Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
08/09 Coventry 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
AGAIN not much happened in the first 15 minutes of the half. Coventry didn't come out and bombard Town, if anything they were more soporific than before.
Coventry City 0 Grimsby Town 1
08 Sep 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Perhaps they tried to bore Town into a mistake? Daft that, we can bore for England.
I might as well get Town's attack of the half out of the way. Yes, that's right our ONLY effort on goal in the entire second half. There were the occasional forays towards the penalty area, with someone, near the end (Jeffrey, I think) actually getting inside the area, by several yards too! But who needs shots, we're the team who score by not shooting. It's an art form you know.
Near the hour Town knocked a long clearance down the middle of the pitch towards the edge of the Coventry penalty area. Hedman tentatively advanced just outside his area, as the ball didn't quite have enough strength to roll inside, and Rowan was racing forward in a rather hopeful attempt to force a mistake. Hedman nervously dribbled past Rowan and knocked it too far. He carried on forward as the ball rolled towards Jevons, about 25 yards out, just to the (Town) left of the goal.
Hedman tried to dribble past Jevons and failed, leaving him totally stranded as the ball bobbled nearby. Hedman turned around and started to run back towards his goal whilst JEVONS controlled the ball and placed it over the defenders into the middle of the goal. The Town fans leapt wildly around, laughing and smiling and yelling and laughing again. Did I say we laughed? Oh we did. Isn't life fun at the moment? As the Town fans sang "The football league's the right way up, we're going up with the Burnley, the football league's the right way up". Then we laughed again.
The goal sparked some life into the dead dogs of skybluedom. For the next couple of minutes the Town goal was under siege. The ball was played east and west, high and low, and no-one could clear it to a fellow striped warrior, or even out of play.
Coventry finally played with some intelligence and they outmanoeuvred Town by switching play and isolating the full backs. Well, Gallimore really.
The Coventry right back (old Roland Nilsson, still replete with his Beatle cut) swept past Gallimore and hit a low cross along the 6 yard line. It missed the first attacker, went between Groves' knee and hand, went past Coyne, missed the second attacker and Chippo slid in at the far post, perhaps 5 yards out, and smacked the ball against the post. More hysterical laughter from the Town fans. The ball was half cleared on the right, then returned to the left, then right, then left again. The ball went into the penalty area and Town heads and boots made desperate clearances straight back to Coventry players.
The ball eventually went back to the Coventry right and yet another cross was clipped into the area, Joachim flicked the ball on with a header and Carsley was alone, about 12 yards out. He allowed the ball to bounce and hit a spectacular hook volley which looped over Coyne and bounced off the face of the cross bar, and the ball was scrambled away. Cue more hysterics. One Town fan was actually crying with laughter. The Coventry supporters were, of course, crying on the outside and the inside.
This was confirmation that today was our lucky day, again. Fantastically fortunate for Town as in the space of two minutes Coventry had given us a goal and missed two incredible sitters. This was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The Coventry fans began to sing "Sack the Board", so we joined in too. We also gave the party an extra frisson by singing "We love you Strachan, we do" lustily, heartily and with a huge smile on our collective face. The Coventry supporters growled at that one as they chanted "Strachan Out".
The home supporters essentially spent the next half an hour railing against their board and manager, not getting behind the players, just raging against the owners and managers. Their players did nothing to get the supporters behind them, or to keep Strachan in a job. Would this be a traditional "Lose to Grimsby and get sacked" occasion? Surely, it's a FIFA regulation, isn't it?
Town abandoned any attacking intent, merely defending in numbers. Jevons and Rowan sunk further back to assist the defence, so that all clearances went to Coventry, thus increasing the pressure. Just before they finally took him off, O'Neill dribbled into the penalty area and fell theatrically. No penalty, half hearted appeals from their supporters, it was as if they wanted a chance to heckle O'Neill more. Town problems increased when Strachan took O'Neill off 5 -10 minutes after the goal. They increased merely because Coventry were now playing with 11, not 10. I do hope that this continues, last week Donovan, this week O'Neill. Is every opposition team going to play for 65 minutes with a pathetic winger?
Dark clouds suddenly appeared, what a portent for the home team! The rest of the game was played in front of the Town supporters - balls into the box, balls out of the box. Crosses in, headers out. There were a couple of scuffed shots from outside the area, the best one forcing Coyne to make a save. A rarity in this game. As usual, Jeffrey replaced Rowan with 15 minutes left and the he did, on occasion, make some interesting runs down the touch-line, but he was simply over-run and bundled off the ball.
