Wednesday, 28 February 2018

My Fifty-First 17/18 Game - Wycombe Wanderers vs Coventry City

Saturday looked as if it was somewhat of a turning point given how valiantly we battled to steal a point at Mansfield, and even if it wasn't, seeing how much it rattled Steve Evans and ultimately pushed him over the edge to resign from the club and join Peterborough will be one of the season's highlights. I'd like to think we at least played some part in that movement, and that when Mark Robins saw the post-match interview he was laughing endless amounts.

Tonight however was just as big, if not more so given it was the first of our games in hand, and this one we had on all teams, not just a few. Win and we're right back into the play off race, a draw would just about do, a loss and we're on the verge of saying goodbye to any thought of promotion we still may have. To do that we'd have to be on top form, they'd be looking to right the wrongs of their poor performance on Saturday, and after all, they're in the automatic promotion spots for a reason.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Hyam
McDonald
Haynes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Thompson
Stokes
Vincenti
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

With Tom Davies and Jordan Willis out through injury and suspension respectively, Dominic Hyam had to step into a starting spot once again whilst Jordan Thompson made the big step up from the youth squads onto the bench for the first time. He's yet to make his league debut but did come on as a substitute in the Checkatrade Trophy, so he'd be able to come in in an emergency. Other than this we remained unchanged from the side that drew with Mansfield.

First Half

It was never going to be the most spectacular of contests given the weather, so it was no surprise there were little clear cut chances of note, I'm sure everyone was feeling the cold. Well, everyone except Marc McNulty and Michael Doyle, who Robins said doesn't feel pain, which in fairness sounds about right. It would be fair to say we were on the back foot but we were at least containing their main attacking threat in Adebayo Akinfenwa.



I think our lack of creativity was down to our lack of pace on the wings, Bayliss isn't as effective on the right as and Shipley definitely wasn't having a game that reflected his recent run of form. Through the centre of the park was our only real method of creating chances, and Jonson Clarke-Harris was doing his best to achieve this himself by going on 40 yards runs after turning his man on the halfway line. Unfortunately though nothing was coming into fruition.

Not that there was much to deal with, but Lee Burge was dealing with the half chances with ease. I'm trying to sugarcoat this as much as possible, but in reality the half was as dull as I've seen this season. Close to nothing was happening, but I wasn't too disappointed with this considering how free scoring the hosts actually are. Being honest I was thankful when the half time whistle came so I could try to avoid frostbite and constant shivering by gripping a cup of tea.

Half Time - Wycombe Wanderers 0-0 Coventry City

Second Half

Mouth still burning, hands still close to falling off, the teams plodded out for the second half. Not long had passed until we patched up the main problem with the side by bringing Kyel Reid on for Shipley. He didn't take long to take advantage, capitalising on a defensive slip and sliding into McNulty who's shot was looking to be on target before someone got a head to it to carry it out for a corner which resulted in nothing.

On the key side we did start to pick up with our mentality, we were looking for the win now. Still not completely match fit, Clarke-Harris had to leave the field with Biamou replacing him as we looked for that winner. He was now back alongside his partner in McNulty, who we know team up well to get a goal from somewhere. Grimmer did well to keep the ball on the byline and fed in Bayliss who spooned his volley high and wide but in his defence it was a very difficult take.

It was in fact the young midfielder who won the ball back in an extremely good position, and it was this moment my dad chose to ring me. He picked it up and steamed down that right flank, cut in, and just as he was about to pass El-Abd when the defender put a leg across and brought him down. The referee took an awfully long time to blow up for such a stone wall penalty but the result was just that. With seven minutes left on the clock we had the chance to snatch three points out of nothing. That's the official description, what my dad would have heard was "GOOOWAANNNN, GOOOOWAAAAAAN, REFFF, BLOW THE- YEAAAAHHHHHHHHHH"

Everyone is down at the front, phone still pressed to my ear, McNulty stepped up and took the longest run up ever in the history of penalty kicks. You're thinking he's going to leather it straight out of the ground, but the result was quite the opposite, side footing right into the bottom corner. Sparky then steams straight over to the away fans and everyone starts jumping on him. If you watch the highlights closely you'll see a lad with his hands to his ear jumping up and down desperately trying to hug Tom Bayliss.

After he was booked for his celebration, the time wasting ensued. We likely could have got a second but played it safe instead, Reid and Biamou were doing their job running into the corner and just generally seeing out a victory. "The Beast" had one final weak header watched over the bar as he pushed yet another player out of the way. He may be strong, but some of his actions were just downright fouling. All of this is off topic and irrelevant however, as we took maximum points in a huge game.

Full Time - Wycombe Wanderers 0-1 Coventry City

We're back baby! The massive bottle job has ceased (for now), we're officially back in the play off race. Win on Saturday against Lincoln then we could be back in the top 7 and could also open up a bit of breathing room on the rest of the chasing pack. Every game is massive from now on, the games against relegation candidates like Barnet and Crewe need to be givens. We've certainly got the ability, whether we've got the bottle remains to be seen.

