Wednesday, 31 January 2018

My Forty-Fifth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Cambridge United

You'd like to think that Saturday was it wouldn't you? As if we'd completed football with a day as good as that. Saying that, it was only MK Dons after all... But after a bit of FA Cup fever had continued to the Monday night for the draw (What's everyone's opinion on Brighton by the way?) we got the sudden reality of "Oh god, we've got to go back to League Two football now." It was a must win game which pretty much came out of nowhere. It's an odd one, but I love a good night game. They're usually foul cold affairs but if you win you couldn't care less, it would be the same this time.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Davies
McDonald
Stokes

Dev. Kelly-Evans
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes: 

O'Brien
Hyam
Haynes
Vincenti
Barrett
Beavon
Ponticelli

I hate games played right before a transfer deadline, because whoever isn't in the squad people automatically assume is leaving. However Ben Stevenson wasn't in the squad because he's leaving for Wolves (medical being done at the time of writing) but I don't think people are too bothered about it. We've got enough depth in that position and it's unfair to keep a lad with a bright future out of the side when teams come knocking. The one people did go mental about was Jordan Willis, a man who's name gets thrown about every single Deadline Day without fail. In the post-match press conference Mark Robins almost literally spat in the face of the journalist who asked the question. He's not going anywhere.

First Half

I was slightly tentative to see how the hardest centre back pairing in the league would get on, Davies and McDonald are great defenders but that's as far as it goes really. With Willis you've got a bit of a ball playing footballer, I imagined they would accidentally kill someone with their sixth hoof of the match. That nearly happened when Tom Davies slaughtered one right into Tom Bayliss' face later in the first half. Weirdly though we actually got off to a good start and did indeed manage to carry forward the momentum from the FA Cup.

It took us just 10 minutes to break the deadlock, Marc McNulty found himself with the ball on the edge of the area and did what he does best. He side footed into the far bottom corner. It's just not fair anymore, it's like he's not even trying and still he can spank a goal or two in ever game. That's his ninth in our last 8 home games and is 14th overall this season, quite something considering most of them have come since the end of November. Maybe he really is that 20 goal a season striker Robins insisted he would be.

We didn't really do much for a bit until we popped up with another goal around the half hour mark, on the right McNulty found himself marked and too tight an angle to shoot so he looped a perfect cross to the back post where Shipley was waiting. By no means was it easy from here, Shippers floated it back across goal with the keeper scrambling back but getting nowhere near it. Top corner. 2-0. EZEH. EZEH. EZEH. Saying that there were a few scares towards the end of the half but Burgey pulled off a couple of great saves to deny Ikpezeau.

Half Time - Coventry City 2-0 Cambridge United

Second Half

Thankfully unlike Swindon we managed to carry our lead to half time at least, which made the first 15 minutes or so of the second period ten times less nervy. As we edged closer to the hour mark however there was a sigh of relief when the referee didn't blow for a penalty when Ikpezeau went down from a Grimmer push. Not to go all Wenger on you all, but I honestly didn't see it so I can't comment, from what I hear it probably was though. Scary times.


Even though we were treading water as if the game was already won, we did have a chance to absolutely put it to bed thanks to a quick free kick. McNulty himself was shocked he got the ball in such space about 5 yards out so tried to make it harder for himself by waiting for the last defender and then cutting back past him. It was a poor touch and they cleared, really he should have just leathered it without looking. He's better at the harder chances is our Sparky, we're really beginning to see that as the games go on.

Cambridge certainly had a better second half than first, either that or our squad was just having party time thinking they'd won the league. Either way it came back to bite us with 5 minutes left, from a corner George Taft leapt highest and rocketed a header in so Burge could barely get a touch on it. It was impossible to keep it out. See we got a bit scared again here, we were time wasting, hoofing it as far into the stand as humanely possible. We stopped for a second in injury time as it was just silly, Biamou found himself free to roam on the right and played in McNulty in the box, he completely missed the ball in a comical yet perfect miskick. It made its way to skipper Michael Doyle who kicked a ball harder than any man has kicked before and before you know it, we've seen off the game and it's 3-1.

Full Time - Coventry City 3-1 Cambridge United

Another big, yet routine victory, we're going to need a few more of these before the end of the season, leave the big games for playing the big games and have no hiccups against the smaller ones. Remarkably that's 7 home wins on the bounce, it's away we're going to need to pick up form. Starting with Forest Green on Saturday, I'm keen to try out some of their fine vegan cuisine, not even joking, I'm quite curious. That's if I find a ticket.

My Man of the Match - Michael Doyle - No one was massively standout but everyone was quite good so I thought I'd turn to Doyle as sort of an appreciation to the bloke. He's the only one to play every league minute so far and is basically just a Coventry City legend. There, I said the words, they're out there, try and take them away from me. I dare you.





