The past few days may be some of the most defining in Coventry City’s season. An unbelievable match and result on Thursday night was quickly followed by a disappointing loss on Sunday afternoon resulting in mixed emotions for Coventry fans.
Thursday night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie against Preston is a match that will live long in the memories for everyone involved with Coventry City FC. A 3-2 victory in the dramatic fashion that we achieved it was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. The match as a whole was not great in terms of the quality of football on show but what it did have was a true cup tie feel to it. It was clear that both teams really wanted it and were really fighting for the victory.
The match began with Preston having the better of the opening exchanges but the match quickly levelled out and city got a foothold in the game. A couple of missed opportunities for both sides went by and then four minutes before half time the Skyblues got the first goal of the game. A free kick whipped in by Baker was headed towards goal by Edjenguele and was steered into the back of the net by Jennings who poked home from close range.
The score remained at 1-0 until the 67th minute when Preston equalised from a poorly defended corner. A free header from Foster deflected off Adams into the Skyblues net. Coventry were feeling a little hard done by at this point having been the slightly better side in the second half but then ten minutes from time they were feeling even worse. Another deflected effort left Murphy wrong footed as the ball nestled in the Skyblues goal to the disbelief around the majority of the ground.
The dream of a trophy and a trip to Wembley looked to be over as the board went up for 5 minutes of stoppage time. The City fans roared in a final attempt to get the team to take the game to penalties. Then on 93 minutes a lovely touch from Jordan Clarke played in Baker who from a tight angle powered a shot underneath the despairing Simonsen who was being forced to continue in goal after picking up an injury only minutes before.
We had done it and everyone’s attentions turned to the inevitable penalty shootout that was about to follow. However there was a minute and a half left of stoppage time and the Coventry player went in search of a winner. Thirty seconds past and then the ball fell to Baker who came inside from the right wing and sent a shot towards Prestons goal from just outside the area. Everyone expected it to be saved comfortably but Simonsen seemed to panic and whilst he did save the initial shot he could only parry the ball straight back into the danger area where there just so happened to be three Coventry players who had gambled on him making the error.
Everyone held their breath as Leon Clarke who had missed at least one guilt edge chance earlier on in the game held off his teammates to poke the ball passed Simonsen into the net and the unthinkable had happened and it was utter elation around the stadium.
Coventry had done it, they were in the area final and now only two games away from an historic Wembley appearance. No one could quite believe what they had just witnessed as the Coventry song rang round the Ricoh in a way that it had never done before.
A victory in that manner against any club would have been special but I have to be honest in that it did make it all the more special in that it was Preston who we beat. Now I have nothing against the club itself and its fans but the current management and playing squad are everything that there is to hate about football.
They are a thuggish team who were throwing elbows and leaving their foot in whenever they got the chance. Despite this aggressive behavior on their part they were also going down from the slightest touch from our players. All sport not only football should have sportsmanship at its heart and well it looked to me that Graham Westley has completely eradicated this from his squad of players. They had clearly been told to throw their weight around to see what they could get away with and in turn try to bully their way to victory. For me Thursday’s match was not only a victory for Coventry City it was a victory for what football should be about.
After the elation of Thursday night the Skyblues went into Sundays trip to Carlisle brimming with confidence. It did however end in disappointment as Coventry slipped to their first away defeat in the league since defeat to Brentford on the 23rd of October to end a six game winning run away from home. It was City’s second defeat in a row in the league and it was far from a great performance.
This loss combined with the loss too Shrewsbury has really put the brakes on our ascent up the league one table. Sitting now in 13th place our hopes of a playoff place have taken a real hit. It is by no means an impossibility far from it in fact but it has made a hard goal even harder to achieve. Six points is the current gap with the teams above us having a game in hand. Victories for them will leave us 9 points off the pace and I have always considered this to be the tipping point in terms of trying to catch teams. Anything below and there is a real chance of catching but anything above in the double figures and they begin to look out of sight.
Six points from the two home games against Tranmere and Oldham will be a huge step back in the right direction. With Tranmere topping the league one table Wednesday’s match will be far from an easy one but a big performance and victory is needed to reignite our charge up the League One table.