My Man of the Match - Dominic Hyam - Considering you could count his starts for the club on one hand and he was up against a man they call The Beast, Dom Hyam was exceptional. Robins has a tricky decision on his hands for who to play on Saturday, it would be unfair to drop either of the pairing, but equally it's harsh to not reintroduce Jordan Willis when his suspension is up. Either way at least we have a good range of defensive options and able replacements for all.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

My Fiftieth 17/18 Game - Mansfield Town vs Coventry City

Four games lost on the spin, albeit the last of which was against a Premier League side, Coventry City are yet again, in a dire situation. Ah, it's good to be back. To make things a whole lot easier for ourselves we went off to Mansfield, the early favourites to win the league, who have also only lost the one league game at home.We were warned of the run beforehand, so there's no point in crying about it now. Although believe me, I think I speak on behalf of quite a few Cov fans when I say we very much felt like it.


 Sticking with the non-official coach of dreams, we were in the town of Newark-on-Trent well before 11, I'm not sure what it is about the Sky Blue Army coach, but they've got a habit of picking out some beautiful country towns prior to games. Who'd have known that the village of Lechdale near Swindon was that nice? Today was no exception, however some of them are, the less said about Dunstable the better... Extremely close to the drop off/pick up point we found ourselves in a pub, quite literally on a barge, right next to the River Trent. It was quite amazing the hidden wonders our League Two tour has brought.



At the risk of this turning into a monologue of an episode of Countryfile, I'll get back to the football. With Mansfield doing so well, and us in particular doing the the opposite, big changes need to be made but I'm not sure anyone was quite sure what. Some were quite obvious, but others needed a lot of though, such as do we drop Biamou, who goes out in midfield? All of which were answered when the team news arrived with an hour until kick off.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
McDonald
Haynes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Hyam
Stokes
Vincenti
Reid
Biamou
Ponticelli

The obvious decision that had to be made was throwing Michael Doyle straight back into the fold, we've looked helpless without him for the last 3 games so he had to come back into the side to show the rest of them what to do. Rod McDonald also came back in for Dominic Hyam, who got a rare start in the cup match, however both Ryan Haynes and Jonson Clarke-Harris impressed enough at Brighton to retain their spot into the next league fixture. For once I actually looked at the side and thought that we had the ability to go out and get something, the only downside we me would be continuing to play Tom Bayliss on the right when everyone knows his best spot is in the middle.

First Half

Somehow, we actually started the brighter of the two times, we had three corners in the first 2 minutes. Only one of them resulted in a serious opportunity, Rod McDonald rose like a salmon at the back post and only a wonder save by Conrad Logan denied him. It was actually, promising, front-foot, attacking football, I'm not sure anyone was expecting it. Then, in spectacular Coventry City fashion, it all came crashing down like a ton of bricks in the space of about 2 minutes, funny how that seems to happen quite a bit.

Logan launched one over the top, the defence parted like the red sea and before you know it Jordan Willis and Danny Rose are in a race to the ball. Rose goes to ground after contact with Willis, that's the bottom line, so I can see why the referee gave the foul and a red card as he was indeed last man. However, if you watch the replays you can see there is no way Rose is getting to the ball ahead of Burge, therefore he hasn't denied a clear goalscoring opportunity. Willis certainly didn't intend to foul him and I'm pretty sure he's been played in this scenario, but as I've said, there was contact so we can't complain too much, but we can feel a tad hard done by.

What really rubbed salt into the wounds was the manner in which they scored from that free kick, MacDonald spooned the ball straight into Kane Hemmings and Burge could only look on helplessly as he was sprawled on the floor and the ball trickled in off the post. A massive strike of luck for the hosts, and there's nothing we really could have done about it. Yet in the space of 120 seconds, we'd gone from being by far the better side to 1-0 down with 10 men. You begin to think that is going to be one hell of a long afternoon.

For the remainder of the half we were clinging on a bit, Hemmings nodded a free header over the bar from about 8 yards when really he should have hit the target at the absolute least. It was CJ Hamilton with the best chance of the half however when he broke the offside trap and burst down the right wing. Burge didn't know what to do, but after Doyler screamed at him to come out, he did, and pulled off a great save with his feet after closing down the angles. This meant we could limp into the break and regroup for the second half.

Half Time - Mansfield Town 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

Even with the 10 men, and the fact we were on for our fifth defeat in a row, we came out not looking like we were going to lie down and take a beating. We started plugging away, now Bayliss was in the middle he could run through the entire side which helped us out massively, occasionally he got carried away and looking at one specific point he could have threaded in JCH but instead carried on on his own looking for glory and ended up getting tackled. He's a great footballer but that was his raw inexperience surfacing.

Marc McNulty wasn't having the best of games himself, so he left the field for Jordan Ponticelli to come on, a brave move considering we now had two strikers on the field with no league goal between them. But what we can say about him is he does work hard and run all over the shop, and from here we began to really get a grip on the game and take control. Ryan Haynes and Jordan Shipley played a one-two which left the former through on goal, and everyone knows about the wand of a left foot he possesses. Once more though, Logan made a great save to turn it onto the post.