Sunday, 28 January 2018

My Forty-Fourth 17/18 Game - Milton Keynes Dons vs Coventry City

When the draw came out we were initially a bit disappointed, there were a lot of bigger team that we could have got, and we were drawn away at a ground we've visited loads over the past few years. Then after about 5 minutes of sulking we all realised, hang on a minute, this is actually a class tie, we could take thousands upon thousands and you never know, we could pull something off there. It's not like they're really good, and if we even played half as well as we did against Stoke then it would be in the bag.

We all travelled down as early as our body clocks would let us and began a tour of MK Dons pubs, first a Wetherspoons which was home fans only yet all that was coming out was a belting Twist and Shout. Eventually we were led to The Swan Hotel about a mile from the ground and my god the scenes were good, it was all chants, and even a fire extinguisher was let off for some amazingly funny yet odd reason. Eventually we did have to drag ourselves out, partly because we had to go to the game, but mainly because if there was a fire we were screwed. On the rainy walk there we were greeted by the team.

Coventry City Starting XI: 

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Stokes

Kelly
Doyle

Bayliss
Barrett

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Di. Kelly-Evans
Stevenson
Shipley
Vincenti
Ponticelli

Liam Kelly came out of hiding to make a return to the side in a formation change, from what I could gather it was a very narrow 4-2-2-2. Jordan Shipley made way for him, whilst Rod McDonald came back into the frame for the presumably injured Tom Davies. The same was the case for Jordan Maguire-Drew, who made way for Josh Barrett to make his first start in a City shirt. To me this seemed like an absolutely brilliant side, a solid keeper and back four, our ideal midfield pairing plus two energetic attacking midfielders. To top it all off we had two strikers who are not only brimming with confidence, but work together amazingly. This is all the more relevant after Biamou got his first "proper" goal last week.

First Half

Call me a killjoy all you like, but in that first half we were pretty poor, we were playing so narrow that the MK wingers had seas of room to attack at. Stokes in particular was getting caught out a fair amount by various through balls and such, you could also see that Liam Kelly was quite rusty given the 6 weeks or so he's spent on the sidelines. This meant that we needed to rely on Doyler to keep a calm head and be the heart of our side, playing the simple balls. 5 minutes in he goes through the back of Nesbitt when he's close to through on goal and gets booked for it. Love that, proper Hard Brexit Michael Doyle tackle that everyone knows and loves.

It looked like we were under the cosh a bit, and to be fair, we were, but Willis and McDonald were blocking literally anything that was going at goal. Things got quite scary but they always seemed to hook the crosses away, on the one occasion they couldn't see it away Burge was quickly off his line to beat Tavernier to the ball and smother it. However really though he didn't need to do much for the first half at least. Whilst the hosts were undoubtedly the better team this side of the break that's not to say we didn't have our fair share of chances.

There were only a couple of attempts for us worthy of mentioning but they were better than anything Milton Keynes could produce. McNulty had the ball on the right hand side and fed it into Doyle, it was a bit behind him, and if you weren't there, I swear to god this happened however mental it'll seem. He rouletted the ball into the path of Maxime Biamou, who forced a good save at the far post by Nicholls. I doubt he meant it, in fact come to think of it he stumbled on the ball a bit, it just happened to work out perfectly.

McNulty also had a shot of his own from the edge of the area which I was directly in line with, it was heading right for the bottom corner, you're already halfway through celebrating before you realise that they pay a keeper for a reason. He fairly comfortably pushed it away from danger. This and the earlier mentioned Lee Burge work signalled the end of the half, quite a dull one but if we didn't step up our ideas soon we'd be on the receiving end of a hiding when the floodgates did eventually open.

Half Time - Milton Keynes Dons 0-0 Coventry City

Second Half

Even for the first 10 or 15 minutes we weren't much better, however both sides had their best chance of the match during this spell. Firstly Concrete Rod hoofed a long ball in the direction of McNulty who picked it up on the left wing and continued into the box, shooting narrowly wide of the mark. Then MK missed an open goal basically, Williams' pinpoint cross was poorly met by Agard, any serious touch and he's scored but it hits the back of his leg and we thankfully clear. The game was certainly livening up.

Tom Bayliss did well in the middle of the park to feed Sparky in down the right, he held onto it well and waited patiently for Maxime Biamou to advance into a goalscoring position. It wasn't too good a ball, the defender made a has of the clearance by kicking it into his own leg, giving Biamou a split second of a chance. He literally forced it through the keeper's legs and a whole second of suspense ensued. It was trickling, and somehow, we managed to score from such a weird opportunity. The carnage when everyone knew however was absolutely ridiculous, within seconds there were flares everywhere, drinks hurled down the stand and about 100 people on the pitch. What a moment, and of course it was Biamou.


Suddenly we all of a sudden realised that we were 1-0 up in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup and we started playing like it, in a similar situation to the first goal, Liam Kelly was laid out on the floor with the ball at his feet. He had no time to adjust so just shanked it ever so slightly wide, looking back this was probably for the best as I was down the front at this stage and I don't think I'd have been able to contain myself and maybe it would have been me that those old Cov fans were handing over to stewards. For celebrating a goal.

