Fan’s View 23/24 – No.29: Coventry away

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, January 7th, 2024  



We were always the underdogs coming into this cup tie. Their form in the Championship is better than ours is in L1. Unlike us they don’t have a horrendous injury list.

My main hope was that the Sky Blue thinking would be sod this competition, we’ll put out our second team and see what they can do as our one and only objective is top six then promotion to the land of milk, honey and billions of pounds.

None of that from them, they did the competition proud putting out their strongest team. And what a team that was. They were light years ahead of us.

If our ambition is genuinely to get into the Championship and become a top 30 club which would mean we need to be set up on and off the field to stay there, we need a bloody good re-think of how we’re going to achieve that.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been dicked by Championship opposition this season. Bristol City 5 Oxford United 1 in the first round of the League Cup. We might have only gone down 2-0 in the same competition at Loftus Road two season ago but I thought the gulf in class on that day was noticeable too, although not to the extent here.

Coventry got out of L1 in the 2019/20 season. They were unbeaten from 21 December onwards. They’d looked the real deal. Last season Ipswich most certainly fell into that same category. In fact most shrewd L1 observers had concluded that was the path they were on after the January transfer window of the campaign before. We’re not where either of these two were.

Bad as it feels at the moment best not to give up on the season but to remember that Wycombe had 20/21 in the Championship and Burton had two seasons there fairly recently. Or think of the yoyo Millers.

Money dictates and football fans have to put up with that or give up. If the money men decide they can make a few quid by showing the game somewhere in the world on TV at 12:30 pm GMT instead of the traditional 3 o’clock then that’s what will happen. Truthfully that wasn’t much hardship in this case as Coventry isn’t far away.

The 9:55 from Bicester North had more Oxford fans on board than any other demographic and when we had to switch to a train with far fewer carriages to complete the second leg of the journey from Leamington to Coventry Arena it was rammed. I think some trying to get on board at the main station in the city were unable to do so. The return journey if anything was even worse. You think they’d put bigger trains on to ferry fans away from sporting events. That should be a given if the desire to get people off the roads is genuine.  Let’s please get it right around the Triangle and Oxford Parkway.

It might have been an early kick-off but I still managed a quick pint in the Brewhouse Bar at Byatt’s brewery. On Saturday it opened from 9:30. When I went there last time we played Coventry it wasn’t that busy but the word must have spread. This time it was swarming with home fans and just a handful of Yellows. Beer was very reasonably priced. The Easy Pale Ale was very drinkable but I couldn’t do it justice as the cold I’m just getting over has somewhat numbed my taste buds.

Chatting to a couple of home supporters in this establishment I wished them a pleasant day, except for the football of course. Although I did add that I suspected they would be happier than me when the final whistle blew.

Some might accuse me of being overly pessimistic but I’d argue that I had used realism to arrive at that state of mind.

When I saw our starting line-up that pessimism only deepened. That pessimism though was only with regard to which team would be playing in round four. As long as we set up with what we had available to make it difficult for Coventry to play and gave it a go as best we could in the circumstances I would have been satisfied to a fair degree. I don’t think we did either of these to be honest.

Being without your no.1 keeper and main centre-half doesn’t help. That dilutes the strength of the spine running through the middle of your team.

When James Beadle signed for us in June last year it was on “a season long loan” from Brighton. At the time Liam Manning said “He’s tall, athletic, commands his area and is a modern keeper who distributes the ball really well.” The talk/rumour (call it what you will) as we waited for the train was that the Premier League side wanted him back to immediately send him out on loan to a Championship outfit (Sheffield Wednesday?). There is almost always a recall clause but these are glossed over when a player comes in. You want them to be successful but when that happens they’re off. Beadle came in under our previous manager. That may be factor. Manning was right about his height, athleticism and distribution but I’d have to disagree on command of the area.

Our current manager’s comments that “It’s a sign, but we’ve got things in hand with James. I can’t speak more on it at the moment, but there’s nothing done with him in that space yet. We’re covered should anything in that space move.” Doesn’t tell us much. What can he say though?

With the ball at his feet and not under immediate pressure there’s no doubt that Beadle is a footballer. This is indeed the modern way and was (is) very much an integral part of the way we’ve played this season. He’s been the eleventh outfield player, albeit a very deep one of course.

By contrast Easty is a dinosaur in goal-keeping terms. That’s not a criticism of him per se. He’s 34 years old. The art of goal-keeping when he was coming through as a lad was very different to what it is today. Coaches now want kids/youth not to start out as keepers but to be converted a few years after they started playing football so that they know what it is to be comfortable with the ball at their feet. Joe Hart didn’t last long at Manchester City when Pep Guardiola came in.

The game had hardly begun when the ball was played back to our keeper. I yelled “That’s not Beadle in goal you know”. Did we know what we were doing, or trying to do? Had we thought about playing differently with a different last line of defence? Perhaps we’ve just not got the players available to do anything much.

Eastwood has been made something of a scapegoat by some of our fans which to me is unfair. I actually thought he made some decent saves, in the second half in particular, to keep the score from being even more embarrassing than it was.

Elliott Moore’s contract with us runs until June 2025. The talk/rumour at half time was that he’s off to Plymouth. Des’s comments on our captain are more reassuring “I can 100 per cent confirm that Elliott is absent with illness. I’ve heard there’s a trigger in his contract, which isn’t true – he has no trigger. There’s no interest that’s come across my desk or the recruitment desk”. Moore is a mainstay of our team but I’m not sure he’s mobile enough for the Championship.

