it offside, you've never felt a bigger sigh of relief. However what we didn't see until after the game was that he was about a yard onside and it was a perfectly legitimate goal that had been disallowed. Oops...

This knocked the stuffiing out of the home side, and we were left to freely counter, with McNulty and Biamou playing a neat one two, the latter of which had the ball on the edge of the box. He pulls off a beautiful turn and slots it into the bottom corner like it was absolutely nothing. This was the point that we knew, as soon as ball hit net there was no doubt left in my mind, we're going back to Wembley. It was astonishing scenes, all the players and fans are in a big ball near the corner flag with legs in the air and everything.



To put the doubt beyond absolutely everyone Tom Bayliss did a Tom Bayliss and pranced through their entire team, shooting from 25 or so yards on the side foot, straight into the far corner. 4-1. 4-1 4 blooming 1. I've never been so happy as to how I was in those last 10 minutes, we've done it. The clock ticked down and we honsetly could have got 5 or 6 with Ponticelli's introduction. I encourage you to watch the full time reaction of the players if you haven't already, it's 7 minutes guaranteed to give you goosebumps and reduce you to tears.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

My Sixty-Fourth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Notts County - Play Off Semi Final First Leg

My birthday was on Friday, and normal people celebrate it and generally have a good time at the anniversary of their birth. This time round however, I was rocking back and forth in a ball wracked with nerves ahead of our first ever play off campaign. In fact the occasion is so big that I needed to add something onto the end of the usual generic title to commemorate it. After all, it was the first leg of our semi final tie against Notts County, the home one, with the Ricoh backing, and really, the one we needed to win.

Arriving at Coventry Arena train station 3 hours before kick off is quite something even by my standards, so once I'd settled my erratic heartbeat with a still not quite legal pint of Carling I went back to some more rocking in a ball. The walk back to the Ricoh was like some form of tsunami, my new coat was taking a right beating, as was the Ricoh pitch. Watching the ball travel on certain parts of that was honestly like a swamp, on other parts it was ice. In fact that game was barely playable. Just getting the excuses in early here boys and girls.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Willis
McDonald
Maguire-Drew
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Jordan Willis returned from having the trots but only made the bench due to Dominic Hyam's impressive display passing it round the back against Morecambe. That in itself is a brave call but as we've seen lately Mark Robins likes to show how big his testes are. This mean that only one change was made, legend of our time Maxime Biamou returned from his knock to replace Jonson Clarke-Harris. I was quite happy with the chosen eleven, but it became quite evident early on that the surface suited the visitors' style of play more than it did ours.

First Half

Personally I was just glad we didn't Lincoln it and throw away a big game extremely early on, so I calmed down a little when we made it to the 51 second mark still level. Once that was out of the way we actually had quite a bright start, we were making do with the constant unpredictable pitch whilst County were leathering it at Davies and Hyam. From open play they were making do but from set pieces the entire back four were like a circus, flinging themselves absolutely everywhere to stop it going in rather than calmly dealing with them. That said, it was us that had the first chance.

Jordan Shipley weighted a beautiful ball over the top to Sparky, with the angle looking tighter and tighter and the defenders getting ever closer he had to take one touch and go for it. I really thought it was in, so to see it cannon off the inside of the post when already mid-celebration was heartbreaking. I think this rattled the players a bit because the attacks became a bit more sloppy, partly down to them, partly to the pitch. Long story short it was a poor quality first half in terms of attacking football. 

The referee was one of those "Stop the game for absolutely anything" types and we were hard done by as every little niggle was being pulled up, Doyler was booked early on for dissent. He probably threatened his family or something even more Michael Doyle than that. Still though, we almost went ahead through a Gary Mabbutt-esque own goal. McNulty found himself down on the byline and aimed his cut back into Biamou but it was deflected in at the near post. Adam Collin got every single body part possible between him and the woodwork to stop it on the line. Despite screams of "EH? GIVE IT YOU NONCE", the referee looked at his watch and shook his head. Bloody goal line technology.

Tom Bayliss got caught in between shooting and crossing when in the area so somehow managed both, it was a few yards away from McNulty but also a few yards from the far post. Just leather it at goal mate, get the stats up. Jon Stead stabbed at the side netting and there were a couple of other half chances but nothing amazing as the time ticked down. We'd displayed fight in the first half though, and hadn't bottled it under the lights and big crowd, whilst it was 0-0 the display was quite pleasing.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Notts County

Second Half

The first couple of minutes after the break were all City, it was really bright, Jack Grimmer flicked a header just over the bar almost immediately after the whistle was blown. Then at the other end he was involved in a cartoon style pile on the floor as him and Dan Jones both went to ground for a 50/50, the latter of which was very lucky to have it fall straight to him with Grimmer skidding into block 17. There was nothing lucky about what followed though, he crossed it in, (backwards, to those who are trying to claim it as offside) to Jonathan Forte, who backheel flicked it past Burge. 1-0. Somewhat undeserved but an absolutely beautiful finish sent the visiting fans into raptures and ourselves silent.

I may have overreacted a tad, it felt like the world was ending and our years of hurt were going to continue indefinitely when that goal went in. We've not won at County since the 60s, this first leg was a chance to give ourselves a head start. To draw is worrying, to lose would give us a mammoth of a task. What rubbed salt into the wounds was the attendance announcement, now I'm no expert, but surely there was more there than they said. 17,404 with 2,756 away would mean that there were less home fans in there than against Morecambe, despite more of the ground being open and blocks 14-23 being completely sold out. That just doesn't make sense.

Anywho, we'd lobbed Ponticelli on for Shipley and told him to do what he did last time at their place and try for the equaliser. Bayliss did some fancy footwork straight from the James Maddison school of excellence but when he turned his shot went just wide. Clarke-Harris was on for Biamou in another "do a goal" substitution with about 10 minutes left but whilst we were attacking, the final ball was seriously poor on our parts which massively let us down. Grimmer's was poor but I've seen a couple of people suggesting to drop him, which would be incredibly foolish. My player of the season

Stokes went for a hit and hope into the area which Collin half-heartedly punched away from the head of McNulty to Bayliss. It was a poor first touch but he made it level with Tootle, who flicked the ball away from him and out for a corner. Honestly, it went like this "Our ball yeah ref? WAIT WHAT?!", because for some unknown reason, Gavin Ward realised we'd been a bit hard done by so gave us the world's softest ever penalty. Even Bayliss himself was saying how he cleanly took the ball. Our poor luck had immediately changed, the block 14 yoof legion were already celebrating and giving it large. All I could think was about how Cov it would be to be literally gifted a chance to equalise and squander it. Sparky stepped up though, and of course he went and scored. 1-1.


This penalty cooly slots into my top 5 most celebrated goals ever, because I really didn't think we'd manage to pull it out of the bag, even if it was thanks to a diabolical decision. Then again, seconds after a completely not offside Tom Davies headed onto a defender's hand, which probably was a penalty. So I suppose it evened out on that front, plus for us not to have taken at least a draw to Meadow Lane would have been extremely harsh. We quite easily could have stolen a win mind you, but under the circumstances I'll take that.

Full Time  - Coventry City 1-1 Notts County

Undoubtedly, Notts have got the better result of the two sides, but it's a lot better than it was in the 86th minute. However once I'd minorly celebrated not losing after full time came, I realised the absolute state of what we have to do on Friday night. Go to Notts County, and somehow, however possible, get a win, whether that be in normal time or in extra time/on penalties. It's actually quite mad to think it'll either be one of the best or worst days of my life, it's fair to say I won't be getting much done this week. Oh well, see you there.

My Man of the Match - Tom Davies - Great game from the centre back, dealt with anything and everything extremely well, if we all ignore the violent conduct which he may end up with a retrospective ban for, he was brilliant. I'd still probably bring Willis back in for Hyam for the second leg to give us that extra bit of something but I guess we'll find out. Have I mentioned hoe huge it is yet...?