Not long after the fairly obviously tired Kelly went off for Stevenson, to accompany the previous switch of Shipley on for Barrett. Then finally to add some for defensive depth Dion Kelly-Evans came on for Tom Bayliss. The time was ticking down and we didn't look like crumbling, they had another half chance from a rebound but it was spooned almost into the stands. Prior to the horrible six minutes added on, Stevenson could have settled everyone's nerves by netting when latching onto McNulty's ball. It wasn't to be though, and we had to endure yet another long heart in mouth period of injury time. Much like the rest of the season, we did it, we held on.

Full Time - Milton Keynes Dons 0-1 Coventry City

It's becoming a joke now, we're in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. We're the only League Two side guaranteed to be in it given Notts County and Newport County have to go to Premier League sides in replays, Wembley for the latter. There's a huge chance we'll be the lowest ranked team left of the 16 when the games come round. All that's left to see now is who we will be facing? It's either going to be Leicester at home or Wigan away. Nothing else, the two extremes. Until then, this is the memory you're all being left with. For another 3 weeks at least, we're still in with a chance.

My Man of the Match - Jordan Willis - If it weren't for Willis and McDonald then no way would we have won that match, they played with their heart on their sleeve, they were never going to let anything get passed them. I don't know why I decided on Willis over Rod? Maybe because he flung his face in front of more balls. Great player, I'm sure he'll be linked with a move away every single transfer window but will always end up staying somehow.





Friday, 26 January 2018

That Preview Thing: Milton Keynes Dons

I know I said I ditched previews a while back in place of the weekly opinion piece but this week I was stumped as to what to do, there was no burning voice in my brain saying "You must share your fairly controversial views" for once because, well, there's not really much to moan about. I'm not sure I like that, it doesn't feel right. Basically, all that has been on my mind City wise was also my motivation for getting through the week, MK Dons away in the FA Cup. So basically, when big games like this come round I'll just have a bit of a chit chat with myself about whether I fancy our chances.


It's just very exciting isn't it? Cup fever has hit Coventry for the second year in a row, but this time it's an actual respected competition which people won't slate us for going to. Proper big boy stuff. There's so much hype that there is in fact going to be more in that away end on Saturday than there were in our home end at the Ricoh for the Swindon match last weekend. That's not me calling our fanbase fickle or anything, just, wow. I really didn't need to do the propaganda post a couple of weeks ago urging people to turn up given how quickly they sold out.

Last Time Out

The Swindon match was a big occasion for a few reasons, Maxime Biamou scored his first goal, which is huge in itself before you even see how much of a worldie it was. It was the first time we beat the visitors since we've been at the Ricoh, completing the double this season over our 'bogey team'. Most important of all, we gave City legend Cyrille Regis a big send off in a big 3-1 in the league. We're edging ever nearer to the back end of the season and we're still no closer to knowing who the hell is making up 2nd to 7th. A small part of me wants to say we should focus on that but the rest of me is bashing that part down screaming that we're going to go to Wembley.

Last Meeting

Milton Keynes Dons 1-0 Coventry City
O'Keefe (51')
Saturday 18th March 2017
Sky Bet League One

We love a good trip to Stadium:MK, however this absolutely isn't a good representation of the joy we've had there. It was Mark Robins' first away game back in charge and he was still trying to get Russell Slade's bunch of misfits to kick balls properly, we very much mediocrely got defeated 1-0. Usually that would have been our big day out, but with Wembley 2 weeks later I don't think too many people cared, especially as we were already pretty much down at this stage. Still, 3 days later we started our upward trajectory of 24th to 23rd with our first win in donkeys years.

If you want to really get excited for the weekend then pretend this was the last time we faced them:

Milton Keynes Dons 1-3 Coventry City
Williams (45+2')             Dagnall (66')
                                        Maguire (86', 90')
Saturday November 30th 2013
Sky Bet League One

7,500 City fans oversaw one of the best away games in recent years, we equalised with a massive deflection from Chris Dagnall. Then late on we won a free kick, loanee Chris Maguire stepped up, beat them wall and found the bottom corner. It was a great goal to score with just 4 minute remaining. Then, in injury time, he only went and did it again, and somehow it was even better. What a day it was, now we're taking a sold out allocation of almost 8,000 and we have a dead ball specialist in the side, who just happens to be his namesake. So if Jordan Maguire-Drew pings in a late free kick you know who to thank.

Potential Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Maguire-Drew
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

I can't see us making many, if any, changes to the side that defeated Swindon 3-1, why should we? Peter Vincenti apparently may be fit to start but I think I speak for most people when I say that it would probably be for the best if we were to leave him out for this game. Liam Kelly isn't far away either from what I've heard but I still struggle to see where he would come in unless there was a formation change. Josh Barrett and Ryan Haynes are two players who are probably most in line for a place in the team with Shipley the most likely candidate to leave.

