We come to the end on what’s been a frustrating season for Coventry City. A season where the best shot the club has had at anything resembling success has been scotched by off-field matters and underwhelming performances in too many of the games that mattered. Watching the Leyton Orient game last week it was hard to gather what could be learned from that performance in regards to next season. I cannot tell you which players will be let go, who and if we have to sell certain players or if the approach play under Pressley can be converted into winning performances in the long-term. The pessimist in me says that with a smaller budget and the spectre of playing outside of Coventry looming that a relegation fight in a similar vein to our last season in the Championship is likely. The optimist though feels that there’s a chance that off-field matters may be sorted out over the summer and that Pressley will build a small but close-knit group of players and play attractive but winning football.
Enough of that for the time being as Coventry have one final football match before a long summer. That game is away to Notts County who we lost to 2-1 to at the Ricoh back in October. We would also be level on points with the Magpies if not for that 10-point deduction. Although the loss of morale has meant that the deduction has cost us more than 10 points in my opinion. Should we win though it would be, deduction aside, the most points won since 2001-02. Even including the points deduction it could still be our highest league finish since 2005-06 should we win and Carlisle lose. Although given the performances that we’ve had in recent weeks and our generally poor form at winning meaningless games historically I doubt that the players will send us out on a high.
The cause for optimism though is that Notts County themselves have nothing to play for and they are looking to test out their youth players. Newly appointed manager Chris Kiwomya was the former development team manager and has a good knowledge and experience with the club’s youth players. Chief amongst said youth players is Romello Nangle who scored the winner away to Doncaster last weekend. Further to this Nangle fellow is Tyrell Waite, who reportedly impressed at Nuneaton earlier this season, also they will probably start with Fabian Speiss who is a young goalkeeper and lynch pin of Kiwomya’s development squad. The win at Doncaster though shows that Notts County are not on their holidays quite yet and will probably want to put on a show for their final home game of the season.
The Notts County line-up, youth players aside, will contain several players who can cause problems to the Sky Blues. The outstanding performer is Alan Judge, who I believe is out of contract in the summer, is a winger/central midfielder who has a great set-piece delivery, very lively and is their joint second top scorer. The also have Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who almost once signed for Coventry, who is a fast, direct winger and shares Judge’s second top scorer mantel. Joss Labadie, who just returned from a loan at Torquay, has come back into the side and scored an incredible goal against Colchester recently. They have Jeff Hughes who I thought played well making runs into the box from midfield in the reverse fixture and has only 1 less goal than Judge, Campbell-Ryce and Francois Zoko. They have a great squad for this level quite frankly, also deserving of mentions are Zoko, a forward, Yoann Arquin, another forward, and a former loanee at Coventry Dean Leacock in central defence. Who they don’t have though is Lee Hughes, who’s gone to Port Vale and who we’ll probably see again next season, and his lookalike Gavin Mahon, on loan to Stevenage, which means that the away fans will only have their own team to boo.
I expect that with the talent in Notts County’s squad, their desire to end the season on a high at home and our own team’s desire to do the opposite, will mean a regulation victory for the Magpies. Although Chris Dunn is expected to start today I don’t think his presence between the sticks will make much of a difference to the outcome, I don’t believe he’s as bad as that substitute appearance against Crewe made him out to be. We could witness things clicking for Fleck, Moussa, Baker and Christie, who are our match-winners, but I haven’t seen much from recent performances to suggest that, with nothing to play for, this will happen. It’s a shame because I still feel that these players were good enough to challenge not just for promotion but for the title itself, even taking the points deduction away we’ve underperformed. Its worrying to think whether the more talented members of the squad will stay which will taint this season even more with the feeling of a missed opportunity.
Focusing on the here and now though my prediction is a 2-0 win for Notts County and a summer of discontent.
Photo Courtesy Of clogsilk From Flickr.