Coventry 2 U's 2 - Noah's View
Wednesday, 13th Mar 2013 12:15 by Noah4x4
Two points dropped or a point hard won? Here, a difference of fan opinion will definitely rage about this one and either conclusion might be fair of both sides. But in my view, it would be disrespectful to Coventry if we consider this anything other than a point hard won despite the U’s having a two goal advantage just thirteen minutes prior to the final whistle
After a fine meal comprising of tender lamb and perfectly crunchy veggies, I snuggled into my burr walnut and supple leather seat, courtesy of my hosts, Jaguar Cars. But it wasn’t the bitter cold that snapped me back to reality, it was the familiar sound of the 300 or so U’s fans to my right, who, like Ivor Emmanuel at Rorkes Drift, out sang the 9,000 Sky Blue faithful, a massed hoard that visibly and vocally grew ever more angry as their no longer famous heroes successfully frustrated them just as much as the U’s defence, and eventually, like the Zulu’s, departed muttering respect for our embattled minority. Listening to the home fans discontent and the rare opportunity of sitting on the half way line, rather than amid the blue and white choir, utterly convinced me of the value of positive vocal support. I can’t wait to add my voice at Bury, but I am grateful for the superb hospitality enjoyed.
I sat uncomfortably through the first twenty minutes during which the U’s chased shadows and our younger defenders appeared to spent more time on their backsides than on their feet, such was the early guile and dominance of the home team. Fast, neat inter-passing brought chance after chance, and justice might have been done if Coventry had quickly gone two up. In the first ten minutes, Moussa and Martin both squandered gilt edged chances, and when McSheffrey hit the inside of the post, one feared this could be a rout of Tranmere or MK Dons proportions. But the U’s stood resolute, defending by extending every sinew to bundle the ball out of danger by fingertip saves and desperate blocks, always having little time to regroup before the next wave of Coventry attack. It was indeed reminiscent of Rorkes Drift, but Ivor kept singing, whilst Joe Dunne below me barked tactical orders to more effectively reorganise the sometimes ragged gold formation into a more resolute defensive square.
With the frustrated home crowd now on their backs so early into the half, suddenly the Sky Blues seemed to lose momentum. Michael Smith admirably clawed his way into the game ably assisted by Messrs Porter, Massey and Clifford, whilst yet again, a revitalised Andy Bond showed his worth. Clinton Morrison ran his legs off, but did seem to be struggling on occasion to get into the game, but when he did, he executed some fine touches. The U’s won a succession of corners, and it was a far more even contest during the middle of the half. Then the Sky Blue onslaught recommenced, but this time, the U’s more comfortably defended as they had grown in confidence, surely sensing that the mood of the home crowd was in their favour, whilst Ivor and his brave comrades never exhausted their choral repertoire. As we hung on towards the half time whistle, and perhaps somewhat against the prevailing run of play in that latter third of the half, the ever more impressive Garmston threaded a precision ball to the feet of Smith, who on this occasion managed to hold the ball long enough for Gavin Massey to steal it from his toes, jink past three defenders and smash the ball into the net. 0 – 1 U’s at half time.
Phew, it was nervously exhausting stuff, and great relief that we had the lead, but the boos echoing from around the Ricoh suggested that some harsh words would be said in the Sky Blues dressing room and they likely to regroup for an even greater onslaught after the interval. How often have we seen the U’s concede immediately after half time? Strangely, this post interval onslaught never came. Tactical changes by the home team saw them revert to a slower, perhaps more thoughtful build up, which saw the U’s stretched down the flanks. But the change of pace seemed to suit the U’s defence, and allowed us to equally bring the ball down, so that we witnessed the neat midfield inter-passing that has characterised the U’s best performances. George Porter tormented his full back, and Michael Smith grew more influential, but I can’t help feeling Clinton Morrison was again playing too deep to benefit, and that we needed the pace of Freddie Sears to capitalise on this particular passage of play. However, on 72 minutes, yet again some good work by Garmston found Morrison in a rare advanced position during open play, and his flick set up Smith to slot home his debut goal.
Unfortunately, the 0-2 advantage was short lived. Coventry immediately introduced Wilson and Fleck for the ever dangerous, but fast tiring Moussa and McSheffrey. Some tired U’s legs were also in evidence. Smith, Bond, Morrison, Garmton, Porter and Clifford, had covered acres of ground, and it was merely a further five minutes before some midfield loss of concentration left Magnus Okuonghae exposed one on one, and some nimble footwork by Callum Wilson saw the substitute reduce the U’s advantage with twelve minutes to go. It reminded me a little of Brentford (away), where the timing of introducing fresh legs was equally important. But we still had a lead.
Joe Dunne responded bringing on Compton and Lapado for Morrison and the particularly hardworking Smith. This seemed like a good move, given Joe's belief that you can't effectively defend without some attacking pressure on the opposition to limit wave after wave of attack on one's own goal. As the clock run down, the U’s battled hard to defend the three points, and the final throw of the dice was White for Garmston on 89 minutes, perhaps largely just to run the clock down. With hindsight, I think Joe Dunne may rue the fact that he didn’t earlier bring on White and the experienced Heath (or Bean) in exchange for the two strikers simply to negatively soak up the pressure in the dying minutes (e.g. rather than Compton and Lapado). I recall the young U's striker only getting one touch as he tried to replicate Jabo's corner flag time consuming routine but much less effectively. Then well into overtime, and in a moment reminiscent of Alex Gilbey’s inexperience at Northampton (but this time just outside the penalty area), Jack Compton (or was it George Porter, not sure?) clumsily bundled into Fleck. It just seemed inevitable that the ball would end up in the U’s net. It would be utterly wrong to attribute the loss of two points to this single aberration, but it seems that the turning point in so many recent games has been the inexperience of our youngsters (example, Thompson penalties etc.).
In summary, utterly disappointing that we didn't see this through to a win, but we would have happily accepted a draw before the game. Frankly, I saw it as a point won rather than two points lost, as with twenty shots to our ten, and their dominant phases (albeit not reflected in the possession statistics) the home side didn’t deserve defeat. But overall, a fine spirited performance by the U’s, and another point closer to safety.
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