The Opposition

Everyone's least favourite franchise club are struggling in League One this season and after last weeks defeat to Northampton they find themselves in the relegation zone. Since then they've sacked Robbie Neilson and have taken a massive gamble by bringing in Dan Micciche, someone who has never managed a club in his life. He has only been involved in the England u16 set up. This is going to be his first game in senior football. He has absolutely no experience, which scares me to death. There's no way of knowing what will happen, it could be a shambles of an appointment but it could be a masterstroke. Even Sir Alex Ferguson had to start somewhere...

Prediction

We've already shown what we can do in this competition by knocking out Stoke in the Third Round, plus we've been in great form. The situation for the hosts is quite the opposite, they're playing extremely poorly. We have an actual chance here, and that's not just my natural optimism seeping through. Above all else there's a serious chance that we could have more fans than them and we'll certainly provide a better atmosphere. The players will be well up for it. I completely believe we have huge chance to be in the Fifth Round.

Milton Keynes Dons 0-2 Coventry City

Sunday, 21 January 2018

My Forty-Third 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Swindon Town

All FA Cup jubilation was brought crashing down last week with the loss to Exeter, sending us not only out of the automatic promotion spots, but also the play offs. In fact due to Newport's Friday night victory we went in to our match against Swindon in 9th place. The league is so ridiculously tight that even as we edge near to 30 games in, one loss could leave you in tatters for the following week, which is why it is absolutely crucial we put together a good run to bolster our own personal chances.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Maguire-Drew
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Di. Kelly-Evans
McDonald
Stevenson
Barrett
Beavon
Ponticelli

I was a tad surprised to see us stay unchanged from the Exeter defeat, giving how Mark Robins was talking about Biamou, appearing as if he's come to the end of his tether with him. Personally I also thought that Jordan Shipley's place may have been under threat with Josh Barrett scoring a hat trick in the u23s earlier in the week but he signed a two-year deal on Thursday so it's not as if Robins doesn't highly rate him. The other debatable non-change was letting Lee Burge stay in the side, personally I was strongly in favour of this but some idiots other fans said that Liam O'Brien deserved to regain his spot in the team.

First Half

You could see from the off it was going to be a tough game, we weren't really too confident going in and we were facing the side with the best away record in the league, so for the first 15 minutes or so we were near enough outplayed. It was always going to take something big to avoid going a goal down, but I don't think anyone expected it to be that amazing. Biamou got up to win a long ball and nodded on, it was brought straight down and left by Grimmer for the Frenchman to step up and slaughter the half volley into the top corner from 20 yards. That's right, it finally happened, Maxime Biamou did a goal, and what a goal at that. We always knew when it happened it was going to be spectacular, let's just hope he can bag a few from now until May.

Only five minutes later another ball over the top caught the visitors' defence out and left McNulty with a chance on goal, but he was pushed to the ground in the area, we were crying out for a penalty, and the referee had no hesitation to give it. You could already tell that the monkey was off Biamou's back as he was pleading with McNulty to let him take the spot kick, however it was Sparky that won the argument, and he certainly put his money where his mouth was by smashing it the other side of Reice Charles-Cook (whom got a good reception) and suddenly, pretty much out of nowhere, we were 2-0 up.

All of a sudden, we were the side playing the best football, we looked comfortable, but unfortunately that soon turned to complacency as from an attack from nothing with about 5 minutes left in the half Oliver Banks met a cross and stabbed home from close range. We were shellshocked and were just trying to limp into half time with our one goal lead which now looked tiny in the grand scheme of things. If it weren't for a fingertip save from Lee Burge onto the crossbar we'd have completed the bottle job in record time, but that was the only scare as we saw out the half, taking in a pleasant, but fragile 2-1 lead.

Half Time - Coventry City 2-1 Swindon Town 

Second Half

If you remember back to the Wycombe game last month a situation similar to this occurred, we went in at 2-1 and it took us about 5 minutes to throw it away and for them to make it 2-2. Thankfully we showed some initiative and went onto win but you'd rather not have the scare. To avoid this what we needed to do was just play simple football for the first 10 minutes or so, not necessarily time waste and park the bus, but just not do anything rash, and I'm sure Robins had the same thing in mind. We did this in fairness, but as soon as that period was over and we upped the tempo it was like grenades were going off everywhere.

Have a look for yourself for reference but my god I don't know how we didn't concede in and around the hour mark. It was a tale of two free kicks, the first caused a massive goalmouth scramble, they struck the bar, Burge was flinging himself at everything, clearances off the line, no one could tell what was happening. I can't tell if it was incredible lion heart defending or the most League Two 10 seconds I've ever seen. Then for the second half a minute later Luke Norris was left unmarked in the area but Burgey pulled off a wonder save to keep the scores level. We thanked our lucky stars we survived this mad minute and steadied the ship soon after, whilst Swindon subbed on new signing Marc Richards, who apparently rejected us in the week.