The Town fans roared every tackle, block, even throw in. It felt like a cup tie with the players responding in kind. They crowded out anyone who tried to surge in to the area, there were last ditch tackles, they threw themselves in front of pile-driving shots and so literally lay down for the cause. Coventry brought on Thompson, Saffri and Zuniga for useless Eustace, awful O'Neill and inconspicuous Chippo. Only Saffri did anything. Not our problem, eh?
With 10 or so minutes left, after a cross from the Coventry left, Thompson volleyed way over the bar from 12 yards out, behind Gallimore. After some intense pressure on the Town goal a cross from the Coventry left, zoomed towards the penalty spot. Carlsey made a deep, late run and had a free header, which he placed a foot or so wide of Coyne's right hand post. The last moment of fear for Town was in the last 5 minutes.
Pouton had run himself to a standstill and Coventry were exploiting the gap in front and behind McDermott. They managed to infiltrate down the Town right and a player dribbled past Pouton to the bye-line. He crossed low to the near post where Carsley dummied and let the ball run past him. It rolled between Groves' legs and past Coyne. From 3 yards out Beharall swept the ball away from the open goal with a Coventry striker immediately behind him. The ball was immediately returned into the middle of the Town penalty area and Beharall made another great header to clear.
As far as goal mouth action is concerned that is just about it. Burnett came on (for Jevons) for the last 3 or 4 minutes and Town played in a 4-5-1 formation, which just encouraged Coventry forward even more. We looked worse defensively in this formation. There were crosses upon crosses which always saw a Town player get in front of a Coventry striker. There were rebounds and deflections which always seemed to run to a Town player, probably because we had more men in the box than they did.
There were two or three times when a Coventry player tried a shot from the edge of the area after the ball was half cleared. These were charged down by Campbell and McDermott. It was like ping pong at times, but all the Town players ran and ran and ran and concentrated. The Town fans sang "On the pitch" to the disgruntled hosts as they continued to rumble and grumble about Strachan.
There were 4 minutes of added time, of which 3 minutes 36 were played (not that I was counting). Game over, 3 points, Town players delirious. All the subs sprinted over and mobbed the 11 on the pitch. Everyone came over to the supporters and celebrated like we'd won something important like, say, the Auto Windscreen Shield.
Three or four Coventry supporters tried to run on the pitch, with a couple near the players tunnel haranguing Strachan. I didn't see if anyone attacked their mascot for his Widdrington moment (circa May 1997). It's nice to see the opposition supporters so incensed.
This was by far the best performance by Town this season. the first half contained solid defending and incisive, selected attacking. The second half was a "professional" job. Grab a goal and hold what you have. The defending in the second half was, mostly, outstanding and once again we had luck when we needed it. However, it is up to the opposition to score and if they keep on declining our invitations who are we to complain? It's our party.
Coyne had, in truth, very little to do, it was the 10 in front who performed the minor heroics today. Willems had an outstanding defensive game in midfield, there was no way Coventry were going to go straight down the middle. Campbell was back to being the human dynamo and Pouton showed some impressive passing skills in the first half, together with his usual commitment. It's a toss up between Pouton and Willems who falls best to get us free kicks.
Most of the plaudits will go to the defence, especially the centre. Groves was magnificent at times, bestriding the defence like a colossus; he was damn near faultless. He brought the ball out like a libero, like Handyside in fact. He and Beharall are a very compact unit. It would be handy to keep them together.
This crazy season continues in comic fashion. For whatever reason, Town have put smiles back on the faces of their supporters. And we're starting to play well now. Isn't this fun.
Nicko's Man of the Match
So very, very difficult. McDermott and Willems were outstanding, Groves magnificent but young Mr Beharall gets it. The clincher was his two clearances at the end. In the last few minutes it was he who made important blocks and stops. He read the game well, nullifying a much, much larger opponent, who managed no headers on goal. So Beharall it is, just.
P Armstrong: Really good. No complaints. Didn't book anyone in a tough but fair game. Didn't fall for a fall by O'Neill in the Town box, waving play on dismissively. Have to give him 9 out of 10. I am sure the Coventry fans would not agree, but then they are biased!
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