Monday, 7 May 2018

My Sixty-Third 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Morecambe

45 league games lead us here, the finale which almost certainly wouldn't be the last game. All we needed to do was not Cov it up and get at least a point at home to 22nd placed Morecambe, who also by chance only needed a point to confirm safety, the scene was set. I think we all knew what was going on when Robins said in his pre-match interview that "We'll see what happens", not implying that we'd actually try and win an easily winnable game.

There was enough people in the Ricoh that they had to move the point of segregation along a whole block. People are starting to come out of their caves, roll on next Saturday, where we've got to be topping 20,000 at the absolute minimum. All it took to get there was one of the dullest on pitch 90 minutes of football known to man, but were you expecting anything else? That didn't make it any less hilarious to watch.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
McDonald
Haynes
Maguire-Drew
Reid
Ponticelli
Biamou

Just the two changes from the abusement of Cheltenham were both referred to as forced, presumably picking up a knock, Max Biamou dropped to the bench probably being deemed not worth the risk with Jonson Clarke-Harris replacing. Everyone's favourite conspiracy theory resurfaced yet again with Willis out of the squad, is he injured or has he apparently got a transfer to Rotherham agreed in principle for the fourth transfer window in a row. I mean it's almost definitely the first but who knows? I'm a big fan of the fact that we brought Hyam back in instead of McDonald. Top work Mr Robins.

First Half

I'll be doing minimal match analysis because I'm not sure people want to hear about various on twos between Tom Davies and Michael Doyle. Speaking of the captain, he had bags of space 20 yards out so spanked one towards the top corner, Barry Roche, who had a splendid game might I add, tipped it over the bar. This was in the third minute or so, and is one of only two chances we managed to bless ourselves with.


The second was brought onto us by Chris Stokes, he accidentally found himself bursting down the left wing having been played through by a deflection, shimmying past his man he threaded into Jonson Clarke-Harris. His touch teed it up in the air and on the volley Roche pulled out another fantastic save. SEE Sunderland fans, we did try! A bit... Tom Davies at the other end stopped a cross from being tapped in at the back post by flinging his legs at it, taking it out for a throw.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-0 Morecambe

Second Half

If you thought the first half was tedious and dull, then have I got a treat for you. It was so blatant that we were playing for a draw that it was laughable, Barnet were 3-0 up which meant we only needed a goal to condemn Morecambe to non league football. At our end though it didn't make one shadow of a difference whether we won or drew, we'd still be playing Notts County and finishing sixth. So it was a series of sideways passing and occasional sighs from a selection of Cov fans.

A personal highlight was substitute Maxime Biamou realising he was in a 3 on 3, panicking, turning and immediately feeding Callum Lang in for the counter attack. It was astonishing to watch, as the minutes ticked down no one was worried because why should we be? Mansfield and Lincoln were failing to score and we weren't exactly going to concede. As Tom Davies saw a 80 yard long ball out for a goal kick he screamed "COME ON" at singers corner, and when the full time whistle was blown, they did.


Full Time - Coventry City 0-0 Morecambe 

Streams of fans came onto the pitch, should they have, probably not, does it matter? Not really. It's not exactly harming anyone, even if it is ever so slightly tinpot. In fact the two things Cov fans were told not to do came true, as a flare was also set off to complete block 14 bingo. Once we'd all got off and the players had come back out for a lap of honour it dawned on me, we're in the f***ing play offs. (Censoring that in case my mums decides to have a peek at this) That means constant anguish and pain, I don't think I could mentally take yet another failure, if we're not heading to Wembley by 10:30 Friday the 18th of May then god knows what I'll do. I'll more than likely do a play off preview in the week.

My Man of the Match - Tom Bayliss - Actually looked like providing some attacking drive, he'll be incredibly key over the 2 play off legs. In fact that goes for anyone, we literally can't afford to have anyone making a mistake now, we need to be spotless, Bayliss along with a lot of this team hasn't experienced play offs before. The likes of Doyler and Sparky need to step up more than ever. *Gulp* See you Saturday.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

My Sixty-Second 17/18 Game - Cheltenham Town vs Coventry City

The day that promised so much had finally arrived, and I woke up feeling absolutely foul, any questions regarding why were responded to with no comment. All that would have gotten me up today was the last away day of the regulation season at Cheltenham, my 67th of the 92 Football League grounds for those keeping score. A semi short coach journey and a lot of breathing into a plastic bag later and we're in in the centre before 11, a common theme of the season. Four hours of lying on a table and drinking water in a Wetherspoons later and it was time for another segment of what mental selection has Robins thought up today.


Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Haynes
Barrett
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Scratch all that, he's a tactical genius. As much as I love Haynes, Stokes coming in probably did need to be done after Tuesday night. Same with Davies for Rod, he's been getting away with a lot of poor mistakes recently so to see him dropped for in my opinion, this seasons unsung hero Tom Davies was quite pleasing. Clarke-Harris played quite well for about an hour on Tuesday night but overall has been quite poor recently so Maxime The Dream returning was a good shout.

First Half

I mean I know we like to get an early goal to settle our nerves, but the way we lined up was downright astonishing. The only players not on the halfway line ready to attempt the 100m dash to reach the launched ball were Michael Doyle and Chris Stokes, all of them steamed off as soon as the whistle was blown and in natural fashion Doyler pinged it straight out for a corner. Still, start as we mean to go on, even if we did revert to the 4-4-2 instead of the 1-2-7 immediately after the ball was lobbed back in.

Cheltenham as a team are poor, they score a lot but concede more, so I'm assuming Robins' tactics were as simple as "Yeah, you know that Mo Eisa who's scored a ship ton of goals? Yeah, stop him." Burgey made a great one handed save early on to push his tight angled shot past the post, they showed some good early signs but once we got a foothold of the game it became a mere formality. In fact it was actually quite mean the way we went about it, Mowbray-esque, the good season not the one where he jumped ship after 10 games.


It all began with some amazing thinking from captain, leader, legend Michael Doyle. As soon as he won a foul he grabbed the ball, threw it down and pinged it down the line to Shipley, first time he played a great cross into Bayliss, half-volley, 1-0. Goalkeeper in a pile on the floor, boy wonder steaming off into the corner in celebration. Smoke bomb on the pitch despite West Midlands Police's massive warning the day before calling all Cov fans very naughty, there have been 29 so far apparently in league games, now make that 30.

Once we'd all calmed down from our celebrations the news came through that Yeovil had gone 1-0 up at home to Mansfield, which meant at that stage, a play off spot was confirmed. This was celebrated as much as the goal, and I'm fairly sure as soon as we found this out Grimmer rounded his marker and floated it in beautifully to the head of Marc McNulty. Top corner, 2-0, easy peasy. They were right push overs this lot, so we weren't done there, by a long shot. Shipley got in on the action by running in to meet Biamou's low cross and leathered it at the back stick.

The first half was that mental I can talk about a goal in just a sentence at the end of a paragraph, not having to draw out three sentences on what my reaction was, crazy. Anyway, talking of odd reactions to a goal, I'm pretty sure players were bored by the time Sparky capitalized on some shocking defending to lob Flinders, who could only get a hand to it as it trickled in. None of them reacted, like it was a chore at this stage, the job was done so just let them get the ball and go in at half time weeping as we book our Wembley hotels.

Half Time - Cheltenham Town 0-4 Coventry City

Second Half

Everything was going perfectly, surely even Coventry City couldn't blow a 4-0 lead in the second half, which is exactly what we were thinking when they got a penalty. Another note on that penalty, yes, it more than likely was outside the box, but I have two responses to that. 1. It really doesn't matter at all. 2. If it was outside the box then the rules of football mean Burgey would've been sent off for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. Instead he only got a booking, same with Doyler for some apparent reason. So, in a way, we got very lucky that Mo Eisa was given the chance to send him the wrong way and give them a consolation around the hour mark.