With 20 minutes left we made a fairly odd switch, Jordan Maguire-Drew came off, which is fair enough,e he's not fully fit yet, but I can't see why Dion Kelly-Evans came on to play on the wing instead of Josh Barrett. Still who am I to suggest who we should bring on? With 10 minutes left on the clock Chris Stokes won the ball back on the edge of the area with a tackle that found its way to Marc McNulty, striking into the far corner, Reice Charles-Cook didn't even move as he watched the third, and indeed the game, go by.

Those last 10 minutes were like party time, we were dealing with anything that could be thrown at us and we even managed to create our own hilarious yet massively cringy version of the Salah/Mane chant. It's all banter though so we can't take it to heart, when it comes down to it we've just won a must win game and gone back up to sixth, and we're going into our huge FA Cup Fourth Round tie with bags of confidence against a team which has none. On top of that there's a sold out 8,000 fans there. That one was for Cyrille. RIP.


My Man of the Match - Maxime Biamou - This is the hardest MOTM decision I've ever had to make, there was two options I couldn't choose between, and neither of which were the man who scored a brace, which just tells you how good of a performance it was. Lee Burge played an absolute blinder, especially on the back of last week, any other match he would have been more than deserving. However, given how long he's been wanting it, and how good the goal was, I can't not give it to Biamou after finally getting his first Coventry City league goal. Hopefully he uses it as a springboard.


Sunday, 14 January 2018

My Forty-Second 17/18 Game - Exeter City vs Coventry City

It's as if when the EFL did the fixture list they put all of our long away trips next to each other, and around Christmas. Saying that, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that I'd happily go to the ends of the country to see more of what we did against Stoke last week. Another lengthy train journey was on the horizon, and this time we didn't have the views of the Lake District to keep us occupied, here it was just a quick changeover at Birmingham and getting shaken awake by the ticket woman somewhere near Bristol.

The side was in great form and was brimming with confidence, which as history has taught us, is when we are at our weakest. That's not me being pessimistic but most sides use that performance as a springboard, we are not one of those sides... Just look at the following games the big matches in the Checkatrade run for reference. A win and our promotion credentials wouldn't be doubted by anyone, a loss and we'd drop like a stone. So no pressure then eh?

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Maguire-Drew
Doyle
Bayliss
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
McDonald
Haynes
Stevenson
Barrett
Beavon
Ponticelli

Quite rightly, Lee Burge came back into the side for Liam O'Brien after his one game against Stoke. Whilst we won, he looked incredibly shaky and I'll go a bit more in depth about the situation towards later on and maybe in a separate post during the week. Other than that we remained unchanged which I'm quite pleased about, we get to see more of latest signing Jordan Maguire-Drew and our other January addition Josh Barrett came onto the bench for the first time since joining from Reading. Rod McDonald returned from injury but only made the bench, I was quite pleased with this decision by Robins as Tom Davies had been in great form and deserved to keep his spot.

First Half

The first five minutes weren't horrendous, I mean nothing really happened, but it's not like we were gift wrapping opportunities left, right and centre. This is why it was all the more surprising when our defence but a bow on one and everything. Jordan Willis really didn't deal with a long ball over the top and Burge was forced to come out and get it. Don't get me wrong he was at fault too, he probably should have left Willis to it, failing that he should have leathered the clearance into touch. Ryan Harley picked the ball up and with Burge scampering back to cover his tracks he executed a finish in off the post. Both the 'keeper and ex-captain were at fault, but it was Burgey who took all the flak from people around me.

We almost equalised a few minutes later with the most League Two chance I've ever seen. I couldn't tell you for the life of me who was involved, and neither could Cov's Twitter apparently. They dealt with it exceptionally well, so I'm just going to lift the exact tweet to get away from the situation. "CHANCE: #SkyBlues almost get the equaliser. A corner into the box produces a goal line scramble, with multiple City players trying to find the back of the net, but Exeter manage to clear. 1-0 #PUSB" It wasn't the best chance of the match but we certainly should have put it away to equalise.

Then The Grecians very nearly punished us for not taking the chance but last weeks hero Jack Grimmer saved our skins by steaming past Jayden Stockley to steal the ball away. McNulty and Biamou both had a couple of chances, the latter really should have buried one of his, much to the anger of the bloke in front who was screaming at the Frenchman throwing expletives everywhere, demanding we sell him and bring in someone like Harry Kane. "A proper English hard Brexit striker",  he was about one miss away from saying.

Half Time - Exeter City 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

We'd been playing poorly but the hosts were the ones to make the first change of the match just as the second half begun with none other than Danny Seaborne coming on, when really we were the ones who needed to. Biamou won the ball back by battling really well and fed in Marc McNulty, but he couldn't really take it into his stride well, by the time he got the shot away there were 2 defenders blocking his path.


Jordan Ponticelli and Josh Barrett replaced Biamou and Shipley as the half went on but we weren't really creating any chances to put away and now our aerial threat left the field but we were still trying to play long ball football. I'm not slating Ponticelli but he really isn't what we need to replace Biamou, which is why we need him on the field, despite not scoring. Saying that Robins appears to have come to the end of his tether, and is looking to get a new number 9 target man in.