It was all City, and just a couple of minutes later we finally got a chance to get back into the game, albeit in controversial fashion. Bayliss played a weak ball into the area from the right wing, it hits MacDonald and whilst he tries to get back he falls over in front of Jonson Clarke-Harris, they both go to ground. I think we appealed out of desperation more than anything, I was shocked the referee actually gave it. It looked like JCH fouled him more than anything at first glance, but looking in hindsight we did have a slight case.

With McNulty just leaving the field, everyone's wondering who the hell is going to take it, I guess because he's a striker, is hard as nails, he won it and no one wanted to tell him otherwise, Clarke-Harris stepped up. Logan was doing his best to put him off, and got booked for it, but he continued, started pointing at the top left corner, moved over there, and basically told Jonson where to go. So after a lot of faffing, he put it exactly where he was told to. 1-1. We were right back in with a shout and deservedly so. We continued on, but it was a very back and forth final 20 minutes.

I'm confident had we had 11 players on the pitch we would have won that game. Max Biamou was thrown onto the field as we continued to push on but we couldn't get anything clear cut away due to not having that eleventh man. In the dying moments Ricky Miller was booked for diving, and rightly so. Yes Hyam had his hand on his back but there was no push, minimal contact, and definitely nowhere near enough to go down and earn a penalty. I'm not quite sure what Steve Evans was talking about in the post-match interview (I'll get to that) but it certainly wasn't clear cut like he said. In the end neither side could find a winner, so the spoils were shared, and The Stags and Sky Blues both picked up a perhaps fair point.

Full Time - Mansfield Town 1-1 Coventry City

A well battled, very much deserved point, hear that Steve Evans? DESERVED. In his post match interviews which I strongly suggest you watch, he attacks the referee for not giving his side various chances and says every decision he made was wrong. Yet he also says the Willis sending off was warranted, and he must have missed the moment where Clarke-Harris was elbowed in the face and it was ignored. He referred to Mark Robins as "Squeaky little Robins", and just all round came across as very petty and bitter. I will look forward to the FA charge on Monday morning.

Looking forward, we've now got 2 absolutely massive games against Wycombe and Lincoln, the first of which is a game in hand. Win then and we will be right back up there and in with a shout, but any less than four points from these games and we'll be looking at a massive uphill battle for the remainder of the season. So basically, it's now or never, and we have a kind run in so getting the results now will pay off.

My Man of the Match - Ryan Haynes - The decision to put him back in for Chris Stokes paid off as he did what he does best, was solid defensively and ate up ground with his darting runs. He's still not on the wing and I won't stop until I see them both in the side but I guess that if it's not been done by this point it never will be so we're just going to have to settle for one or the other at a time.



                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Sunday, 18 February 2018

My Forty-Ninth 17/18 Game - Brighton and Hove Albion vs Coventry City

The day finally arrived, at a time when all we needed was a big league game to save our season we were dealt with the hand of our Fifth Round FA Cup tie away to Brighton, but that's football I guess? So off 5,000 of us headed to the south coast on a surprisingly beautiful February day. There was no repeat of the Tuesday night fiasco on the coach given we were in Lewes before 11. It's a nice town, if you're middle class and in your sixties, the look on the residents' faces when about 300 Cov fans searched far and wide for a Wetherspoons was nothing short of horrified.


In the end after looking pretty much everywhere we realised there was absolutely nothing there, so headed into Brighton itself, and as soon as that decision was made we knew it was a mistake not doing a full weekend there. Who knew Brighton was so nice? You'd assume it'd be another one of those ever so slightly depressing seaside resorts like Southend or Blackpool, but it's actually a great place to be. Right up there with Lincoln as a surprisingly great place for an away day, but maybe that was because of the occasion and that the sun was shining.


Soon later we managed to locate the rest of the City fans who'd found their way back to the coast, and by coast, I mean literal coast. Everyone was at a pub right on the sea front, all singing, not caring about the poor league form, just more interested in having a great day. Which half the locals were very curious to see, taking videos of something which likely doesn't happen too often, the other half not so much, as they liked their home and didn't particularly want it caked in blue flare. Still, you win some you lose some.

With about an hour until kick off the walk to the train station ensued, for some reason there was about 500 of us by the end, people just kept seeming to join in with Sky Blue tops emerging from the back streets. Locals still looking on in disbelief as I saw the last of the sea for likely another 4 years given how bloody far away it is. Flare going off, onto my face and in my drink, you can't help but think this is the peak of the season. Technically we're not out of the cup yet, and chances of promotion are still alive just about. In about 4 hours you're thinking that may be it and it's all downhill from there. At that exact moment it's as good as it's going to get. As a quick side note, flat Carling is poor at the best of times, and I'm not sure what it is the substance in smoke grenades is, but they do not mix well my god.