Things were a bit still as we'd just found out Mansfield had equalised and were only a goal away from spoiling the party. That was until Biamou added to his own Goal of the Season competition with possibly the best yet. McNulty stopped suddenly on the byline, sending the sliding defender into the stand and leaving a gap for him to cross in and Biamou to OVERHEAD KICK in the fifth. I was right behind it and didn't really celebrate it, instead just falling over in shock at what Maxele had achieved.

This has been somewhat overlooked given how mental the game was, but it was an astounding goal. Bayliss was hauled off for Reid because the game had just been put beyond doubt and he's a hugely important player who needs to be fresh at all times. The same was the case with Sparky, but not before one last bit of magic, he beat the offside trap and burst down the left, everyone's expect him to go for Biamou again but he had other ideas and bent one into the far corner. 6-1. Poznans everywhere, EZEH EZEH EZEH.

Ponticelli replaced him and JCH got 10 minutes in place of Max so he didn't end up smashing any plates or anything like that. By our standards the last ten minutes were poor, we didn't even score a screamer on anything, perhaps trying to save it for next week, which annoyingly now means more as play offs aren't confirmed. Yeovil are no longer forgiven for the 6-2 after letting in a later winner, now Mansfield have a glimmer of hope to nip in. Other results however went our way, we're back into 6th.

Full Time - Cheltenham Town 1-6 Coventry City

If we can't get a point at home to Morecambe then we don't deserve to be anywhere near play offs, however the also only need a point to guarantee safety, so a draw would suit both sides. Sunderland fans loved hearing about that let me tell you. Still though, we can still get 5th and should be aiming for that as we'd end up being at home second, and allow us to achieve yet another pitch invasion. As a final note, I don't care if it's Morecambe at home, if we achieve play offs next week I'm steaming onto that poorly kept hallowed turf. If we bottle it and come 8th I'll never speak to any of you ever again.

My Man of the Match - Marc McNulty - Probably not even the best player, but my law of the land is that if you score a hat trick then you get Man of the Match, and this is his second of the season, taking him up to 23 goals this season. Stop it now Marc it's getting silly. Everyone was incredible though, from Burge right through to Sparky himself. See you all next week, try not to think about how in a month we'll either be high as a kite or crying and preparing for a 5 year stint here.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

My Sixty-First 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Lincoln City

Here it is, the big game klaxon was firmly out and used so much that it was almost worn out, our long-awaited, snow delayed game in hand at home to Lincoln City. Even thinking about it was making me incredibly nervous, picking up literally any form of points would basically guarantee our spot in the playoffs. A loss and we’ve got Mansfield, who thankfully for us, are absolutely terrible, breathing asthmatically down our neck. I had two predictions for the game, the first being a horrifically dull 0-0er, the second being a mental goal fest with over 5 goals.


Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Bayliss
Kelly
McDonald
Shipley


Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Stokes
Barrett
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

Now I know Robins has gone a bit mental with his team selections recently, but playing the 4-3-3 on Friday night we were awesome, so why oh why did he drop Jordan Ponticelli for Tom Bayliss and switch it back to a 4-4-2. It just doesn’t make sense, if you’re going to drop anyone drop Shipley, then have Doyle, Kelly and Bayliss as a three pronged midfield. It just felt as if we were setting up for the draw from the off, and whilst I’d take a point and run, is incredibly foolish, which we found out in literal seconds.


First Half


Now McNulty’s goal against Stevenage was quick, but this is seriously taking the mick, Lincoln started off with the theme they would adopt for the 90 minutes, hoofing it at our scared stiff back four. We reacted as we also would for the duration of the game, panicking and bottling the clearances, it was half launched away to the edge of the area where Matt Rhead leathered one top corner on the volley. 51 seconds that took, in a game where we just needed to keep things simple and at a low tempo for the first quarter, we conceded after 51 seconds.


The 3,300 travelling Lincoln fans couldn’t believe their luck, I on the other hand was standing there in disbelief that we had managed to Cov it up so spectacularly and quickly. The yoof legion took out their anger on the black cloth where most were unable to make it past a whole 4 stewards to get to the Imps fans they were so intent on meeting and apparently battering. The 40 stone bloke with his top off simply laughed in their face as Burge tearfully launched it back to the halfway line.

Lincoln are a very nippy team, and I don't mean that as if they're quick or anything, more that they'll literally do anything off the ball to stop you from proceeding, but who am I to judge, it works. Burge claimed the ball and went to throw it out quickly so Rhead flung his elbow at the keeper, Michael Doyle responded as Michael Doyle does by throwing him to the ground and Burgey had already pelted it out. Somehow the referee didn't blow for either of these incidents and we were able to counter attack, Clarke-Harris advanced down the left with loads of space and got away from his marker to play to the edge of the box. Steaming in after running about 60 yards Tom Bayliss side footed it into the top corner. 1-1. Incredible scenes.

The yoof legion were rowdier than ever, and the 40 stone bloke with his top off was nowhere to be seen, and I was even more shocked than before. Conceding in the first minute is one thing, to actually bounce back and equalise is unheard of, we'd got a new found confidence and were looking like scoring again every second. Lincoln however were looking weak, I don't even have to make a joke about what's coming anymore because it's that obvious. Ryan Allsop, yep, the one that 3 seasons ago Lee Burge ousted out of the team, hoofed a goal kick and McDonald bottled the headed clearance.

It was flicked on over Willis who I can only assume was swearing profusely at his defensive partner after Ollie Palmer picked it up and effortlessly tapped it past Burge. However before I could even think of anything I'd write about how angry I was Tom Bayliss came prancing down the right and squared one across to Shipley. He turns the defender and spanks it into the bottom corner. 2-2. Incredible scenes yet again.

What's even the point in telling you all how ecstatic we all were? As it went to pieces AGAIN within just minutes, we couldn't hold out for the four minutes until half time. It was the exact same thing, a hoofed ball into the box, a bottled header by Grimmer, Burge came but the striker got there just before him, shoots straight at his chest. Fair enough they got lucky it bounced straight back to Palmer who tapped into an empty net but to even be in that situation is horrific. My two personal "Players of the Season" combining to gift them a third.

I'm beginning to get to the end of my tether with Burge, I've defended him constantly because he's had a good season and deserved it, but the mistakes are becoming more and more frequent now. Robins would have to be completely crazy to drop him though, because O'Brien is certainly no better, that's not to say changes have to be made though, that's getting ahead though, as half time came to us abruptly after a 5 goal thrilling 45 minutes.

Half Time - Coventry City 2-3 Lincoln City

Second Half

I promise the review of this half will be at least a bit calmer, as the anger stopped until full time and just turned into sheer disappointment. Lincoln were happy to sit back here and whilst we had the better of the ball we weren't really doing anything with it at all, the tempo had slowed right down when it desperately needed to pick up, Bayliss shooting over from about 20 yards was the only real thing of note until Biamou came on for Clarke-Harris. He instantly won a header at the back and it would have been 3-3 if it weren't for Allsop. Surely I'm not the only one who remembers him being awful...?

Then came the defining moment of the match, we were growing more and more in confidence and Max was steaming into the area. All you need to know is he hit the ground after contact from a Lincoln defender, whether or not it was a penalty is a whole different matter. I was so far away I couldn't tell you but the referee's view was so clear that he had to make the right call. Someone in the Block 26 "I don't care how much you love City, I'm not standing up" group will be better placed to tell you.

Either way everyone goes up claiming and Jones waves it away, and like a scene from a play, Lincoln broke on us. It's dinked across to the right where Rhead floats one towards the back post. Everyone's screaming for our League Two Goalkeeper of the Year to come out and claim that whilst he's doing the hokey funking kokey on the goal line. Eventually he does but Frecklington is laughing at his as he pokes it under. 4-2, everyone's crying and licking wounds, even the yoof legion haven't got the energy for the arm flailing anymore.

Notes for the rest of the game, umm, Ponticelli missed an open goal from 3 yards out just as 7 minutes of added time were announced but other than that that's about it. The referee blew up on a top 3 contender for most painful defeat of the season, potentially in there with Notts County away, Forest Green at home, Yeovil at home and Morecambe away, because that whole day was an absolute shambles.

