It was an early start for Will and I and Will picked me up at just after nine to travel north. We had to stop off at Will’s brother’s pub The Oak in Baginton to pick up our tickets. Chris had arranged to take his wife; Gail to Crufts at the NEC so was not joining us. It was an opportunity to grab a much needed egg and bacon sandwich but unfortunately for Will he was unable to join me for one as he had been somewhat indisposed in the night with an upset stomach. So as not to be indelicate I’ll leave it at that as the reason why my mate declined such a treat as I devoured mine with great relish. 😀
We set off for the Ricoh Arena which was not far of course but as those of you that know who have been there, the parking is a good walk from the ground but I told Will the fresh air would do him good 🙂
We got in just as the teams had kicked off. It was 4-4-2 for us with Myhill in goal, Ramage at right back, Caldwell and Davies in the centre and Spector at left back. The midfield comprised of Burke, N’Daw, Fahey and Townsend with Huseklepp and King up front. Zigic, Mutch, Elliot, Doyle and Ibanez made up the bench. I’m afraid to say that the game was not a good one overall and lacked tempo which meant that the struggling Coventry team were not put under enough pressure and were given far too much time and space to play; not that they were really capable of exploiting it so poor was some of their distribution and touch. Although we were a little better at keeping it Coventry’s game plan was clearly to stifle us and then try and nick one if they could. It so nearly worked for them and we have Marlon King to thank for rescuing a point in the end.
The home side threatened first when Jonathan Spector fouled Carl Baker and Gary McSheffrey shot narrowly over with the subsequent 25-yard free-kick. Apart from this Coventry offered almost nothing and should have been there for the taking but Blues failed to capitalise on a series of corners. Unfortunately, we have not been good this season at scoring from set pieces and too many of Townsend’s deliveries were headed easily away. The Spurs loanee did however cause the Coventry defenders trouble with his quick, clever feet and pace down the left wing. The wide pitch and excellent surface should have suited Blues but I felt we failed to use our wide players often enough against such limited opponents. Twenty-one minutes had elapsed and Townsend skipped round Jordan Clarke and got to the by-line. Just as the winger was about to deliver the cross he was tackled from behind and was felled. The referee waved away the penalty appeals. I was up the other end of the ground so am not able to say whether the award should have been given but it did look suspicious given that Townsend had beaten the defender all ends up and was past him; it is almost impossible to win the ball cleanly from behind in this situation so I suspect Blues were badly done to there. It took until the 35 minutes before Blues had their first worthwhile attempt on goal when Erik Huseklepp shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box. For Coventry, Baker shot across the goal towards the far post but Caldwell was on hand to clear comfortably just before the break which frankly couldn’t come soon enough as a stultifying tedious half was brought mercifully to a close.
The second half was better with once again Blues having the better of the exchanges but lacking penetration and guile to break down a resolute, muscular unyielding Coventry back line. Our play still lacked tempo and we played at a pace that clearly suited the home side. Blues resorted to long range efforts and one from Chris Burke nearly caught Joe Murphy out in the Coventry goal but he did enough to claw the effort away from danger. Nikola Zigic came on as substitute on the hour and should have done better with an excellent cross from Townsend. In attempting to head the ball back from where it came he forgot to direct it on goal and the chance from what was a free header sailed four feet wide. Another header at the back post was a little closer but still no breakthrough.
As the final quarter of the game began the inevitable happened when Coventry took the lead against the run of play as whom else, Gary McSheffrey was on hand to loop a back post header over the helpless Myhill into the net. Where his marker, Ramage was, is anybody’s guess but it was a free, easy header with all the time in the world to execute the finish. The disruptions to the back four have not helped of late and this abysmal piece of defending demonstrated the problem all too clearly. I hope that Murphy at least can return soon even if Stephen Carr remains doubtful for a while; it will at least mean that Spector can revert to right back.