Saying all of this, Ponts wasn't play too badly, as the minutes ticked down and we got towards the final seconds he struck the bar with an effort on the volley with help from a glancing save from Pym. He made his best save of the match in the fifth minute of injury time when Tom Bayliss' ball into the box found Chris Stokes, Pym parried away which was gutting as nicking a point would have massively boosted our confidence and the meltdown wouldn't have ensued on various Facebook forums.

Full Time - Exeter City 1-0 Coventry City

Whilst it was a horrendous day, we're not going to win every game until the end of the season, it's going to be a real test of character whether we bounce back next week against yet another promotion rival in Swindon. We're not only not in the automatic spots but also not in the play off spots but who cares? We're so close still it literally doesn't make a difference, it's going to be a test of bottle from here on in, we need to learn from our mistakes two seasons ago.

My Man of the Match - Tom Davies - In amongst all the defensive hiccups everywhere Davies was a shining light and Rod McDonald will do well to make it back into the team. He's come a long way since joining, and you wouldn't think he was the poor long ball merchant Portsmouth fans desribed when we brought him in on Deadline Day.



Tuesday, 9 January 2018

#10KToMK

Now all of the Christmas business is out of the way, and we're all in the midst of bottling our New Years resolutions, I'm back to clog up your feeds with a weekly opinion piece, likely going up on a Tuesday/Wednesday. I'm still going to be going to all the matches and do the match reports and all of those shenanigans, but it's nice to just be able to share my personal views on whatever topic happens to spring to mind that week and maybe get some discussion going. Saying that it'll most likely only happen when we don't have a midweek game so I don't get abuse for posting in forums too much like at Christmas... Anyway, this weeks topic talks about our recent FA Cup Fourth Round Draw.

MK Dons away, Milton Keynes Dons Away. The Carl Baker Derby. We've got some great memories down at everyone's favourite franchise club in Buckinghamshire. Who could forget Stephen Elliott and Franck Moussa's heroics in 2012 or of course Chris Maguire's free kicks the following year. Basically, we love playing there and have only lost once at Stadium: MK, and now we're facing them in one of our biggest FA Cup games in years. What I'm getting at is, every man and his dog should be at that game to roar the boys on.



If you were at the Stoke match you'll agree with me that it was an incredible day, from falling over into my seat in pure shock when Jordan Willis nutted in the first to just outright squealing like a little girl when Jack Grimmer bagged the winner, it was a great thing to see. Whilst for some we may still not feel like it, we're a League Two team who have just knocked out a Premier League side. We were even the feature game on Match of the Day for the first time in 10 years, it's not often you can say that. We were magnificent in ever single department and heroically managed to hold them out to claim the 2-1 victory.

The atmosphere was a big contributing factor to us rolling out as winners on Saturday, we drowned Stoke out for most of the match. We uplifted them when Charlie Adam equalised and all around it was up there as one of the best Ricoh atmospheres I've seen in recent times. MK Dons are hardly known for their vast numbers of fans nor good volume of noise, so imagine how fired up our squad would feel walking out to see 10,000 of the Sky Blue Army at one end of the ground. Equally, imagine how intimidated the hosts would feel seeing their fans being outnumbered by a club in the division below them. We really have the ability to be the 12th man in this scenario, so we shouldn't let it slip.

No one really expected us to be the giant killers of the last round, but as I've said a few times now, we were far superior to Stoke. Now MK are in League One, which is considerably lower than the top flight, obviously. They're hardly tearing it up either, they're in a relegation dog fight sat in 19th place. We've gone from facing a side 53 league places above us to facing a side a whole 8 league places above us. This is a winnable tie and you'd better believe it. We played them in pre-season if you remember and took them apart, winning 2-0. Ignore that it was two penalties, we were absolutely all over them for the whole match.

FURTHERMORE, it's one of the cheapest away days we possibly could have received, a train ticket will set you back about a tenner and a ticket can't be too expensive, details haven't been released yet but they've been known to practically give them away in the past. Unfortunately I don't have any ability to see how much you're going to spend on drinking, that one is down to you I'm afraid. Either way I'm sure our fans will make it a special day whatever happens. Basically, get behind this '#10KToMK' campaign because it's going to be a great day, and you never know, we might even go and win.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

My Forty-First 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Stoke City

Wow, this is going to be tough to put into words. I had a sneaky suspicion we could set up the apple cart in the days leading up to the Stoke City fixture but the rest of me had dismissed it to natural nerves. However this gave us a nice distraction from the league where we've got a make or break run coming up, facing Premier League opposition is a great way to ourselves into shape ahead of it. Plus, who doesn't love the FA Cup?

Coventry City Starting XI:

O'Brien

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Maguire-Drew
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

Burge
Hyam
Haynes
Maycock
Stevenson
Finn
Ponticelli

Whilst Josh Barrett is apparently a couple of weeks away from full fitness and being ready to play, our other new loan signing Jordan Maguire-Drew replaced Devon Kelly-Evans to make his debut. The rest of the side remained the same to the New Years Day victory over Chesterfield bar one, Liam O'Brien started ahead of Lee Burge in goal. I couldn't get my head around this one, Burge played the first two rounds and has been in outstanding form so why drop him against top flight opponents for someone with little match time who squandered his chance at the start of the season.