Full Time - Coventry City 2-4 Lincoln City



I was as angry as anyone last night let me tell you, but there's 180 minutes of football left in the regular bit of this season and we're still in the play offs. All we can do is go out Saturday all guns blazing, Mansfield are that poor we might not even have to pull much out of the bag. They've got Yeovil away, and as we all know, they're capable of ridiculous things at random points, if we better their result then we're in. The actual play offs though, that's another matter for another day.

My Man of the Match - Michael Doyle - Spread a few passes quite well, but mainly, rugby tackled a man to the floor, hit someone in the face basically, and came away without a booking. Hero of our time. Captain, leader, legend. Give him a life time contract, I don't even care.




Saturday, 21 April 2018

My Sixtieth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Stevenage

Once you get past the fact it put a massive spanner in my Friday night plans, playing our game the day before everyone else takes a lot of pressure away from ourselves, win and it's heaped onto everyone surrounding us. If we picked the win here then Mansfield would absolutely have to get maximum points at home to Port Vale otherwise we've got one foot in the play offs. Anyway, that's me doing what I've been guilty of a hell of a lot recently, getting ahead of myself. Ahead of this massive Stevenage game we should have been looking at how we should have beaten Yeovil and what happened there. No excuses.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Kelly
Doyle

Ponticelli
McNulty
Shipley

Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Hyam
Bayliss
Barrett
Reid
Biamou

Just the one change from the side who somehow managed to nick a win at Crawley last week, Tom Bayliss out for Jordan Shipley, on the face of it, this seems like Robins forgetting to take his pills again but apparently Bayliss is practically dead inside and I'd rather have him raring to go against Lincoln wouldn't you? Still however he persists on starting Jonson Clarke-Harris even though Max's introduction last week was what gave us the ability to actually do it. On the other hand though it's always good to have a secret weapon off the bench if things aren't working out. I'd hate to be in Robins' shoes currently.

First Half

Quicker than you can say "Ei ai ei ai ei ai oh, up the Football League we go" Marc McNulty showed why we love him endless amounts. If we ignore the fact that the goalkeeper should have caught the ball, let alone palm it into the top corner, he's still done incredibly well to send two defenders to the cleaners before leathering it 30 yards. We were all in shock that we'd managed to do it so quickly, one of the 14 year old members of the yoof legion was so excited his bottle of coke went right over my head, cheers for that mate.

I'm glad we got the early goal, and Sparky wasn't finished here, the keeper redeemed himself a little bit by pushing his half volley round the post for a corner. Now we've struggled to make a real difference from corners, and this was hardly champagne football but it's a start. Shippers floated the ball in and met the header of Jordan Willis who nodded it down in the direction of McNulty who in the words of Cov's official Twitter "slots it past King". That's not quite what happened, it basically hit his thigh and bounced in. Either way he's claiming it and is steaming off celebrating his 20th league goal of the season.

We were looking comfortable and in control, Stevenage were nothing special to say the least, all you needed to do Rod was absolutely hammer the ball into next week like you do with every single clearance you've ever taken. He took his time and messed about with it a bit and Danny Newton managed to get a nick on it, giving it right to Alex Revell, 2-1. Everything was going so well until they pulled that out of absolutely nowhere. Thankfully though we didn't exactly collapse like you would expect us to, but instead took it as a wake up call.

Doyler received his usual booking when he nearly killed someone in frustration at actually conceding, but then after a bit of pinballing in Stevenage's box Shipley laid it off to Liam Kelly about 30 yards out, and my words from here were more or less "Kelly for gods sake why are you shooting from theeeee-OH MY SWEET JESUS WE'RE GOING UP." The strike was a thing of beauty, like he went, you know what, I don't care, and decided to Roberto Carlos it from one side of the box to the far corner, made all the more astounding being right behind it. Sorry for everything I've said Liam mate, you're a god. He even volleyed one onto the bar in a moment forgotten given how mental the first half was.

We were handed the game on a plate when Luke Wilkinson followed through onto Sparky's knee studs up, not much he could have done but he shouldn't have been so rash in the first place. This was right on the stroke of half time, and we went in at 3-1, had we not gone on and won I would have been so fuming that I'd have ditched the rest of the season. We wouldn't even deserve to be in with a chance of promotion if we bottled it that bad.

Half Time - Coventry City 3-1 Stevenage

Second Half

In terms of an actual quality second half, terrible, honestly can't remember anything worth talking about. In terms of entertainment, right up there, god knows why we chose this point in the season to burst into a 20 minute long rendition of Twist and Shout but I couldn't have possibly enjoyed it more. Just carrying it on, verse after verse was brilliant, even the Stevenage fans joined in at one stage. Take that other clubs, it's our chant (other than The Beatles) and always will beat your pitiful attempts, I'm looking at you West Ham and now Portsmouth apparently.


When we eventually finished the whole ground broke into a massive round of applause and came back even louder instantly with The Sky Blue Song. We may have lost a lot of fans over the past few years and dropped a few leagues, but the passion is still there, I just hope for everyone's sake we go up because I really think this could be promotion or bust you know. Let's not think about that though because I can think of no thought worse than getting stuck in this league.

Full Time - Coventry City 3-1 Stevenage

One. Step. Closer. We found out today that Mansfield drew at home to Port Vale thanks to a last minute equaliser (Luv u Tom Pope x), so we now have a three point cushion over Mansfield in eighth. Beat Lincoln on Tuesday and we are one whole point away from absolutely guaranteeing play offs. The aim should be higher though, we should go for fifth and somehow try and rig it to get Notts County. That's the dream, then like Wycombe at Wembley, we can all hope. All eyes are at Lincoln on Tuesday night, in my opinion the biggest league game since our relegation from the Premier League.

My Man of the Match - Liam Kelly - I apologise for ever being mean to you Liam, even ignoring the goal he was brilliant, a very adequate Tom Bayliss replacement. Obviously bring him back in on Tuesday in a heart beat but this 3 in the middle thing has serious potential, I'm already worried ahead of Tuesday. For gods sake just don't lose.






Sunday, 15 April 2018

My Fifty-Ninth 17/18 Game - Crawley Town vs Coventry City

After last week ended in almost tears when we conceded whilst still trying to haul everyone off the pitch in a huge match, we were dealt with our penultimate (maybe) away day of the season at Crawley for another match which requires the *big game* klaxon. Mansfield only went and won against Chesterfield in the early kick off so by the time we actually got round to our game we were outside the play offs. Anything but a win and everyone is at panic stations finding the nearest Peter Vincenti to eat alive.

Now, every now and again I like to stray off topic a tad and go a bit more personal if it has something to do with the day. I was out quite late on Friday night, never a wise move when your alarm is set for 6:45, so when it did go off and I'd had about an hours sleep I hit my phone in frustration in an attempt to snooze and get an extra golden 10 minutes in bed. Next thing I know, it's 8:15 and my mate is ringing me asking where I am as the coach is leaving. Not my finest hour but someone thankfully stepped in last minute so I was able to write another edition to the reports we all know and love.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Bayliss
Doyle
Kelly

Ponticelli
McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Davies
Stokes
Shipley
Reid
Barrett
Biamou

Mark Robins is a raving lunatic, but a bloody genius despite it. There's 5 games to go, we desperately need points and have a tough away game, so he completely changes the tactic and makes four changes to a side that played alright at Notts County. Who the hell am I to question the wizard himself though? Haynes was back in for Stokes, Biamou was out for Clarke-Harris, lord and saviour Jordan Willis returned from injury to replace Tom Davies and Shipley was out for none other than 60 second hero Jordan Ponticelli. This is not a drill, this is a 4-3-3, sparked probably by the fact we need goals and statistically the more strikers you play the more goals you might score. Also I don't think anyone knows who we're meant to play on the right wing so this did make some sense, even if it was a ginormous risk.