The quick train journey back to Falmer was equally as good. Transport Police and security were very friendly and considerate, even when we were all shouting at each other whether they'd hidden their flare or not as a joke, or if they were still banned from Northampton last season. Then 2pm rolled around and the team was shouted out from across the carriage with everyone eager eared if there is such a thing. But that's just me getting side tracked.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Haynes

Barrett
Bayliss
Kelly
Shipley

McNulty
Clarke-Harris

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
Di. Kelly-Evans
McDonald
Stokes
Vincenti
Ponticelli
Biamou

As much as I wanted Clarke-Harris to get a start and show what he's made of, and this was almost certainly the right time to do it, you can't help but feel for Biamou can you? He goes out and bags the winner against MK in the last round and gets dropped. Poor lad. Grimmer was obviously deemed fit to play in what is an absolutely massive boost for us, the same can't be said for Doyler who I'm sure was begging the physio to play. Still, you'd rather he was back ready for the more important Mansfeld game next week.

Even pre-match the scenes were brilliant, beer flying everywhere, another flare set off (seriously, how do we get them in?) and a *little* scuffle between fans and stewards. I won't share my opinions because I'm not sure whatever I say is the correct answer, I was just there to have a laugh and a bit of a sing song, plus I'd be awful in a fight, so I awkwardly stepped aside as the carnage ensued, eventually making my way upstairs only to realise kick off was delayed for 15 minutes.

First Half

By the time everyone had stumbled in and located their seat which probably wasn't theirs, the teams were out and there were balloons and rolls of blue toilet roll flying everywhere. Surely we couldn't, could we? Well, no. From the word go they were showing that they were in fact a Premier League side, nothing like Stoke, they could actually do some proper footballs. Just five minutes in a corner was whipped to the edge of the box and nodded down, Brighton's record signing Jurgen Locadia beat Lee Burge to the ball and left him stranded as he shot past, but thankfully, the post came to our rescue.


To be fair to us though, we were holding our own against a blatantly better team, Shipley had a corner of his own where he picked out Jonson Clarke-Harris who rose like a salmon to meet the ball. It was gliding through the air, Krul dove and missed, leaving us thinking, "Surely bloody not", everyone is there ready to jump on people they don't know until we see it crash off the underside of the bar and out. Sometimes in football you just need a bit of luck, had that gone in who knows what could have been...

The Seagulls saw this and realised they needed to actually look at us seriously and not coast it, which is exactly what they did. Anthony Knockaert found himself in space on the right and put in a weak cross into the box, Haynes really should have done better as he appeared to jump over the ball and with Locadia losing Willis and Hyam he really should have done better. Instead he had a free attempt on goal and Albion didn't spend £14m on him to miss a chance like that. 1-0.

I'd have liked us to keep the dream alive for a bit longer than a whole 15 minutes, less than 2 minutes after we were literal millimetres from doing it ourselves made the goal all the more crushing. Then, must like every season for the past 16 years, the wheels began to fall off. Our chances were rarities, and even then the best we could do was slaughtering one from long range. Saying that Josh Barrett was like a yard away from scoring the goal of his career when he teed himself up for a 30 yard volley but he missed by about a foot.

Still though, we were really struggling to deal with their crosses into the box, on a few occasions throughout the match they were inches away from meeting them. It wasn't surprising in the slightest when Willis was lost by Conor Goldson whilst both on a corner, in an easy motion he headed straight into the top corner. We were quite shell shocked but thankfully the team of European stars and Leicester rejects had mercy on us by the end.

Half Time - Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 Coventry City


Second Half

To keep Grimmer fit, as he was more than likely rushed back to play today, we took him off before an hour was played, with Rod McDonald coming on. Personally I'd have chucked on Biamou, we're almost certainly going out, so we could just sit back and launch it at him and JCH. As defensive moves sometimes do, it unsettled the back four and we conceded a third not long later. Yet again a free header was allowed and Ulloa found the top corner from around the penalty spot. 3-0, and I'm afraid to say it, game over.

With the game pretty much gone you could argue we took the upper hand from here onwards, immediately after the goal we got as close as it's possible to get. Bayliss came out of a 50/50 with the ball and played it into the six yard box on the byline, Clarke-Harris met it with the faintest of touches to suit the tight angle but for the second time this match, hit the woodwork when it trickled onto the post.

By this point we were just throwing players on to give them the experience of this stage of the cup, Marc McNulty came off for Jordan Ponticelli, our top goalscorer in the competition with a whole two now that you mention it. I don't know how that's happened either. We were starting to just launch balls forward, and fantastically, it worked. A big long kick from Burge was poorly headed away to Clarke-Harris, out of pure frustration given how unlucky he'd been he just pinged it on the volley and what do you know, bottom corner.

Now this was a consolation, plain and simple, but we were all just so happy we got one that we over exaggerated massively. A final flare was thrown on the pitch, just to sign off our legacy of the run. We were still going for it though, there was a goal mouth scramble late on which easily could have ensued squeaky bum time. It wasn't to be though, our great run came to an end with a 3-1 loss to a Premier League side.


