After all the hype in the build-up to this one, we didn't manage to get the ball over halfway before Cov scored the only goal, and after that there wasn't much between the sides. With a few of our players below their best, the home side defended competently and were solid in midfield. Solid enough to keep their goal intact and claim all three points.
As it was a high noon kick-off, we were up by six and all aboard the fun bus by 0645. With it being a Sunday, there was no point stopping off anywhere so we were in St Andrew's just after eleven to claim the last two bottles of Peaky Blinders Gold. There wasn't much to discuss selection-wise, as the same starting XI was announced, so we caught up with a couple of Bishop Lads exiled in the south west (ish). Finding our seats was interesting, as we didn't. The stewards didn't know which blocks were, probably because they weren't at the Ricoh, and informed us that it was unallocated seating. Not the first time Cov have pulled that stupid stunt on us. Look, if you're dealing with a couple of hundred folks, fair enough, but a full end of 3,300 fans? Give over. The spirit of Hill lives on. Complaints will be made.
By way of being unpleasant, the Cov fans who occupied one quarter of the ground had unfurled that banner depicting their cheating former chairman, which drew the sort of songs from us that will probably be described as unsavoury...but raised a smile or two.
O'Nien Willis Ozturk Flanagan Hume
Maguire Wyke Gooch
It was a bit of s strange set-up, with us filling one end, Cov the side to our right, and nobody in the other two stands. Weird.
The home side started proceedings towards the visiting fans, who were in fine voice...but we failed to get the ball over the halfway line and showed the same defensive frailty on our left as Tuesday night, and when we didn't get a foot on it, Godden had time to take aim and fire past McLaughlin from just inside the box. Two minutes. Two bloody minutes, and for the next five we struggled to get hold of the ball and establish our shape.
Once we did that, the contest evened out and Wyke banged a volley just wide after winning the tussle for a loose ball and breaking forward. We started to get the ball out wide and use Hume's pace on the left and O'Nien's on the right, but saw our balls into the box well covered.
A deep free kick by Maguire picked out Flanagan at the back post, but instead if cushioning the volley, he side-footed it over the bar. Head, Tom, head.The game was going at a canny old pace, with tackles flying in from both sides, and while it looked a bit tasty, it stayed just the right side of the law. Usually.
On the half hour, we won another corner, with the decision so incensing their keeper that he punched the ball away in the huff and was booked. Silly boy - no time-wasting antics later on for you. Maguire's cross found the head of Wyke, but the effort went a foot the wrong side of the bar.
A couple of minutes before the scheduled break, Gooch and Hume worked it nicely down the left, but couldn't get the better of the last line of the home defence. I think there were a couple of minutes added, but the PA was very muffled, I missed the fourth official's board, and didn't realise there was a Git Big scoreboard to our left. We won another corner, they shot across the face of goal, and the whistle went.
Overall, we probably had just the better of the half, but crucially hadn't woken up until Cov were ahead. McLaughlin had made a couple of comfortable saves and we'd won a handful of corners to Cov's one. Bring on the second half, and while you're at it, despite the black clouds, water the pitch.
No changes for the second half, and we started off in positive fashion, although the early shouts were for home penalties. On both occasions it was Willis against their captain Kelly, but both incidents looked like cases of Kelly hoying himself to the ground. He had a chance to make up for that when we didn't fully clear a corner, but after being allowed what seemed like an age to tee himself up, he carefully placed it ten feet wide of the post.
The rain, naturally, hoyed itself down for a while and made the surface a bit fast, with a few passes from both sides zipping ahead of their intended targets.
On the hour we worked hard to give Dobson space for a shot, but a Coventry heel deflected it for another corner, keeping Maguire busy in the dead ball department.
Hume was replaced by Lafferty on 70, with Gooch forsaking this runs across behind Wyke to become the left wing back. Big Kyle immediately became a target for our midfield. One such pass was well brought down and played out to the right, but when the cross found Wyke unmarked on the penalty spot, the header was downward, like they're supposed to be, but too close to the keeper.
We had a couple of hopeful penalty shouts, when Gooch was forced to the ground and O'Nien seemingly pulled back, but the players didn't make much of either claim.
With about fifteen minutes to go, Gooch brought it down the left and eventually found Power lurking outside the box. His low strike took a deflection then, with the keeper already going the wrong way, hit O'Nien and went in. Luke was clearly offside, but there was no flag and the ref signalled a goal, sparking furious protests from the home side. As they converged on the linesman, Lafferty got involved, with my lip-reading skills discerning the words "gie that, pal, and ahl shove that flag up yer jacksie." The ref eventually conferred with the liner, who either claimed that the sun was in his eyes, or that it might have touched a defender on the way through.
Whatever they said, the ref changed his mind - the correct decision, but still a bit of a bugger when you've looked at the liner before doing the mad celebration routine with some strangers. Damn.
A couple of minutes later we replaced Willis (who'd been booked since noon by the home fans) with Semanyo when many would have preferred to see Flan get the beers in, as some of his second-half passing and decision making had been....well, not too clever.
There followed ten minutes of them battling to keep us out and occasionally hitting us on the break, which gave us some scary moments as Oz and Flan chased back desperately to cover. Three added minutes were announced (I heard the mumble and looked at the scoreboard), we desperately tried to fashion an equaliser, but the closest we got was Gooch hammering a shot against a defender's legs. They brought on a sub, the ref played on another twenty seconds, and it was over.
Man of the Match? As the lad behind me had referred to every player apart from Maguire and McLaughlin was utter dog excrement several times, you'd think I'd take his lead. Maguire did indeed have a lot of the ball, and took all seven of our corners as well as the free kicks in the opposition half. I thought Dobson did well, probably because the only gave it away the once when others did it more often.