First Half

It was sunny, we were in a terrace, I couldn't see a thing but in the first attack of the game we only went and bagged. McNulty got played in on the right and drove down the flank, squaring into Ponticelli who somehow got it through a mess of players on the line, putting us 1-0 up. Now some people suggested last weeks celebrations caused the goal, and I'd disagree, this week however I'm absolutely sure they did. We've just gone 1-0 up at Crawley to barely send us back into the play offs, who in gods name decided that singing "We are going up" would be befitting of the situation.

In natural fashion, we immediately didn't know what to do and just decided to collapse, we got away without conceding a couple of times thanks to a couple of good point blank saves from Burge. To be fair to them, it was a beautifully worked goal, some quick passing stuffed our defence and Luke Young shot across goal and into the far corner. A great goal don't get me wrong but it was coming as soon as we switched off thinking the game was going to be a cake walk. Back to square one and not being able to see when we attacked thanks to sun and other goalpost.

This was still only about 15 minutes in, and it was beginning to be an awful game of football. It was the single worst passing display I think I've ever witnessed, neither side could string 4 passes together. Doyler in particular was even more sloppy with his passing than usual, Grimmer and Ponticelli appeared as if they physically couldn't play together by law or something. That continued for a good 70 minutes of the match, it was beyond laughable. It was going in our favour as well though, JCH caught onto a stray ball and his 25 yarder was parried over. Liam Kelly earned the final chance of the half when he won the ball back and made it to the edge of the area, but the shot was poor and it was comfortably smothered by Morris.

Half Time - Crawley Town 1-1 Coventry City

Second Half

Nothing really changed early on, it was still the same slightly below average standard where we weren't really creating anything, so to switch things up a bit Reid came on for Bayliss. Thankfully Robins realised this time he's a good impact player but your guess is as good as mine as to what it meant for our formation. Considering we couldn't really get the ball to him with Doyle and Kelly still giving it back to Willis at every opportunity it wasn't properly working. That's when we played our trump card, Maxime Biamou was on for Jonson Clarke-Harris.

The impact was instant, he was chasing down the defence so they had absolutely no time on the ball, just five minutes in he stole the ball back and managed to force it through to McNulty but again Morris saved them from going 2-1 down. In hindsight he really should have scored, however afterwards he hit an overhead kick just wide. We were getting closer to the goal, even Grimmer received the ball at the back stick, he probably should have hit it first time as by the time he'd taken a touch Morris was able to get across goal and get it away.


A minute later Biamou went through but was pushed wide, defenders had got back and it looked as if the chance had gone, he teed it to Ponticelli who out of frustration just leathered it at the goal. Whilst everyone else seems to be ignoring the fact there was a big deflection, that was what carried it into the corner. 2-1. Limbs are everywhere once again, we'd snatched it late on (probably) and both goals came from someone who all year we've been saying isn't ready, quite amazing. That's not to say he's the messiah some people are making him out to be however.

Now, we'd clued on after last weeks shenanigans to not go and concede late doors, and we were maybe a bit over cautious. The remaining 10 minutes was just watching Ponticelli keep it in the corner desperately trying to cling on, it was quite hilarious seeing 2 fully grown defenders unable to dispossess a 19 year old making the second league start of his career. We caught them out in injury time though, Ponts made it through the 3 players trying to rupture his achilles to slide into Kelly, he layed off to Biamou at the back post. Open goal. Keep in mind some of the goals he's scored for us, from about 4 yards out he scuffed wide, god knows if there was a bobble or whatever, but if it was level when that happened he'd have been crucified.

Full Time - Crawley Town 1-2 Coventry City



Bloody hell, we could actually do this you know. This wasn't pretty by any means, but we got the job done, it was all made all the more sweeter given Swindon and Lincoln both lost. We're now up in 6th, I don't want to say it, I really don't want to say it. Friday night we've got Stevenage at home which is as winnable as they come, that means playing before everyone else and POTENTIALLY giving us the advantage over everyone else. It's all ifs and buts...

My Man of the Match - Jordan Ponticelli - He's going places this lad, he's a real poacher, similar to Gary Lineker, from inside the box he's deadly and his awareness won us the game. Saying that, he's nowhere near the finished article just yet, he needs to work on his all round game. Short passing is a key thing, and crossing another, if he's going to stray out to the right so much we need to know he's going somewhere with it. Maybe I'm being harsh though, if he keeps scoring at this crucial stage then we've got nothing to worry about.

Monday, 9 April 2018

My Fifty-Eighth 17/18 Game - Notts County vs Coventry City

Monday's slightly late April Fools Day joke needed to be treated as just that, a one off with no basis as to how our season is going to finish whatsoever. That's the only way we'll truly be able to get past it and make the final push and cement our play off spot, and we start that with possibly the biggest league game in a few years now. So nervously, off four and a half thousand of us plodded to Nottingham for a day which would provide every single emotion possible for the majority of us. It promised to be eventful, and it sure was.


I've been to a lot of pre-match pubs before, and I've seen some tense atmospheres, but crikey this one got very bad, very quickly. I won't go into details because, in the words of Danny Dyer and Phil Mitchell "I ain't no grass", long story short, a flare got set off and it escalated from there with all of Nottinghamshire steaming in thanks to a little bit of blue smoke. Well, at least they clamped down on it enough in the pubs so none got in the ground and there was absolutely no commotion whatsoever. Notice my hilarious wit and use of sarcasm there? Here all week.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
McDonald
Davies
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Haynes
Barrett
Reid
Clarke-Harris
Ponticelli

Mark Robins showed how ballsy he was with that team selection, I was expecting a couple of changes, but five, is "I'm bloody angry still" territory. Dominic Hyam, Ryan Haynes, Peter "The Scapegoat" Vincenti, Kyel Reid and Jonson Clarke-Harris were all sent packing with Tom Davies, Chris Stokes, Liam Kelly, Jordan Shipley and Maxime Biamou all came back in respectively. Vincenti was banished out of the squad, and I assume he'll never play for the club again after Monday's witch hunt. Tom Bayliss was shifted back out to his completely unnatural position of right wing in his absence as we literally don't have another, fit, player who can play there. I miss Jodi so much.

Kyel Reid is better as an impact player so I'm glad he was dropped for Shipley, that's when we actually decide to sub him on rather than Josh Barrett for christ sake. The anger is already seeping through and I've not even got onto the actual football game yet, wow this is going to be an absolute treat. Ryan Haynes had a poor game against Yeovil, granted, but having Stokes and Shipley down the left is basically admitting we don't want to attack down the left side of the pitch.

First Half

The first fifteen minutes were spent with us tentatively trying not to make howling mistakes which will throw the game away without us even getting a look in. As soon as we got past the "Coventry 0-3 Yeovil" stage the game was actually able to properly start and we grew in confidence as the minutes passed, triggering the realisation that we weren't the worst football team in the world, contrary to what they may have thought in recent days.

It was a fairly dull first 45, but it would be fair to say that the hosts had the slight better of the game, Lee Burge answered his critics with a great one handed save from a volley, proving why he is LEAGUE TWO KEEPER OF THE YEAR and denied possibly the best chance of the half. I can't think of many that appeared on our behalf, maybe a sky high volley from Rod McDonald or Liam Kelly. If McNulty had an extra foot on the last defender then we'd have likely gone 1-0 up but the through ball escaped his feet by a matter of inches.

With his new found confidence of doubling his tally of goals for the club over the course of just one weekend, Maxime Biamou stepped up from 35 yards and pinged one miles over the bar. He was hungry for a goal and recently he's looked like the only one capable, so he was perhaps our only hope. That was until he went absolutely ape at the referee at half time for no apparent reason, getting himself booked and subsequently subbed off because he was about one shirt pull away from walking.

Half Time - Notts County 0-0 Coventry City

Second Half

Everyone's favourite cage fighter Jonson Clarke-Harris dived his way onto the field, before realising he couldn't win a free kick if the game hadn't actually restarted yet. Obviously that's some more of the adored humour I'm providing, but there is some basis to it, you're a good striker Jonson mate, but come on, no need to go down literally every time you're near anyone ever. Whatever the case, we started the better of the teams in the second half, the keeper nearly fumbled the ball into the path of McNulty but smothered just in time for Sparky to hack at his stomach.

