You think that there are no depths that Coventry City has yet to plumb, that you’re ready for any possible kind of embarrassment, then a result like Sunday’s comes along to show that things can still get far worse.
Mark Venus doesn’t seem to know who our strongest players are, what formation to play them in and how he wants us to play. As bad as this squad is, the difference an experienced manager should make is that there’s at least a semblance of structure and sense of direction that the team is headed towards. It’s hard to see that with Mark Venus, it almost seems like he wants to get to January and see what happens then.
It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to suggest that most Coventry City fans would genuinely want to see us blow what seems to be our final shot at Wembley this season, but if a defeat tonight led to the appointment of a new manager in the next couple of weeks, it would probably be seen as a reasonable sacrifice – if such deals are on offer.
Given the truly erratic nature of Mark Venus’ team selections over the past five or six games, there’s no real way to tell what kind of team he’s going to pick. Whether he goes for his strongest team is an interesting debate as on the one hand, this is a chance to make it to Wembley and possibly a final chance for Venus to convince himself to continue to plug away at his career’s ambition of being a manager. On the other, this is a relatively unimportant competition and we’re playing a fairly poor League Two side.
In short, I haven’t got any idea what side we’re going to play, but here’s a nice graphic anyway.
Last Time We Met
Our previous meeting with Crawley was an occasion that now looks like it was yet another false dawn. Heading into the final day of the 2014/15 season, we needed to avoid defeat (and hope that Notts County didn’t score two more goals than us) in order to avoid relegation to League Two.
The unthinkable almost happened when Nick Proschwitz missed a penalty before half-time, Mathias Pogba gave Crawley the lead after the break and our fate rested on scores elsewhere. However, the introductions of James Maddison and Frank Nouble to the scene turned the match on its head. Marcus Tudgay’s goal in the 71st minute had all but secured safety thanks to other results, but a breakaway led by Frank Nouble and finished by James Maddison gave us all three points.
The summer following that game saw Tony Mowbray given the job on a permanent basis, season ticket prices dropped and players like Adam Armstrong and Jacob Murphy arrive on loan. That Crawley game meant the highs of last season could happen, how quickly things fade.
How Are They Doing?
The other side of the story of 3rd May 2015 was Crawley Town ending a three season stay in the highest division they had ever been in. Most Crawley fans would admit that they just weren’t a big enough club to support third-tier football on a sustainable basis and it’s possible that that day was the end of the club’s most successful era ever.
Last season was something of a comedown, although they weren’t overly troubled by a second-successive relegation, they were an uninspiring and dull side under former manager Mark Yates. Former Chelsea youth-team manager Dermot Drummy arrived towards the end of last season following a takeover by a Turkish businessman and things are now slightly better than before.
Crawley started the season in impressive form under Drummy, but there was always the sense that they were flattering to deceive. A 5-0 defeat to Yeovil Town on Saturday extended a run of just one win in nine games with the wheels looking like they’re starting to fall off in West Sussex this season.
Crawley’s success earlier in the season came from Drummy bringing in an array of incredibly fast wingers such as Jason Banton, Jordan Roberts and Enzio Boldewijn while also calling on several former youth-team players he worked with at Chelsea, such as attacking midfielder Billy Clifford and holding midfielder Aliu Djalo.
The problem for Crawley at the moment seems to be in defence, where the emphasis on pace has seen the athletic duo Lewis (Ashley’s brother) Young and Andre Blackman have been operating at full-back, instead of slower, sturdier alternatives. Crawley have the joint-worst defensive record in League Two this season – if we can’t score against them, we’re even worse than we all thought.
One final notable thing about Crawley at the moment is that they have James Collins (not the West Ham one) in their ranks. A proven goalscorer at League Two level, Collins comes from Coventry and was close to joining us back in 2011 when Andy Thorn was in charge, but the deal fell through due to our transfer embargo. For some reason, Collins seems to be extra-motivated when he comes up against us.
The gloom around the club is palpable and a defeat to a fairly poor side in the division below at home and in our last chance to make it to Wembley would really cap it all off. However, I just think Crawley aren’t a great side and are on a poor run of form. With the memory of Sunday’s humiliation still fresh in the memory, I can see us winning this 3-1.