Monday's slightly late April Fools Day joke needed to be treated as just that, a one off with no basis as to how our season is going to finish whatsoever. That's the only way we'll truly be able to get past it and make the final push and cement our play off spot, and we start that with possibly the biggest league game in a few years now. So nervously, off four and a half thousand of us plodded to Nottingham for a day which would provide every single emotion possible for the majority of us. It promised to be eventful, and it sure was.
I've been to a lot of pre-match pubs before, and I've seen some tense atmospheres, but crikey this one got very bad, very quickly. I won't go into details because, in the words of Danny Dyer and Phil Mitchell "I ain't no grass", long story short, a flare got set off and it escalated from there with all of Nottinghamshire steaming in thanks to a little bit of blue smoke. Well, at least they clamped down on it enough in the pubs so none got in the ground and there was absolutely no commotion whatsoever. Notice my hilarious wit and use of sarcasm there? Here all week.
Coventry City Starting XI:
Coventry City Substitutes:
Mark Robins showed how ballsy he was with that team selection, I was expecting a couple of changes, but five, is "I'm bloody angry still" territory. Dominic Hyam, Ryan Haynes, Peter "The Scapegoat" Vincenti, Kyel Reid and Jonson Clarke-Harris were all sent packing with Tom Davies, Chris Stokes, Liam Kelly, Jordan Shipley and Maxime Biamou all came back in respectively. Vincenti was banished out of the squad, and I assume he'll never play for the club again after Monday's witch hunt. Tom Bayliss was shifted back out to his completely unnatural position of right wing in his absence as we literally don't have another, fit, player who can play there. I miss Jodi so much.
Kyel Reid is better as an impact player so I'm glad he was dropped for Shipley, that's when we actually decide to sub him on rather than Josh Barrett for christ sake. The anger is already seeping through and I've not even got onto the actual football game yet, wow this is going to be an absolute treat. Ryan Haynes had a poor game against Yeovil, granted, but having Stokes and Shipley down the left is basically admitting we don't want to attack down the left side of the pitch.
The first fifteen minutes were spent with us tentatively trying not to make howling mistakes which will throw the game away without us even getting a look in. As soon as we got past the "Coventry 0-3 Yeovil" stage the game was actually able to properly start and we grew in confidence as the minutes passed, triggering the realisation that we weren't the worst football team in the world, contrary to what they may have thought in recent days.
It was a fairly dull first 45, but it would be fair to say that the hosts had the slight better of the game, Lee Burge answered his critics with a great one handed save from a volley, proving why he is LEAGUE TWO KEEPER OF THE YEAR and denied possibly the best chance of the half. I can't think of many that appeared on our behalf, maybe a sky high volley from Rod McDonald or Liam Kelly. If McNulty had an extra foot on the last defender then we'd have likely gone 1-0 up but the through ball escaped his feet by a matter of inches.
With his new found confidence of doubling his tally of goals for the club over the course of just one weekend, Maxime Biamou stepped up from 35 yards and pinged one miles over the bar. He was hungry for a goal and recently he's looked like the only one capable, so he was perhaps our only hope. That was until he went absolutely ape at the referee at half time for no apparent reason, getting himself booked and subsequently subbed off because he was about one shirt pull away from walking.
Half Time - Notts County 0-0 Coventry City
Everyone's favourite cage fighter Jonson Clarke-Harris dived his way onto the field, before realising he couldn't win a free kick if the game hadn't actually restarted yet. Obviously that's some more of the adored humour I'm providing, but there is some basis to it, you're a good striker Jonson mate, but come on, no need to go down literally every time you're near anyone ever. Whatever the case, we started the better of the teams in the second half, the keeper nearly fumbled the ball into the path of McNulty but smothered just in time for Sparky to hack at his stomach.
The referee was dishing out yellow cards all over the place in the early stages, Liam Noble was booked for practically stamping on Doyler, he was fine don't get me wrong, but the referee very much bottled the sending off. Rod McDonald got one for almost decking him in reaction, and Shola Ameobi (Who's got to be in his late 40s by now) got in on the action by jumping in on the scuffle. In fact it's a wonder Noble wasn't sent off as there must have been two or three second bookable offences after this incident.
Tom Bayliss stopped a counter attack from progressing by dragging their winger down on the left and got a yellow of his own. He's really learning from being partnered with Doyler. Now, onto the nit and grit of the second half, the hosts won a corner, which was met in the air by Jonathan Forte, completed unchallenegd, and into the far corner. Not only was it a poor goal to concede, but not in a million years should it have counted, at the time I was annoyed we'd allowed it to happen, but when you look back at the highlights and see Lee Burge wasn't allowed to actually move to what would be an easy save, it adds a ridiculous amount of petrol to the already massive fire.
Now we had to chase the game, again, what didn't help was Mark Robins' refusal to bring on our best impact player Kyel Reid. After 10 minutes of dilly dallying and a couple of half chances, Jordan Ponticelli came on for Bayliss. Of all players, Bayliss. Kelly or Shipley would have been more logical, now we had even less creativity than before. We were going for the tactic of, the more players you throw at them the more likely we are to score.
Those were my exact thoughts at that time, and I'll say them to not seem like I knew what I was talking about, because of course it went and worked. A goal mouth scramble goes down with about 5 minutes left to play, Kelly had the best chance but Collin one handed pushed it to the side, and somehow they half got it away. It really was looking like we'd never do it if we didn't score there. McNulty flung himself at the clearance with a poor overhead kick, it bounced straight up to Ponticelli, who contrary to my previous words, provided some incredible creativity and came out with an audacious back heel flick into the far corner. 1-1.
Ignoring maybe the Checkatrade run last season, and possibly a few of the FA Cup goals this season, this was the most I've ever celebrated a goal. It was so unexpected, so when we actually did it everyone lost their absolute minds, there were a few on the pitch, a whole load of pyro, and personally when I wasn't on the floor I was jumping on complete strangers in disbelief that we had managed to keep our season alive at the death of the game, with Jordan Ponticelli bagging his first league goal. There was now a real sense of passion from the team, we could really go on and do this. *Sigh* and as we all know, this is when we are at our weakest.
Let's get one thing straight, absolutely no way did the celebrations lead to our downfall, that is a ridiculous statement. They were big, but that's to be expected, the only player who can be described as overwhelmed was Jonson Clarke-Harris, who couldn't pass up the opportunity of about 30 people careering into him, so went down like a ton of bricks, even if they were his own fans. Liam Kelly spooned a clearance, and before you know it it's cannoned right into the path of Big Shola, who's squared it and somehow Forte forces it in. The elation turned to almost tears, it was painful, all of our work had been for nothing.
Full Time - Notts County 2-1 Coventry City
At the time it seemed like the absolute worst thing in the world, but somehow, we're still in the play offs, we actually got very very lucky on that front with Mansfield losing 4-3 at home to Crewe and Swindon dropping points against Carlisle. Now we've just got to hope they do the same again on Tuesday night, leaving us able to still cling on to 7th place. We can't keep relying on other results though, a huge reaction is needed at Crawley on Saturday. Anything other than making the play offs then this season is a failure, it's now or never.
My Man of the Match - Michael Doyle - In the style of the official Cov MOTM, I'm unsure who to give it to, so I'll just fling it to Michael Doyle. No one was especially stand out, but I can think of a couple of reasons not to give it to some other players so Doyler is going to take it for his consistent performance. He played a couple of good balls here and there and on another day one of them might have resulted in an assist. However if he skies a 25 yard volley again in the 95th minute instead of bringing it down and playing some football then I might cry.