First Half

Early on in the stands we were just happy for every 5 minutes we went without conceding, the small hope was dashed when we saw the strength of the visiting Stoke side. We appeared to be coping well however, in fact their first real chance didn't come until 10 minutes in a chipped ball over the top fooled our defence and left Diouf through on goal. His effort beat the outcoming O'Brien but Jordan Willis scampered back to get his boot to it and hoof the danger away off the line.

We weren't allowing them to walk all over us, we were having chances going forward ourselves, but Biamou was struggling to do his usual aerial work against Kurt Zouma. He got a beaten to a brilliant Maguire-Drew cross by that counterpart where the smallest touch could have carried it past Jack Butland. Barely a minute later and the Frenchman was teed up by Marc McNulty, this time he did get a shot away but there was a crucial deflection which took it out for a corner.

The corner was played into the far post, Tom Davies leapt up and nodded back across goal, his defensive partner Jordan Willis was there lurking, he too jumped up to head the ball, but this time, it nestled in the top corner. We were all left in raptures, yes we'd played well, but we certainly didn't deserve to be leading, after all this was our first real chance of the match. Personally I just stood there with my mouth open wide trying to understand what we'd just done, I say stood, everyone was being mobbed by each other celebrating, mainly in the direction of the Stoke fans. In quite a funny exchange, both sets of supporters were singing "Sacked in the morning" in the direction of Mark Hughes.

We weren't even done here, for a Premier League side Stoke were extremely poor defensively, careless passes were allowing us in. One pass out from the back was hit right at the heel of an unsuspecting Charlie Adam and it fell right in the path of Tom Bayliss, he jogged forward unchallenged and weighted a brilliant pass through to McNulty. He took the ball round Butland with his touch, leaving a tight-angled, yet open goal to put the ball away. It was always going against him, but in his form I was a bit surprised to see it trickle along the goal line rather than go into the back of the net.

Less than a minute he got an almost exactly similar chance when Biamou intercepted a shocking Geoff Cameron pass and slid Sparky through once more, this chance was slightly harder and England International Butland did very well to keep it our before it was cleared off the line. The Potters were lucky it didn't fall to Biamou or Shipley whom were running in ready, and they were even more lucky that they were only a goal down at the break at the hands of the completely dominant League Two side, it feels weird saying that...

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Stoke City

Second Half

It was always going to be a long and tough 45 minutes, Peter Crouch was introduced almost straight from the off and we looked a bit scared of him for the first 10 minutes. Ramadan had ventured into the box and was proceeding down the left, he looked to be about to put a cross in at the byline when Jordan Willis slid in and brought him down. It was a stone wall penalty, the exact kind they'd show you in referee school, and Charlie Adam sent O'Brien the wrong way to put us back to square one with most of the half still yet to play.

I was expecting that to be it, we'd either cling on for a draw or the top flight side would assert their dominance by snatching a couple more goals to crush our dreams. How wrong I was. Crouch nearly gave Stoke the lead with his snapshot effort but it hit the side netting. We cut Maguire-Drew's debut short to bring on Ben Stevenson in a move I really thought was to aid us playing out for the draw. However just 5 minutes later it all changed.

Jack Grimmer advanced into space, Tom Bayliss ran off down the right, Joe Allen and Kevin Wimmer both assumed the other would go to Grimmer and left him a huge gap. By the time Stephen Ireland could get there he was ready to put a cross in from the edge of the area, or so Butland thought, instead he tried his luck from distance, catching everyone out and finding the bottom corner. I was so shocked, more so than when Willis scored, because we'd barely had any chances since the equaliser, but to then come out and do that was magnificent.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Maxim Chuopo-Moting were brought on for Stoke to try and save Mark Hughes' job whilst we introduced the far superior Ryan Haynes onto the field, taking Jordan Shipley's left-wing place. It really was a backs against the wall final 10 minutes, blocks were flying in every where, it was nearly good night when O'Brien tripped over another City player but Davies saved his skin by blocking off the line.

Bodies were being thrown at the ball, Crouch chested down and forced a magnificent save out of the keeper, and there was a pinball madness not long after where we managed the block 4 shots in 10 seconds. Time was ticking down really slowly, but as we edged closer to the final whistle, the feeling that we could actually do it got greater and greater. Eventually, after a few more headers and poor shots, we were uplifted by that beautiful high pitched sound, sending us through to the Fourth Round of the cup.



Full Time - Coventry City 2-1 Stoke City

I am still in an absolute state of shock a day later, we were magnificent from start to finish, and our reward will be revealed on Monday Night in the Fourth Round Draw, live from the Ricoh Arena. I really don't know what I want, Liverpool away would be great, as would Tottenham, or even Leicester at home. We all know it's going to be a nice four hour trip down to Yeovil for us at the end of the month. Speaking of four hour trips, Exeter away is huge on Saturday, bigger than this as much as we might not want to admit it.