Full Time - Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 Coventry City

Yes we went out and lost fairly comfortably, but we weren't embarrassed, we took the game to them and on another day we, and in particular Jonson Clarke-Harris, could have had a few. Had his header gone in to put us 1-0 up then who knows what might have happened? Either way I'm still immensely proud of what we've achieved this season in the cup. I love a run like this and hopefully we can do it again next year. I'll keep some of these memories for life.

My Man of the Match - Jonson Clarke-Harris - On his first start back at City, he was outstanding, on another day he'd have had a hat trick and we'd be travelling to Old Trafford in a months time. Mark Robins now has a serious conundrum of who to start over him and Biamou at Mansfield, but after yesterday you'd have to say JCH deserves it more. I just hope for the love god we can carry all of this into the league because Mansfield and Wycombe literally are make or break.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

My Forty-Eighth 17/18 Game - Colchester United vs Coventry City

So this is going to be tricky... Never have I experienced what I did at Colchester away. I'm not going to call this a match report because after all, I wasn't there. Instead I'm going to be talking through the events of an evening which will be one of my most memorable as a Coventry City supporter, as well as my life, but for all the wrong reasons. Good god it was horrific. I'm not sure where to start, but much like a fairytale, let's try the beginning.

It was as tedious a coach journey as ever, basically everyone was itching to get off and sniff out the nearest Wetherspoons to hurl a £2 pint down themselves. That was when the news struck, bad accident on the M25. The stop was looking like it was off, everyone was livid. How would they numb the pain of an inevitable 2-0 defeat now? The executive decision was made to stop around St. Albans, then we could wait for the traffic to die down, and come back on to the motorway passed all of the stoppages. Sounds risky now but at the time it *partially* seemed a logical plan.

So 6 rolls around and everyone's back on the coach, to cut a long story short, it's 7 before we've even made it out of St. Albans. Now for those of you who don't know geography, that's an hour and a half away at the best of times. That was before we'd made it onto the motorway itself. This is when the realisation hit that this wasn't going to be the best night of our lives by a long shot. The next hour was spent trying to work out how late we were going to be, it kept going up and up by which point the game had kicked off.

Now big shoutout to the bloke streaming it on the Facebook forum, as well as the people who used their data to get it up. Even though everyone was getting mobile updates a minute before we actually saw it but it was nice to witness the pain with our own eyes like we had paid to do. As soon as we went 1-0 down I think everyone had enough, I haven't seen it properly, but from what I hear no way in hell was it a penalty. Either way Ogedi-Uzokwe slotted it in, sending Burge the wrong way.

When Mick, the coach organiser, asked whether people wanted to carry on to the game or go to the pub I think everyone in unison responded with the latter. We performed a swift turn off and before you know it we're sat in a Wetherspoons in Potters Bar wondering what the hell happened as the referee blows for half time. I'm already having a meltdown on Twitter in a desperate yet shameless attempt to acquire likes. I've got no excuses, one even reached the dizzy heights of 14.


Does a good burger does 'The Admiral Byng' in Potters Bar, all processed food of course but who cares as long as it tastes nice and doesn't kill you? But that's besides the point, we were playing so bad I'd have rather have received Chinese Water Torture than continue with it. That's what made it all the more surprising when Tom Bayliss popped up from 20 yards and spanked a worldie in off the bar. The whole game had been turned on its head. No one knew what to think. "Get that engine on" yer da bellowed as he necked his Carling in 4 gulps.

Obviously by this stage it was too late, the plan was already set in stone to leave for 10:15 and get back god knows when with rumours of even more closures on the M1 floating about. All we could do was pack around Samsung screen as we piled forward, a wonder save to deny Clarke-Harris here, McNulty hitting the post there. We were definitely the better side, and looked like the only side that was going to come out with 3 points, if any. I don't even need to say what happens next, even someone with only a basic knowledge of Cov would know what was coming.

Completely against the run of play, after we'd failed to put them to bed, Mandron was given a free header in the area and calmly nodded it past Burge. That was the final nail in the coffin, it was already a poor night but now you could barely see the funny side of it. The coach swiftly filled once more but with a more depressing vibe. Some sat in silence, a few sang, personally I listened to Fix You by Coldplay on a loop. I hope never to experience a night like that again, yet I'm still weirdly glad I went.

This wasn't really a report, but sometimes you never know the hand that football is going to deal you, for christ sake we could have at least won to soothe the situation. Promotion is looking further and further away every game, thankfully we've got a big break until the next one, with Saturday being the big one. Brighton away in the FA Cup. Whilst I can't see us winning in a million years, I can barely contain my excitement for what should be a brilliant day.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

My Forty-Seventh 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Accrington Stanley

Accrington Stanley, who a-, you know what, I can't do that again. Not only have I overused that joke more than Tony Mowbray used Sam Ricketts knees, but they've literally taken 6 points off us now, it's beyond a joke. (Spoiler alert...) It was a must win given the run ahead, and I'll likely be saying this for the next 5 or 6 league matches, unless we lose them all, then I'll perhaps enter a deep dark pit of depression. Our home form was all that was keeping us going, and the only positive of recent times.