The referee was dishing out yellow cards all over the place in the early stages, Liam Noble was booked for practically stamping on Doyler, he was fine don't get me wrong, but the referee very much bottled the sending off. Rod McDonald got one for almost decking him in reaction, and Shola Ameobi (Who's got to be in his late 40s by now) got in on the action by jumping in on the scuffle. In fact it's a wonder Noble wasn't sent off as there must have been two or three second bookable offences after this incident.

Tom Bayliss stopped a counter attack from progressing by dragging their winger down on the left and got a yellow of his own. He's really learning from being partnered with Doyler. Now, onto the nit and grit of the second half, the hosts won a corner, which was met in the air by Jonathan Forte, completed unchallenegd, and into the far corner. Not only was it a poor goal to concede, but not in a million years should it have counted, at the time I was annoyed we'd allowed it to happen, but when you look back at the highlights and see Lee Burge wasn't allowed to actually move to what would be an easy save, it adds a ridiculous amount of petrol to the already massive fire.

Now we had to chase the game, again, what didn't help was Mark Robins' refusal to bring on our best impact player Kyel Reid. After 10 minutes of dilly dallying and a couple of half chances, Jordan Ponticelli came on for Bayliss. Of all players, Bayliss. Kelly or Shipley would have been more logical, now we had even less creativity than before. We were going for the tactic of, the more players you throw at them the more likely we are to score.

Those were my exact thoughts at that time, and I'll say them to not seem like I knew what I was talking about, because of course it went and worked. A goal mouth scramble goes down with about 5 minutes left to play, Kelly had the best chance but Collin one handed pushed it to the side, and somehow they half got it away. It really was looking like we'd never do it if we didn't score there. McNulty flung himself at the clearance with a poor overhead kick, it bounced straight up to Ponticelli, who contrary to my previous words, provided some incredible creativity and came out with an audacious back heel flick into the far corner. 1-1.

Ignoring maybe the Checkatrade run last season, and possibly a few of the FA Cup goals this season, this was the most I've ever celebrated a goal. It was so unexpected, so when we actually did it everyone lost their absolute minds, there were a few on the pitch, a whole load of pyro, and personally when I wasn't on the floor I was jumping on complete strangers in disbelief that we had managed to keep our season alive at the death of the game, with Jordan Ponticelli bagging his first league goal. There was now a real sense of passion from the team, we could really go on and do this. *Sigh* and as we all know, this is when we are at our weakest.


Let's get one thing straight, absolutely no way did the celebrations lead to our downfall, that is a ridiculous statement. They were big, but that's to be expected, the only player who can be described as overwhelmed was Jonson Clarke-Harris, who couldn't pass up the opportunity of about 30 people careering into him, so went down like a ton of bricks, even if they were his own fans. Liam Kelly spooned a clearance, and before you know it it's cannoned right into the path of Big Shola, who's squared it and somehow Forte forces it in. The elation turned to almost tears, it was painful, all of our work had been for nothing.

Full Time - Notts County 2-1 Coventry City

At the time it seemed like the absolute worst thing in the world, but somehow, we're still in the play offs, we actually got very very lucky on that front with Mansfield losing 4-3 at home to Crewe and Swindon dropping points against Carlisle. Now we've just got to hope they do the same again on Tuesday night, leaving us able to still cling on to 7th place. We can't keep relying on other results though, a huge reaction is needed at Crawley on Saturday. Anything other than making the play offs then this season is a failure, it's now or never.

My Man of the Match - Michael Doyle - In the style of the official Cov MOTM, I'm unsure who to give it to, so I'll just fling it to Michael Doyle. No one was especially stand out, but I can think of a couple of reasons not to give it to some other players so Doyler is going to take it for his consistent performance. He played a couple of good balls here and there and on another day one of them might have resulted in an assist. However if he skies a 25 yard volley again in the 95th minute instead of bringing it down and playing some football then I might cry.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

My Fifty-Seventh 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Yeovil Town

I know I have trouble with describing games sometimes as City always conjure up new ways for me to be surprised roughly once a month, but this, let me tell you, was something else. Never in all my life have I seen something so spineless, diabolical, unexpected and downright disgusting. In honour of the shambles it's time for the return of "Rant not report" which got a few run outs last season, it only really appeared this season when Forest Green turned us over at the Ricoh but I'm sure most Cov fans will agree with me, this tops it.

Now obviously in this league there are no easy games as the cliche goes, but before the game given our recent form, personally I was there going "We have to win, SURELY", as I did with both Barnet and Grimsby. On Friday we did well to nab a point late doors in the pouring rain which gave me a fair amount of confidence, and there weren't even any new injury concerns, which was confirmed to us when the team news was released.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
McDonald
Haynes

Vincenti
Bayliss
Doyle
Reid

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Stokes
Davies
Shipley
Barrett
Biamou
Ponticelli

Given he chipped a ball across a box to Biamou for the goal last week, Kyel Reid apparently warranted a return to the first team with Jordan Shipley making way. Maxime was unlucky not to get back in the side as well but JCH is still in relatively good form. To quickly put it out there, I wouldn't be surprised if Carl Baker's footballing career is over, he missed out yet again with an ongoing calf problem, with only 6 games left and his age, it's not exactly looking good for him. Hopefully for sentimental value he gets at least a few minutes before the season is out to help us get over the play off line. That's if we don't grossly bottle it by throwing points away like there's no tomorrow. (Spoiler Alert x)

First Half

Let's break this down a bit, to begin with I'll just analyse the first 15 minutes of the circus, then I'll get onto the rest of the match. First four minutes or so were ok, a bit slow mind but nothing in particular bad, then our metaphorical bubble was jabbed at by a 6 year old with a needle throwing a tantrum. Not sure why said 6 year old would be entrusted with a sharp object in the first place mind but a metaphor is a metaphor and I'm still very angry at what I was forced to witness. Now, quickly before all of that, go easy on Burgey eh?

A cross was put in, it should have been an easy routine catch for him, but he fumbled it, and before you know it Alex Fisher taps it in from a yard out. Yes, that was a howler, and it's not the first time it's happened this season, but people are very quick to forget how good he's been all of this season, and even on Friday when he single handedly kept us in it. Have a go all you want but to say how poor he's been always been for us is incredibly unfair. Anyway, as we learnt after half time, Liam O'Brien isn't the second coming either like people seem to think, but that's getting ahead of myself.

We were preparing for 90 minutes of hoofball and us struggling to break them down because that's the sort of team they are, then before you know it Doyler of all people gets pushed off the ball, both Hyam and Rod go to the same player, leaving Zoko in acres of space to stick past Burge and make it 2-0. A whole 11 minutes played, you start to think the game is out of our hands already, and that was confirmed a whole 3 minutes later when another defensive howler gave them another goal.

A big ball over the top was missed completely by Grimmer, so Burge was in a race to the ball, which he lost Fisher gets there ahead of him and dinks over to make it 3-0. We were losing 3-0 at home to Yeovil bloody Town after 15 minutes, I've seen us begin to bottle promotion a few times since I've been alive, but this, was special. In amongst all of that Marc McNulty stuck a ball in across the box where Vincenti could have just stuck his leg out and we'd have equalised. Sparky also met a Kyel Reid cross from about 2 yards out and somehow managed to miss an open goal. Those go in and it *may* have been a different story where we're not chasing the game from the literal off.

Anyway, as he's the official Coventry City scapegoat, Vincenti was subbed off after a whole half an hour, which leads me onto another point. Peter Vincenti is not the devil, and he is also a living, breathing human being who plays for the club we so dearly love. The whole witch hunt aimed at him is cruel now, yes he might not be the most technically gifted, but he still tries his best every time we pulls on the shirt, and it means a lot to him as we saw when he ran over to the fans when he scored versus Grimsby and/or Luton, I'm not sure which it was. What good is sarcastically cheering when he gets subbed off going to do to anyone. He wasn't even the worst out there. Either way Biamou got a much earlier berth into the game than anyone expected.

