For all of the events of the past 6 months that have seen Coventry City put into administration, liquidated, move to Northampton and for all of the arguing between fans, ACL and SISU, as soon as the players entered the pitch for Sunday’s match it all suddenly felt normal again. Forgetting where the team should be playing for a second, it was good and surprisingly normal to see those familiar faces and Sky Blue shirts again. The pre-match atmosphere was one of quiet confusion as fans located the various parking spaces, pubs and eventually turnstiles to see them into the ground. The tension of a league fixture was much lower as fans from both sides politely milled around, it felt more like a rugby than a football atmosphere.
With captain Carl Baker suspended, Pressley decided to shuffle his pack and surprisingly included Billy Daniels on the right wing, keeping the attacking shape of the last 2 matches. In defence Andy Webster was handed his debut with Jordan Willis relegated to the bench in search of much needed defensive stability. Well that was the thinking anyway.
After a quiet start, both from the home team and fans, an attack at around the 20th minute with Callum Wilson providing a poor attempted finish after an excellent run, grew into the game. Coventry’s main threat was coming from their closing down of the opposition centre-backs, in particular Aden Flint who gifted chance after chance to City. The aforementioned Flint perhaps was lucky to remain on the pitch after he brought down the nippy Wilson in the penalty area after yet another sloppy pass from the centre-back. Leon Clarke neatly put the penalty away and the summer of discontent subsided from the thoughts of those present.
Unlike past City sides where a lead against a league’s top side would have given them nosebleeds from the altitude, this side looked determined to hammer home their advantage. To emphasise this point, the clearly struggling Flint was shown no mercy as the Sky Blues time and again played Wilson right on his shoulder to exploit his flimsy presence in the Bristol City back 4. After near-misses from Wilson, he once again sprung past the Bristol defence and placed the ball into the corner of the net to double the lead.
Just before half-time Billy Daniels, born in Bristol, put the cherry on top of a glorious first-half performance as he headed home a cross from Moussa. I admit that before the match I couldn’t see any scenario in which Coventry could win this match againt top opposition. However Coventry had more than matched a Bristol City side who remained threatening through the aerial presence of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and the intelligent runs of Sam Baldock. It was hard to pick out one player who hadn’t played his part up to this point, the front two linked very well, Fleck and Thomas were showing the Bristol midfield how to pass, Moussa was quicksilver as ever, Webster looked solid and was reading the game well, so was Jordan Clarke who was making up for his height disadvantage with great timing both on the deck and in the air.
At half-time Bristol City made two changes, striker Ryan Taylor and centre-back Derrick Williams came on as they changed shape to a 3-4-3 formation to counter Coventry’s pressing game. Taylor came on to put further pressure on the relatively diminutive Jordan Clarke, as they looked to put pressure on our defence.
Bristol City’s first came from the defence failing to deal with the ball in the second phase. Jordan Clarke almost scored an own goal as Sam Baldock ‘chested’ in as the defence appealed in vain for a hand-ball. No sweat though, although it would be typical Coventry to give up a 3 goal lead they wouldn’t do it this time though?
Conor Thomas then gave away a needless free-kick which Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scored after taking a massive deflection. 3-2 to Coventry, still with our noses in front but definitely the tide had turned in Bristol City’s favour. Then City failed to deal with a long-ball with Jordan Clarke leaving it to Murphy to try and clear with the keeper clearly in no-mans land. 3-3 there you go, typical City. Not just in surrendering the lead in this manner but also the type of goals we conceded seemed oh so typical.
With around 15 minutes to go the winds of game seemed to be blowing in Bristol’s favour. It was telling that they didn’t celebrate their equaliser, instead picking the ball out of the net attempting to get the game re-started as soon as possible. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been so eager. From the kick-off the ball was played to Cyrus Christie who sent a long-ball behind the Bristol City defence which Callum Wilson picked up and played a precise shot past Frank Fielding and Coventry were unbelievably ahead again.
This wasn’t typical City, this was the moment where I was expecting to see nosebleeds from our team, especially the younger members. Fighting back after throwing away a lead just isn’t us. As Bristol threw on their lumpen striker Marlon Harewood to put further pressure on Jordan Clarke the script seemed to be back on course. After some hesitant defending from a ball into the box, Marvin Elliott picked up on a deflection and volleyed home for 4-4. Typical bloody City.
But the game wasn’t over. Again, soon after the re-start, Coventry pushed forward, Leon Clarke crossed, Billy Daniels puts it away. 5-4 to City?
After a very nervous close to the game which saw Jordan Willis played on the left-wing and Mathieu Manset make his debut, City eventually held on for the win which now sees on -7 points. This wasn’t a normal football game for so many reasons, in the end the actual football appeared to exist on a different plane to normal football. It’s rare to see defending to seem so hard and goal-scoring so easy, almost like it was a different sport. I’ll say though that Coventry deserved the win, a performance full of energy and vigour with a number of young players showing great character as wel as talent.
Next up is Carlisle, which some may describe as a 6-pointer and hopefully the Football League will sanction this new scoring system for a one-off game. Putting politics aside, a wonderful match of football, if we keep this up (and improve our defending) then we won’t be troubling those relegation spots.