The eagerly awaited community day was finally upon us, as many as 28,346 people (it definitely wasn't that many) were piling into the Ricoh Arena. The club really went all out for it, the fan village was thriving, once you actually found out how to get there. Jodi Jones and Carl Baker did interviews which no one could hear, however I'm pretty sure the latter just put in a plea for Mark Robins to give him a contract. After seeing the Checkatrade Trophy I found myself in a queue to have a picture with it as I'd never get another chance, and to put it lightly, I wasn't in the best of states pre-match. So I'll forever have an image of me, pale faced crouching beneath the symbol of our biggest achievement in the last 30 years. The stuff dreams are made of.

Coventry City Starting XI:

O'Brien

Di. Kelly-Evans
Willis
McDonald
Stokes

Maguire-Drew
Bayliss
Kelly
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

Addai
Hyam
Haynes
Vincenti
Reid
Barrett
Clarke-Harris

It's always great when you're facing the biggest game of the season to have a virus tear your squad apart isn't it? The biggest of all the absentees was Michael Doyle, he's the only one to play every minute so far, so I think everyone was fearful as to how much we'd miss him, and that was clear from the off. Grimmer and Davies both picked up injuries at Forest Green which we knew about. On the official team sheet Lee Burge was on the bench but Corey Addai was the one doing the training in the warm up, so I'm going to put my neck on the line and say we'd have been treated to that horrendous handywork if anything happened to Liam O'Brien.

First Half

Imagine being one of our players, you walk out every week to 7,000 fans, so when you finally get a bumper crows you'd feel riled up to go out and claim victory wouldn't you? Not in Coventry. Before you can say "And fight 'til the game is won" it's 1-0 to Accrington after just 4 minutes. Dion Kelly-Evans was caught out as his physical side of the game isn't the strongest. Understatement of the century right there. Johnson breezed past him and put a daisy cutter into the box, Jordan Willis should have dealt with it but missed the clearance, leaving Jordan Clark, (not that one) to side foot easily past O'Brien.

All of this came immediately after we had a penalty shout denied where Marc McNulty appeared to be pulled back. This is usually the part where I'd go into a massive rant on how there's a huge conspiracy on League Two referees against Coventry City but to be fair, it would have been an incredibly soft had it been given. It's just a shame that we weren't able to build on the slightest of opportunities with the goal coming so soon after. It really took it out of us from here.


Jordan Maguire-Drew found the ball on the right with lots of space to run into, McNulty was running into the area with an equal amount of room. The cross goes in, right into the keepers arms. There was a small low-pitched "OOOOH" from a group of fans, followed up by an applause, that just about summed the day up. Celebrating a wayward cross which was nowhere near lobbing the keeper. Maybe they were still having flashbacks of when Doyler did something similar against Wycombe but this time there was some actual competent goalkeeping at hand. Strangely when he had an actual shot at goal from a free kick it warranted the same response.

In fact that was as close as we got to calling something close, well of course that and Marc McNulty's effort on the stroke of half time. It was very much a shot out of frustration, he wasn't getting any service so tried it all by himself. It struck the side netting, but some people in the old Telegraph Stand thought it was in. That's the price you pay for actually opening up the whole ground. He's another we were apparently playing with a virus, so god knows how he didn't do a Lineker on the pitch at any point.

Half Time - Coventry City 0-1 Accrington Stanley

Second Half

I mean, with Ryan Haynes, Josh Barrett and Jonson Clarke-Harris on the bench, all capable of doing a job to bolster the attack, why oh why did Peter Vincenti plod out for the second half in place of Maguire-Drew. Still, you never know, Robins has been proven to provide words of wisdom many a time this season, I still had a bit of hope that we'd be able to turn things round. Liam Kelly then spooned it out of play literally straight from kick off. Yep, all gone. It was dire, it was a shambles, at best it was painful to watch.

Straight away, Billy Kee had a free kick from 30 yards out and after clearing the wall our match was saved, well for all of ten minutes at least, when it struck the bar and went over. It was obvious we were clinging on to the game, and it took the softest goal ever to put the game to bed. Willis and McDonald were nowhere to be seen as the visitors strolled closer and closer to goal. Kelly-Evans was frightened as anything so basically ran away from the situation, Stokes couldn't believe what was happening. Clark received the ball, and to top it all off, passed it into the net thanks to O'Brien literally jumping out of the way.

Off went Tom Bayliss who has by far his worst game for the club, but that is to be expected, he's only 18. The saviour was soon on, Kyel bloody Reid, someone who literally about 6 months ago demanded he left assuming he was bigger than the club. I don't really care what he has to offer, we shouldn't be lowering ourselves to that. Ryan Haynes is the better all round footballer who is so much more consistent, how on earth he's not being given a chance I will never ever know. To be fair to Reid, he orchestrated the best move of the match by floating a cross over to Vincenti, on the volley he spooned it into the crowd. Jonson Clarke-Harris also made an appearance but he was so anonymous that I had to be reminded he was actually brought on.