As we got ever closer to half time, that "Stop, stop, he's already dead" GIF taken from The Simpsons was being plastered across Twitter, especially when they would have had a fourth if it weren't for the flag going up. So we did go into the break 3 goals down, but the worst part of it was, we quite easily could have had three of our own. However the referee put us out of our misery and ensued a 15 minute period of sulking and checking the odds on 3-3 and a Maxime Biamou hat trick.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-3 Yeovil Town

Second Half

Unless he was injured, which it didn't look like he was, then what in gods name was the point of wasting a sub on taking Burge off for O'Brien. The games already gone, changing the goalkeeper isn't going to do anything. However I did find it a tad funny that they both ended up conceding the exact same amount of goals, deeming this even more pointless than anyone originally thought, but again, that's getting ahead of myself.

We were all sat there just thinking, if we get an early goal, then MAYBE. We only went and did it, Tom Bayliss was on the floor and just hacked at the ball and somehow it played McNulty straight through, he cuts back to Biamou. 3-1. Everyone's steaming back to the half way line with the ball so quickly, with the chants of 'Sky Blue Army' so loud, the players so pumped, and 43 minutes of the match left to play, we couldn't, could we? Absolutely not you fool, it was 4-1 within mere minutes. Hyam was so easily muscled off the ball he might as well have not even been there. Zoko tapped it past O'Brien and we all got back to seat sulking.

Now most had left by this stage, but the rest of us were just lying down in our seat wondering why we actually did this to ourselves, plus the game had died down a bit. It got to a point where Biamou just shot a volley out of frustration from 30 yards, and what do you know, top corner. 4-2 and Sky Sports Goal of the Day, mental scenes. Josh Barrett came on for Haynes with about 15 minutes to play, leaving Kyel Reid at left back, which no man should ever have to witness.

We were continuing to go for it and on another day it could have quite easily been 4-3 or 4-4, but to remove all hope from anyone's mind, Sam Surridge got a free header in the box and weakly headed in at O'Brien's near post. He quite easily should have saved that but people won't mention that bit. Biamou still wasn't finished and hit the bar a few minutes later, the carnage if he'd scored a hat trick off the bench to triple his league goals tally. As a right kick in the teeth though, deep into injury time Surridge got another, rounding off the worst day of the season and one of the worst losses in recent history.

Full Time - Coventry City 2-6 Yeovil Town


Can we brush this off as an anomaly? God I hope so but that was absolutely diabolical. It feels like every time they give us a small glimmer of something good it's snatched away. Automatics are gone now, there's no point in hoping for them, the gap is too big, play offs can be our only aim for the remainder of the season. Notts County away on Saturday was always going to be big, now it is earth-shatteringly massive. We have to go there and get a result, even a draw wouldn't really be good enough, so a win is the option. A sold out 4,100 allocation are turning up, so hopefully the team do too.

My Man of the Match - Maxime Biamou - I mean no one was particularly good, but Biamou, Bayliss,  maybe Reid and at a push McNulty could walk away with at least some credit. To score a brace coming off the bench is good at the best of times, to do it in this case was especially great. Everyone will forget the goal because of the result but it was outstanding and won Sky Sports Goal of the Day.  I'm glad he's finally found his shooting boots at such a crucial stage of the season. Any other day he scores a brace and it actually means something and we don't concede 6 at the same time.


Saturday, 31 March 2018

My Fifty-Sixth 17/18 Game - Newport County vs Coventry City

Easter Weekend is finally upon us, with games now coming in thick and fast ahead of the end of the season we've got barely any time to stare agonisingly at the table wondering how and where we're going to finish. Last time out we handed it to Grimsby in a very routine performance, which we really need to do, we've got a few of those sorts of games left this season so to dispatch of them all with ease would be perfect. Newport away however isn't really one of those games, so when I saw the weather forecast, I'd have taken a point and ran, ran so very far.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
McDonald
Haynes

Vincenti
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Stokes
Davies
Barrett
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

Completely unchanged, and why shouldn't we be? Everyone was brilliant last week, as Gary McSheffrey put it, it was like a training session. Tom Davies got back onto the bench for the first time since breaking his collarbone at Forest Green nearly 2 months ago, but considering how well Hyam and McDonald have been doing there's no need to break them up. The return of King Carl Baker drags on for another game as according to his Twitter he got man flu in the week. I'll honestly be devastated if we never see him in a City shirt again, maybe Monday is the one.

First Half

Possibly being the wettest any man has ever been in Newport's open roofed terrace, we started easily the better of the two sides and it took just 7 minutes for us to have a real chance. In a switch up of roles, Clarke-Harris crossed into Shipley who only managed to hit the side netting from close range. It was a tight angle and all that but he really should have hit the target at the very least. Positive early signs however. It honestly seemed like we must have had about 30 corners in that first half, Shippers was floating every single one in but unfortunately the hosts are good at set pieces defensively as well as maintaining the most goals scored from them in the League this season.

It became clear quite early on that this wasn't the best game of Marc McNulty's career, he blasted one very good chance over the bar and then later on when one on one with the keeper he skied a chip from about 12 yards. As we all know by now, if we start well and score early on, then we're more than often fine, but if we start well and don't score, we struggle to maintain it and just start to deteriorate as the match goes on. Even though we were all over them, this was the case today.

Dan Butler put a weak cross in from the left side, and Rod McDonald wasn't tight to his marker, leaving Amond the ability to flick on which gave Mickey Demetriou all the time and space in the world to tap in past Burge at the back stick. It's happened time and time again, we had so many opportunities to stop them going ahead, mainly through McNulty, and we didn't. It's unfair to criticise him though given how much he's stepped up since Jodi's injury back in November.

One thing that gave me a small glimmer of hope going into the break was that we came roaring straight back at them after the goal, and Haynes very nearly curled one into the top corner on his weaker foot. Had we got the swift reply it would have been happy days, instead it was an ever so slightly miserable, drenched 15 minutes for us all as Newport headed in with, it's fair to say an undeserved lead. But what can you do, if we don't put our chances away and they do then you can't really call it that.

Half Time - Newport County 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

In what I can think is only an attempt to grossly annoy us, Frank Nouble plodded on the pitch for The Exiles. Whilst this time we had the poorer start of the two sides, we were so close to equalising just 5 minutes in. On a break, Clarke-Harris shot across goal and Demetriou skewed the clearance out, the ball could have gone literally anywhere, but instead it managed to go straight into the arms of Joe Day. Luck at its pure finest. Actually, that's probably a bit hypocritical as about a minute earlier Matty Dolan grazed the post from about 25 yards.

Just after the hour mark past, I think we got the call to action and the wake up call we so desperately needed, because god knows how we didn't concede in this minute long period. First of all, Burge made one of the best saves I've ever seen from point blank range to flick a header over the bar. It's probably beaten only by Reice Charles-Cook's save from that free kick at Port Vale a couple of years ago. From the resulting corner they got yet another free header in the box, and out of nowhere Dominic Hyam flung himself at it to scoop it over the bar. Still shellshocked, they put it in the box from a corner once more, this time the header was right at Burge and he was able to pull it to his chest.


God knows how it was still 1-0, but I think Robins knew at this stage something needed to be done. Kyel Reid was on for Shipley, and a couple of minutes later because he was badly limping, McNulty was off for Ponticelli. Let's just hope he's alright and this was just a minor blip because god help us for the run in if not. Then finally with about 15 minutes left Vincenti made way for Maxime Biamou who went out to play on the right with JCH and Ponticelli up top. The three of them could probably just about scrape 10 goals in all competitions this season.

We won the ball back in a good position when Reid picked it up about 35 yards out, he drove with it and as he reached the box he dinked it across to the far side in a Wembley-esque motion. It looked as if he'd missed everyone, but it was in fact much better than that, as like an lion hunting for pray, Maxime Biamou came steaming in towards the back stick and first time on the volley found the small gap between the keeper and the post. 1-1. Limbs everywhere. The French Pele stepped up when we needed him most.

