Sunday, 27 May 2018

That Preview Thing: The League Two Play Off Final

It's finally here, after 57 competitive games we've reached the final, the play off final no less. No matter your age, this is completely new territory for all Coventry City fans, we're one game away from our first promotion for 51 years. Over half a century since we confirmed our spot in the first division with a 3-1 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Highfield Road in front of 51, 452 officially but in reality almost certainly more. A gold star if you were one of them. I can only imagine what it would have been like.


Things have changed a bit since then, not only are we now back in the basement of league football, but we're at Wembley for the deciding game. The fact we didn't bottle it after Christmas and come 17th is a remarkable achievement in itself, let alone sweeping Notts County aside in their own back yard in the second leg of the play off semi. All of this has led to our second trip to the home of English football in as many years, and gives me another beautiful opportunity to use *that* photo again. Copyright infringement is a big thing so expect to see it for a few more years just yet.

Last Time Out

Notts County 1-4 Coventry City
Grant (44')           Biamou (6', 71')
                             McNulty (37')
                             Bayliss (86')

Easily in my top 5 favourite games of football I've ever been to, what a night it was, Max Biamou leathering an overhead kick in after about 5 minutes just set the tone. The feeling of victory was amazing, even if we don't go up, we'll always be able to savour that moment, although if that does happen I won't be able to see that silver lining for a few months yet. The second goal was a thing of beauty, and was just testament to how good we were in the first half. We let them back in before half time and ignoring the blatantly onside goal they had disallowed swallowed a lot of pressure quite well early in the second.

As soon as Max slotted home the third I knew we were going back, and Bayliss' run and finish was just icing on the cake. From one angle we were quite lucky to come out how we did, but it's undeniable we were the better team and are deserved finalists. Whether or not we got some decisions go our way, we're here, and we can't look at it any other way than that it's on merit because when you start doubting yourself, that's when you lose. Watching us on Sky though, Exeter must have been sitting in their own excrement.

Last Meeting

Exeter City 1-0 Coventry City
Harley (7')
13th January 2018

We somehow managed to go from automatic promotion places to outside of the play offs in the course of an hour and a half, howler from Willis and Burge let them in early on, they weren't even that good, we just didn't fancy turning up. It was chucking it down, and as I finally managed to fall asleep on the train home the ticket woman woke me up, horrible day. It wasn't an accurate representation of either sides footballing ability but The Grecians did sit on the narrow one goal lead quite well.

Before that I remember the game at the Ricoh back in September, they'd just gone on a 7 game winning streak and we dominated them. Jodi had an exceptional game and Devon Kelly-Evans rounded off a good performance by nutmegging the keeper in the last minute. Standard 2-0 win, happy times. I'd quite happily cut off my right arm to see us pull something out of the bag like that again.

The Opposition

Exeter are one of a few teams, including us, who quite easily could have picked up an automatic promotion place if they had a bit more consistency across the season, instead they ended up fourth on 80 points, four off third placed Wycombe. With Notts County and Lincoln if you played them you knew what you were getting, effective and bloody annoying hoof ball. This isn't the case with Exeter, they play a fairly exciting brand of attacking football which saw off Lincoln fairly comfortably in the semis. At Sincil Bank they let them play their game and simply just defended it.

With the home advantage however, they took control of the tie and saw themselves 3-0 up not long after the break, Matt Green scored a consolation but in the end it wasn't enough. Exeter swaggered to Wembley as 3-1 winner on the night as well as on aggregate. Whilst some of the football they play is good to watch, they have relied on Jayden Stockley a fair amount, who's bagged himself 20 goals in the league this season. The main thing is to contain him. We all know a bit about Robbie Simpson from his spell with us, and he wasn't especially mesmerising, basically he's now 10 years older and isn't the greatest footballer in the world but can be nuisance to deal with. A bit like Stuart Beavon...

Potential Starting XI

Burge

Grimmer
Willis
Hyam
Stokes

Bayliss
Kelly
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

You can't change the side from the 4-1 win against Notts, what would be the point? Nearly all of them staked a very valid claim to be called man of the match, have Reid and Clarke-Harris on the bench as impact subs in case of an emergency but if we get that team kicking it about like they did last week then we'll be in with a massive shout of bouncing back to League One. Let's just hope to god McNulty has recovered from the minor hamstring issue he had prior to County. His back is close to breaking with the weight of the city on his shoulders, just one more good outing and you can have the keys mate.

Prediction

As I've said, we've certainly got the ability to be dancing around on the pitch at full time, but Exeter felt the pain of a final defeat last year and will have learned from it. By no means is this going to be a formality. Final games never go as planned, and to not risk jinxing anything, I am absolutely not going to be making a score prediction. My nerves are already in pieces, that's just even more unnecessary strain right there. What I will say though is expect there to be a few goals, it could end up being a 3-2 or 4-3 either way. Whatever happens, extra time, penalties, we need to be prepared. If we win I'll be the happiest man in the world, let's not think about any other scenarios. Just for the love of God City, please.


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