Full Time - Coventry City 0-2 Accrington Stanley

Coventry City Football Club, what are we to do with you? That was as must win as it gets, we've been poor away for a while, and now we find ourselves in the position of needing to go to Colchester and Mansfield and pick up 6 points. All while not having our backsides handed to us by Brighton next Saturday, saying that, it'd be such a Cov thing to do to go and win there but continue our never ending painful spiral down the leagues. We're only 2 points off play offs now, but that is one game away from being so much more if we don't pull our fingers out on Tuesday night. I've never wanted to go to a City game less, see you there.

My Man of the Match - Maxime Biamou - He looked like the only one who actually wanted it yesterday, everyone else was poor around him. He's a very consistent player and is only now beginning to get credit for it, it's just a shame it came on such a poor day. Still, we go again and all that, let's just hope next time we do a community day we don't flap it as much as we did here.




Thursday, 8 February 2018

Make or Break Month

Whether you expected more, less or about this back in August, with just 16 league games left of this season we are still in with a considerable shout of promotion. We're in eighth place, but it's that tight that it doesn't really matter yet as long as we keep winning games. However you can't help but think that in a months time we'll either be popping the champagne licking our lips at the run in we have, but equally there could be a lot of cold baths run with everyone in tears. Basically, February is a make or break month. *Insert theme music here*


This is our run of games we've got coming up:

10th February - Accrington Stanley (H) - 3rd
13th February - Colchester United (A) - 10th
17th February - Brighton and Hove Albion (A) - FA Cup Fifth Round
24th February - Mansfield Town (A) - 5th
27th February - Wycombe Wanderers (A) - 2nd
3rd March - Lincoln City (H) - 9th

5 league games, plus a Fifth Round FA Cup tie thrown in for good measure, in the space of just 3 weeks. On top of that we have the match against runaway league leaders Luton which has yet to be rearranged, when it was due on the day of the Brighton fixture. To put it lightly, this time next month we could quite easily be a broken fanbase. A couple of losses and we're stuffed, I don't think I'm the only one getting flashbacks of a couple of seasons ago when the wheels came off in that February/March period.

We've even got four away games in a row after Accrington this Saturday, which don't get me wrong is great from a fan perspective, everyone loves a good away day, but we've been poor away of late. The last league victory we've had on the road was Carlisle at the end of December, it's fair to say winning seven on the bounce at the Ricoh has helped endless amounts. If we want even a shot of going up that needs to continue, no question.

So why all this negativity I hear you cry, and you're right, I haven't even made a notion that we've proved so far we've got the ability to get through it, which I suppose is the case. Put it this way, had we actually beaten Forest Green I wouldn't be writing this post. I love a good negative moan, and that shambles of a performance put doubt in my mind whether we've actually got the bottle to see this whole League Two thing out. This has been a regular occurrence all season, in fact every time we lose a game it's all "Oh we're a shambles of a football club" and then after every victory I'm certain we'll win the league.

Is Brighton just an unnecessary distraction in one of the biggest periods in this clubs history? Absolutely not. Buying tickets was a huge hassle, spending a good hour on the phone to various different box offices and ticket offices I never knew we had asking why my season ticket wasn't working. I got one just in the nick of time, all 4,529 were gone within about 2 hours. Great support. I haven't seen anyone complaining we've made it so far as it's a distraction to the league. It worked for Lincoln, and even if we do go out, as long as we're not absolutely humiliated we can hold our heads high and carry the momentum through.

I've seen some poor performances from this side, but there's also been some absolutely astonishing afternoons where I've come out in awe of how good the side is playing. It's got us to just outside the play offs but as I've said, it's so close we're practically in there. The aim should still be automatics as play offs are pot luck and we've never had the sight of them to know what they're like. I'd take that as a back up plan but surely the aim should be higher? I guess the answer to that question will be with how bad Jack Grimmer and Chris Stokes' injuries are.

To conclude, with yet another couple of rhetorical questions, will we go up? No idea. Have I just wasted your time? Maybe. The main thing is, we're in for a whirlwind of a month and the picture is going to be so much clearer on the other side. I hope for our sake we go up, you don't want to be stuck in League Two, just ask Portsmouth or Plymouth fans. There's not much else to say, see you on the other side where hopefully we're 2nd in the league and in the Quarters after a last minute winner at Brighton.