My Man of the Match - Jack Grimmer - You could easily make a case for everyone on the pitch, and it would have almost certainly been Willis had he not made the mistake of giving the penalty away. I've gone for Grimmer because not only did he score a stunning winner, but he also had to cope with the likes of Shaqiri and Ramadan on that flank for a lot of the match. He did it perfectly, he's probably my player of the season so far.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My Fortieth 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Chesterfield

Without having a chance to catch our breath since Carlisle, we're in a new year and had another fixture on our hands with a big home game against Chesterfield. Win against the relegation candidates and we can come out of the Christmas period calling it successful, lose and the meltdown would commence. What has surprised me is how little we've changed the side from game to game over the past 10 days, and it was to be a similar case again here, with only one change made.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Stokes

Dev. Kelly-Evans
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

Biamou
McNulty

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Maycock
Di. Kelly-Evans
Haynes
Stevenson
Ponticelli

The one change made was re-introducing Max Biamou in place of the injured Stuart Beavon, I'm still not quite sure where I stand on Max, he's tricky. Duckens Nazon didn't appear on the bench due to an apparent hip injury, and it's looking likely that we've seen the last of him in a city shirt. I'll miss Ducky, he can be lazy and inconsistent at times but he was a great character to have, and offers the only other goalscoring threat besides Marc McNulty. Saying that, the "imminent" signing Robins has spoken about is heavily rumoured to be a striker. 

First Half

It was a quiet start to the game, none of the players had their early flare which they usually have, most likely because the Carlisle match had practically just finished. This made it all the more surprising when we took the lead after 15 minutes, Marc McNulty picked up the ball 20 yards out and turned to face the goal, he side footed into the corner. At first glance it looked as if the keeper really should have saved it but after watching replays you realise it was actually a great finish. Remarkably this is his 8th goal in 9 games, adding to that he missed a penalty in one of them.

It didn't take long for us to notice the poor ability of the visitors, therefore we didn't even need to get out first gear to take all 3 points. Biamou nearly got his moment after a Chris Stokes ball over the top dropped at his feet, but Eastwood pulled out a great save. None of this mattered however as the Frenchman was marginally offside. I can't help but think that hen his first goal does eventually come there's going to be a pitch invasion, flares going off everywhere, riots in the city. There will be limbs all over the shop, it seems written that it will be in the cup against Stoke.


Right as he looked like he was about to bag, Biamou clashed heads with Scott Wiseman and stayed down for a couple of minutes before coming back onto the field. He wasn't the same after and had to be taken off later on in the match due to it. On the stroke of half time Tom Bayliss received the ball on the edge of the box but his effort was deflected behind for a corner. 

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Chesterfield

Second Half

It took a while for the second half to spring into action but when it did it was almost in spectacular fashion, the ball came out to Chris Stokes about 25 yards out, he hit one on the half volley but Eastwood got his fingertips on it to carry it onto the bar. We dominated most of the match but just couldn't find a second goal to kill the game off. Devon Kelly-Evans was making good work of his opposite number in left back, which considering he was at least a foot taller and double his weight, is very impressive.

Jordan Ponticelli entered the fray for Maxime Biamou in the previously mentioned switch with 25 minutes left to go, and he troubled the defence slightly but didn't get a chance to grab his first league goal. Bayliss went on what's beginning to be one of his trademark runs through the side and slid an inch perfect ball through to McNulty. On his weaker foot he was denied only by a fantastic save by Eastwood.

One thing I've been calling out for for about 2 years is to see Ryan Haynes on the left wing, and with 10 minutes left we got a brief glimpse of this when he came on for the very tired Jordan Shipley. In his small stint on the pitch we saw him go on a couple of his darting runs down that side but ultimately he didn't have much time to have any serious effect. The Spirites hadn't offered much at all in the fixture, and pretty much consigned themselves to defeat when Wiseman was sent off for trailing his leg and stopping Ponticelli from advancing. In the dying moments Tom Davies headed a Jack Grimmer cross just over the bar, and we didn't even need to hold it in the corner. 

Full Time - Coventry City 1-0 Chesterfield

It was a routine victory, one which you should expect if you're looking for promotion like we are, and in a great way to start 2018, it takes us into the automatic promotion spots. Now, before what can only described as a run which will make or break our season, we have to face Stoke City in the Third Round of the FA Cup. It's a nice distraction, and who knows, in their situation with Mark Hughes we could even beat them.

My Man of the Match - Jordan Willis - Youngster Tom Bayliss won the official club award, and deservedly so, he was once again magnificent on this display. However, Tom Davies and especially Jordan Willis nullified any half threat Chesterfield could throw at us. He won every single header I saw him go for, and put in all round great performance to see us through. Let's just hope he, along with half the team who all seemed to be linked with moves away, stays.