Coventry City 0 Blues 1 .. Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 01 November 2006

Nicklas Bendtner's first half goal was the difference between the sides in a game which brought the city of Coventry to a standstill as the locals turned up in their hordes to watch their illustrious neighbours from up the A45 - setting a record attendance for a league game at the stadium. This was assisted by Blues having more than 5,000 fans there too.

Following the victory over Albion, Steve Bruce was forced into one enforced change given that Damien Johnson had his jaw broken, removed and stamped on by Paul Robinson on Saturday. Neil Danns got the nod over Seb Larsson for the wide right berth, and otherwise Blues were unchanged.

You could tell that the stadium was purpose built for Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams concerts because it's acoustics were fairly impressive. Renditions of 'Keep Right On' by the Blues fans were quite inspiring, whilst many of the home fans who were also visiting the stadium for the first time made some noise too, showing that Coventry City FC were right to ask messrs Jovi and Adams if they could act as tenants during the cold winter months.

The game started at quite a pace, but there was a lack of any real clearcut chances. Stern John had a couple of poor long range efforts for the home side, whilst Cameron Jerome did similarly at the other end. If people think that sometimes Blues are guilty of playing 'hoofball', then blimey, they should watch Coventry. If ever there was a player designed for having the ball lumped up at his head, it was Kevin Kyle, and his teammates duly obliged. John and Leon McKenzie on the left at least offered a remote bit of skill to their attack.

Blues took the lead after 25 minutes following a good counter-attack. As Blues broke, Matt Sadler bombed forward from left-back and delivered a fine cross which was met with a downward by Bendtner. Bendtner actually turned away after the header, as it was initially saved by Andy Marshall in the Coventry goal, but the ball wriggled under the former Norwich 'keeper like a grub wriggling it's way through a pumpkin (Halloween Reference #1) and somehow found it's way into the back of the net. Sadler's part in the goal shouldn't be overlooked, and the Blues left-back was superb throughout the evening - his one first half tackle (winning the ball fairly) had to be seen to believed. It takes some going to injure a player when winning the ball fairly, simply because you went in so hard.

The remainder of the first half was played out much as it had been prior to Bendtner's strike. John continued to remind Blues fans that it wasn't all last-minute winners or equalisers with him by firing wide, again, whilst Fabrice Muamba did the same at the other end.

Coventry brought on 57 year old Don Hutchison at half-time and started the second half at quite a pace. Whilst they'd clearly had a bit of a talking to during the interval and had rallied themselves, Blues came out slower than the opening of a creaking door in a haunted house (Halloween Reference #2). McKenzie hit the post with a header as Coventry continued to lump balls up at Kyle and hope for the best. Kyle himself headed just wide from a corner too.

Much was made of Gary McSheffrey's return to Coventry and his attempt to haunt his former side (HR #3). McSheffrey was a hero in these parts - and not only because he could speak in sentences and spell his own name. However, as we all know, money changes everything, and once Blues had wasted enough of Coventry's fax paper (copyright Micky Adams, August 2006) to make them realise they needed some more so had better get some money in, he was sold faster than you could say 'Trick or Treat?' (HR #4) and so plenty of Coventry fans took to booing him tonight. (Plenty applauded him at the start too, and when he was substituted late on). Unfortunately there were very few tricks or treats from McSheffrey tonight, and he looked like he was trying too hard and probably had his poorest game in a Blues shirt. He can be forgiven though, I suppose.

As Coventry continued to lump balls forward, Blues finally settled down a little and began to look more and more dangerous on the break. Unfortunately Blues wasted opportunity after opportunity to make it 2-0. Jerome's finishing on one occasion was ghastly (HR #5), whilst too often the likes of Jerome, Bendtner and McSheffrey tried to bewitch (HR #6) the defenders themselves or try stupid long range shots to no effect when they should have been looking to play a teammate in. I lost count of the number of times that Blues had an extra man and failed to capitalise at 6 (counting's never been my forte), but there were probably more too. On one occasion that they did actually get a shot in, Marshall saved from Jerome.

Coventry brought on another former Blues striker in Dele Adebola for Kyle, and continued to pressure Blues without really creating anything, whilst the Blues forwards continued to break in numbers and mess around, be greedy and waste some great opportunities to kill the game off. As I say, Coventry had plenty of play, but seemed to run out of ideas late on in the game and only really came close again when John failed to connect with a ball over the top in stoppage time, prompting chants of 'There's only one Stern John!' from the Blues fans.

So, Blues held on and made it four wins in four, and three consecutive clean sheets in the league too. It was far from a vintage performance from Blues, but they did enough, and had the likes of Bendtner, Jerome, McSheffrey and even Larsson (in his brief cameo appearance) used the ball more effectively late on when Blues were hitting Coventry on the break, they could easily have added two or three more.

One thing you do have to say is that Blues have certainly gone back to their old 'in their faces' attitude - epitomised tonight by Fabrice Muamba who actually started slowly, but was a colossus by the end of the game. Stephen Clemence alongside him was again very effective, whilst Danns ran himself into the ground chasing the ball and closing people down in midfield. It's proving to be very effective for Blues again.

The fact is teams will create chances against you, and Coventry did - fair enough, it's going to happen. If Blues can keep up this type of game though, and keep things tight and even ride their luck slightly, then teams will tire against them (Derby ran out of gas, Albion ran out of gas, Coventry ran out of gas) and they have players who can really create chances against a tired team throwing everything at you. They failed to today (luckily they'd already got their goal), but if those mentioned had just been a bit more clinical with their final ball and their decision making, Blues could easily have scored four or five in the last 20 minutes.

It wasn't the greatest performance in the world, but it was effective, and it was the fourth game in a row in which you can say Blues have been effective. That's no bad thing, and with a few things to be worked on - especially making teams pay late on - the signs are there that Blues are beginning to play with a purpose, a game plan, a system and, most importantly, with winning football matches in mind.

Four wins in a row, including three tricky away games and a home game against Albion ain't bad, whatever you may think.

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