Now I was going to finish it there, and I've thought twice about actually uploading this post, and I apologise for going quite personal but after I wrote this I was dealt with the news that my grandfather had passed away. If it weren't for him taking my dad to Highfield Road all those years ago, then he wouldn't have dragged me along, and I wouldn't be here today with this love for Coventry City today. So I can't thank him enough, and although it doesn't mean much, I'd like to dedicate this post to him. Thank you. PUSB.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

My Forty-Sixth 17/18 Game - Forest Green Rovers vs Coventry City

I never thought this day would come, not to sound all snooty and act like we're too big for teams in this league (even though we probably are), but finally we had to go to Forest Green Rovers. For a league fixture no less. I'm still getting nightmares from the revers fixture, getting so cocky that we'd batter them, saying I'd go vegan if we lost and then proceeding to have a breakdown when we lost 1-0 courtesy of a Lee Burge howler. Still, that was all behind us and personally I'd learnt absolutely nothing, proclaiming pre-match that if we didn't win then we just didn't deserve to go up and should probably liquidate. This is a literary technique commonly known as foreshadowing.

Coventry City Starting XI:

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Kelly
Doyle

Bayliss
Barrett

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

O'Brien
McDonald
Haynes
Shipley
Vincenti
Beavon
Clarke-Harris

Despite a convincing 3-1 victory over Cambridge on Tuesday night we dropped goalscorer Jordan Shipley for Josh Barrett, an odd decision given how good form Shippers has been in. Liam Kelly and Jordan Willis were also both shoehorned back into the side having regained fitness, whilst Jonson Clarke-Harris got onto the bench looking a lot harder than when we released him a few years back. I certainly wouldn't want to see him down a dark alley.

First Half

Exactly as like in the first fixture between us and the vegan demons from the middle of nowhere, we didn't show them the respect they obviously deserved. Despite this we had a couple of early good chances from the likes of Barrett and Grimmer. This was the tone for the first 15 minutes or so and we began to get the feeling that this was going to be a walk in the park, but that is when they're at their most dangerous.

Burge was caught out by a skidding shot which he parried right into the path of Reuben Reid who had an open goal. I was ready to lob a Greggs sausage roll onto the pitch if it weren't for Jordan Willis to come from nowhere and fling himself at the ball, squirming it round the post. A massive let off, and you'd think that this would knock us into shape at the very least.

There was a slight glimmer here when McNulty forced a fantastic save out of Collins but it all went to pot when Jack Grimmer was forced off injured, with Rod McDonald replacing him. He slotted in at centre back with Davies with Willis moving out to the right back spot. That however was yet another key player injured, and not yet do we know the extent of which it is. All I'll say is it didn't look TOO bad, he walked off fairly normally.

Now I actually heard someone blaming Lee Burge for the goal, I swear to god. He pulled off a great save to push it away from going in, it's just dumb luck it cannoned straight out to Alex Bray who tapped into an empty net. No one was flying in front of it this time. If you demand on finding a scapegoat then Josh Barrett is you man, played Stokes right into trouble with his throw in. I'm sure he'll be a good player in time but from the little we've seen so far he's been poor.

Half Time - Forest Green Rovers 1-0 Coventry City

Second Half

After a mishap with Stokesy clearing the stand with a 40 yard effort we finally looked to be getting a hold of the game, albeit in horrifically lucky circumstances. Liam Kelly ran into a defender and went down from it, clear as day not a penalty, and given how the referee had been towards us up until this point I was expecting him to laugh in a deep voice as he waved it away. Nope, sharp blow on the whistle and before you know it Sparky steps up and rifles it top bins. 1-1. Out of nowhere.

We made a positive sub with Biamou hobbling a tad, Jonson Clarke-Harris came on for his second debut, looking scarier than ever. We were actually going for this game, at this point you couldn't see any other winner than us. One whole minute later, 2-1 Forest Green. Lee Collins with a screamer. You just can't write it can you? I mean, other than I have. In fairness to the boys, there's nothing much they could have done, it was a great goal.


We were dealt with yet another massive blow with our third and final substitution being yet another injury forced one. Tom Davies had to leave the field with Ryan Haynes taking his place and Chris Stokes moving into the middle. We've since found out that it's a broken collarbone and he'll miss the remainder of the season. It's a big loss as he is a proper no nonsense League Two defender but we just have to thank our lucky stars we have an almost carbon copy of him in Concrete Rod McDonald. Assuming everyone else is ok, including Stokesy who funnily enough had to see out the remaining 10 minutes with a knock then we should be fine. Even with 6 added minutes we couldn't add anything noteworthy, Clarke-Harris' free kick not far wide was all we could get. That was it.

Full Time - Forest Green Rovers 2-1 Coventry City

6 points, 6 points we've thrown away to that lot. Yeah, yeah I know, we should respect them but just look at the table. We absolutely have to be winning games like that if we want to go up. I know it's not the end of the world but just look at the run coming up, February is going to make or break our season. I'm not sure whether we've got the bottle to do it, and being completely honest, I'm scared to find out.

My Man of the Match - Jordan Willis - No one was especially amazing, but Willis is a city legend after the block he performed in the first half. It was nothing short of heroic. It was that sort of a game that a block gets you a man of the match award. Oh well, roll on Accrington where the Ricoh may actually be relatively full. Even though there will almost certainly be loads of no shows we're already on course to smash the all time record for the biggest League Two attendance.