Now if our defending for the concession of Coventry’s goal was bad, that witnessed two minutes later by the home side was comical. Peter Ramage’s long throw from the right evaded everyone in the area and bounced up towards the waiting Marlon King six yards out. Now picture this conversation between our hero and the Coventry defenders:
Coventry Defender: Hey mate, lovely day innnit? How about a cuppa?
Marlon King: Thanks mate milk and two please.
Coventry Defender: No problem mate, would you like a biscuit with that?
Marlon King: Arrh, don’t mind if I do.
Coventry Defender: Here you go mate, enjoy!
Marlon King: Arrh, that’s a smashing cuppa that and I love a dunkable biscuit me; chocolate hobnobs; thems me favourite!
Coventry Defender: Sorry we hadn’t got any of them but hope you like the shortbread ones.
Marlon King: Nah, don’t worry mate they’re smashing. Well there’s no peace for the wicked 😉 (finishing his tea) better get back to work or the gaffer’ll kill me.
King then acrobatically smashed home from close range with no defender near him! The 5,775 Bluenoses went wild and I thought this would spark us into action to finish the job off. Although Blues pushed hard for the winner they almost gifted the lead back to Coventry when sloppy defending allowed Oliver Norwood to get a shot off which grazed the far post with Boaz Myhill a spectator. A header from King came close as it rippled the wrong side of the net from a deep Burke cross. Just as the board for time added on was going up Mutch, a substitute for N’Daw ten minutes earlier, challenged for a header with Alex Nimely. I didn’t get the clearest view but it looked like an elbow in the Coventry player’s face to me and the young Blues midfielder can probably have little complaint for the inevitable red card that followed. The seven minutes of injury time had to be negotiated with ten men and Blues just had to make sure we didn’t lose the game. Wade Elliot immediately came on for King and we went one up front. Despite the adversity, Blues nearly scored a dramatic winner in the final minute of injury time when Burke put in a pacy cross into the corridor of uncertainty. Nikola Zigic was inches away from providing the final touch but alas the chance was gone.
The Good: My bacon and egg sandwich at the pub 🙂
The Bad: Will’s gut that precluded him from having one 🙁
The Ugly: The game to be honest; it was poor overall and this result has to be looked on as a bad one but I suppose we have to be grateful that it wasn’t ultimately worse. The challenge by Mutch was probably deserving of a red card and as it will be for violent conduct it means a three game ban for him. This is no bad thing given that Jordon Mutch has been off the boil for three or four matches with poor touch and distribution. A spell out the side may be exactly what he needs.
Coventry City: Joe Murphy 6, Richard Keogh , Sammy Clingan 7, Carl Baker 6 (Conor Thomas 81, N/A), Gary McSheffrey 7, Cody McDonald 5 (Clive Platt 62, 5), Martin Cranie 6, Oliver Norwood 6, Alex Nimely 6, Jordan Clarke 6, Nathan Cameron 7.
Subs not used: Chris Dunn, Gary Deegan, Cyrus Christie.
Bookings: Nimely 56 minutes
Goals: McSheffrey 70 minutes
Birmingham City: Boaz Myhill 6, Jonathan Spector 7, Curtis Davies 6, Steven Caldwell 6, Peter Ramage 5, Chris Burke 6, Guirane N’Daw 6 (Jordon Mutch 73, 4), Keith Fahey 7, Andros Townsend 7, Erik Huseklepp 6 (Nikola Zigic 61, 7), Marlon King 7 (Wade Elliott 90+1, N/A).
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Pablo Ibanez.
Goals: King 72 minutes
Sent off: Mutch 90 minutes
Referee: N Swarbrick: 7; I thought the referee performed well overall. The key decisions were correct in my view and he was well supported by his assistants. All the officials kept up with play although the players made it easy for them by hardly injecting any pace into the game all afternoon.
Attendance: 22, 240 (5,755 Blues fans – magnificent as ever despite having limited action to cheer about).