We could, and probably should have snatched all 3 points in the last 10 minutes as it was all Cov. In fact I'm pretty sure there'd have been deaths in the away end had Rod McDonald's last minute header not been cleared off the line. There definitely should have been more than 4 minutes added on given the amount of time that was wasted and stoppages for injuries, but the referee ended up blew for full time letting the game finish 1-1.

Full Time - Newport County 1-1 Coventry City

It's disappointing we couldn't go away with 3 points, but we dug very deep to get that point when we were far from our best in spells of the game. We're still in sixth, results went relatively in our favour, and that's now 7 games unbeaten. This is certainly a point gained as opposed to two dropped. However it does mean we have to absolutely beat Yeovil on Monday to cement a play off spot and keep the automatic dream alive. 7 to go... Also, on a more personal note, this is the 200th post I've done on here, so thanks everyone for actually reading them so I have the motivation to carry on.

My Man of the Match - Lee Burge - If he doesn't make that ridiculous save we lose that game, it's as simple as that. I've said this so many times before, and I'll say it again, he's as good a keeper as we could get and in my opinion is the best since Westwood. However even now he'll skew a kick now and again and is crucified for it. Honestly, could we actually do better? He's one of the players of the season. I'll forever back him.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

My Fifty-Fifth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Grimsby Town

In horrible conditions, we got a great result at Crewe last week, and it could and probably should have easily been more. As the various tweets from the players said, we've got 9 more cup finals to go, with Grimsby at home being the next stop. After realising Russell Slade shouldn't be anywhere near professional football a bit too late they've found themselves in deep trouble having not won in 17. prior to the match. They were on the worst run of anyone in England, everything was pointing towards us winning, so naturally I was a nervous wreck worrying.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
McDonald
Hyam
Haynes

Vincenti
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Stokes
Kelly
Barrett
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

Part of me feels a tad sorry for Liam O'Brien, he played great last time out in a rare chance but I think Robins made a good decision bringing Burge back in, he's the more reliable option when it comes down to it. Thankfully Bayliss passed a late fitness test and was able to start as he's a real game change, saying that if Kelly shows the same attacking prowess as he did at Crewe then we need not worry about him and Doyler being too similar. As for our lord and saviour Carl Baker, despite finally getting international clearance, he's tweaked his calf so we'll have to wait another game or two for the return. This news was crushing to the child in me who really wanted to see him, Doyle and Gary McSheffrey play on the same pitch for a final time. Probably the only three players you could get anywhere near using the 'legend' tag with since dropping out of the Premier League.

First Half

To get this out of the way before actually getting into the football so it doesn't become tangled in the chances of an eventful 90 minutes, the booing of McSheffrey, not having that at all. It was a small minority, made of mostly of people in Singers Corner, and obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion and all that, but why? He's a childhood hero of many City fans, including me, so it hurt a bit to hear some people slag him off for no logical reason. It's understandable people don't want to applaud an opposition but why does that mean you should abuse him. Personally I clapped him and properly wanted to belt out "HE COMES FROM COVENTRY, HE'S BETTER THAN HENRY, MCSHEFFREY WOOOAHHHH", but thought better of it with the likelihood of being lynched quite high.

Onto the actual reason we were there, and I had it in my head if we didn't score in the first 20 minutes or so then it'd be another game like Barnet where we'd struggle to string 3 passes together and would end up being lucky to scrap a 1-0er. Now I wouldn't go as far as saying we were playing badly, but Grimsby just edged the game. If Zak Mills' header hadn't been cleared off the line by their own player then things could have gone a whole lot differently. Luckily though, this was as close as they got in a dry first half an hour.

As we neared the end of the half we lacked a spark of sorts, it was just a bit dull, we couldn't form anything and the referee wasn't really allowing the game to flow, constantly blowing up for fouls. However we ended up using this to our advantage, close to the corner flag, dead ball specialist Shipley floated one right into the mixer with Vincenti meeting it and glancing it past McKeown, giving him his second goal in as many home games. Speaking of which that's the eighth wonder of the world, where on earth has THIS Peter Vincenti come from? His form since coming back into the side has been exceptional, especially for someone who picked up the nickname Bambi for a solid 2 months. Personally I prefer Big V.

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Grimsby Town

Second Half

It really took the edge off going in at the break leading instead of needing to come out really pressing, and even though it's very cliche, it really is the best time to score. Even more so when it's against a side so poor and shot of confidence, all of this gave way to possibly the best second half performance of the season. Well, bar maybe Lincoln, but this was more impressive given the lack of Jodi Jones or Duckens Nazon. For the first 10 minutes of the second half, it was all City, but they were just about keeping us at bay. It was only a matter of time, but I'm not quite sure anyone expected it to come via a Michael Doyle 50 yard Pirlo-esque pass.

The skipper won it back just inside our half and beautifully weighted a ball over the top to Clarke-Harris, his first touch with his head left him through on goal. Everything about the type of player he is made me think he'd absolutely smash it at the goal, if it went in it was a bonus, however what he actually did put him up in my estimations even more. With Marc McNulty steaming in he fed him the ball for Sparky to have an easy tap in, making it 2-0. Given the state of the opposition's current form that was basically game over already.

We were passing it about so easily it was borderline bullying of Grimsby, and we were doing it even without Nathan Clarke in the side, quite magnificent really. Ever been on FIFA and the guy you're playing is so bad you just try and get as many shots in as possible? Well for a good chunk of the match we were forced to watch Jordan Shipley and Jonson Clarke-Harris spoon shots over from about 40 yards. Amongst all this Bayliss and Vincenti went off for Kelly and Reid to give the slightly injured/not completely match fit players a rest in a game practically already won.

With 15 minutes left we won a corner, we'd learnt by this point they were diabolical at defending set pieces, so when an unmarked Dominic Hyam got up it wasn't looking good for them. He nodded it back into the six yard box where Sparky, also completely unmarked, was waiting. McKeown got the faintest of touches to take his header onto the bar but he couldn't do anything about the rebound. 3-0, and now it was put beyond doubt, we'd batted away another side in our quest for promotion.

Biamou had the final 10 minutes to do what he does when he replaced Clarke-Harris in our final substitution of the match. He nearly joined the party with not long to go, beating the last man, but scuffing the effort straight at the keeper, kind of like his goal at MK but with some competent goalkeeping this time round. Reid also had his usual shot from 20 yards across goal which is comfortably saved, one day it'll go in Kyel, one day.

We still weren't quite done, Reid once again pranced down the left and floated a cross in towards Biamou but it was headed away 12 yards out. Considering the ball was literally behind him, Marc McNulty did bloody amazingly to volley it and hook it back into the top corner for the pick of his now hat trick. You could tell how much it meant to him to finally get one, and only 4 days ago people were suggesting we start Ponticelli as he's not scored enough from open play lately... Madness really. This nicely rounded off a great day and a wonderful performance.

Full Time - Coventry City 4-0 Grimsby Town


Not sure I liked that, I think we played a bit *too* well, we need to save some playing good-ness for everyone else. In all seriousness, wow, we absolutely needed to beat them and did so in emphatic fashion, if we keep playing like that against the lesser teams then play offs will be a mere formality, but I din't say that. I'm not sure I particularly want to utter the words "automatic spots" as it's tempting fate and there's still a while left yet. One game at a time and all that, originally I would've taken a point at Newport on Friday, but Crewe beat them at home yesterday, so why the hell can't we get another 3 points?

My Man of the Match - Marc McNulty - It's an unwritten rule on here, and indeed in most places, that if you get a hat trick, you have to get man of the match. It's a very elite club, the most recent members are Jodi Jones, Adam Armstrong, Jacob Murphy, and believe it or not Freddie Eastwood. He deserves it, and this takes him to 18 league goals, 21 in all competitions. His third this time round was possibly his best for the club, while the other two were real poachers finishes. Let's just wrap him in cotton wool and bubble wrap for this run in.