I actually thought the whole Coventry team looked more athletic than ours. At the break I commented that none of our players, even the better ones who I’ve rated highly, looked to be Championship standard. “Cameron Brannagan?” someone asked. Possibly, but not really. I didn’t think he was getting the right weight on some of his passes.

Coventry got at us from the first second and only took eight minutes to get the lead. Conceding from a corner has become such a common theme. Joel Latibeaudiere was credited with the goal. Whatever it was it was scrappy with there being as much chance of it being an own goal as anything else. Lots of players were probably culpable. Eastwood did nothing meaningful.

“1-0 on your big day out” the Coventry fans predictably sang. The FA Cup meant something to them. Even when they were many goals to the good they wanted more. We had to sit (or stand) and take it.

It was a crazy opening period. Two minutes later we were level. Still only 10 mins had elapsed and we’d hitherto been nowhere near their goal. Kasey Palmer had the ball but Fin Stevens prevented him going anywhere until Brannagan took over. If this type of closing down and hassling had not been so infrequent, the score line would undoubtedly have ended up quite different. The tackle was timed to perfection getting the ball to Marcus McGuane who neatly moved it on to Mark Harris. He quickly got a shot away which had Ben Wilson flailing and failing to save rather than springing and keeping the shot out. I suspect if we’d got at the home team’s rear guard more often and with more purpose than we did we would have discovered that wasn’t the strongest section of their side.

The celebrations in our end from the 3000 travellers were quite wild but not from me. I applauded with pleasure, of course I did, but from what I’d already briefly witnessed I thought Coventry would inevitably play their way through sooner or later and find our net.

Even so no way did I expect us to have capitulated again immediately from the restart. Jordan Thorniley was beaten in a manner that had one wondering if he’d forgotten how to tackle or get a physical challenge in. Ellis Simms just walked round him and got into the box close to the by-line. We had more men around than they did but being switched on and marking was overlooked. It was easy for Ben Sheaf to bang home the cut back.

Six minutes later it got even worse. Palmer took the ball just inside our half. He turned and as he did so Josh McEachran slowed down and held his hands out in case heaven forbid he might foul the jolly good chap. Again try and get a ****ing tackle in. Want to win the bloody ball. Give it some blood and guts. This is the FA Cup. We’re from a division below.

Football is about skill and technique but that’s nothing without passion and desire, work rate and giving one’s all for the cause.

In this regard one player I was massively disappointed in was Ruben Rodrigues. I’ve previously lauded him for his sublime skills but with showings like this the credit he has in the bank has all but dwindled away. It has been suggested that he can do it against poor and average teams but not the better ones. The evidence is beginning to show that. At times it looks like he’s swanning around.

Everyone has to roll their sleeves up and put in a shift and a half in a game like this. I don’t want our players to be dirty but that doesn’t stop them getting stuck in in a fashion that is within the laws of the game. Perhaps we need to sit a lot of this current team in front of videos of Briggs and Shotton in their pomp.

Oh yes, back to Palmer and Coventry’s third. He got himself central to our goal and hit a worldie. Not blaming Eastwood for that.

Game over. Well, not quite. At the interval the score remained at 3-1. Just suppose we somehow managed to sneak another goal of our own and then only be one adrift?

Five minutes after the re-start it really was game over. Coventry were attacking and no matter how many players we had near the ball they always seemed able to play around us or through us with one of their men remaining unmarked. Palmer got a shot off but Ciaron Brown was a fraction late and went flying in to him. Being at the other end of the ground it’s not possible to see the details of the incident. Having seen the replay I wouldn’t waste my time trying to put a case together saying the penalty shouldn’t have been awarded. Callum O’Hare did that little skip jump thing before calmly side footing in with Easty dancing and diving to the spot kick takers tune.

Tyler Goodrham who’d replaced RR on 68 minutes brought a little spark and energy. It was he who pulled a goal back with 11 of the 90 minutes remaining. He picked up a corner that had only been half cleared in the D and at the second time of asking put away a low accurate right footer. His first effort being with his left.

It was game over though wasn’t it?  Yes of course it was. We let in another two before the conclusion. They just toyed with us and sub Matt Godden who had only come on in the 72nd minute got them both.

To make matter worse in the last minute of added time there was that horrendous injury to Stan Mills. You could see the lad was in unbearable pain immediately he went down with nobody near him after taking a shot. Play went on and even when the referee looked over he didn’t stop the game straight away. At that point I felt it time to leave. Gutted for the lad and all the best to him for a full and speedy recovery.

I hate losing. How many supporters don’t care if their team loses? But it doesn’t seem to bother some as much as others. A lot of it though is the manner of the defeats we suffer. I thought we were quite abysmal here. Am I being out of order? It has been pointed out to me Coventry spent £30m on transfers this summer and that puts them only behind the Championship clubs that are being bankrolled by parachute payments. Then there’s our injury list that now has the unfortunate Mills tacked on the end. So perhaps it can be reined in a bit but it would be unwise to ignore the problems that were evident here.

Positives? Really. My mate always says so what are the positives? My initial response was there are none but there probably always will be a crumb or two under the table of defeat. Mark Harris found the back of the net again. This was a cup game which meant our league fixture with Barnsley was postponed and will now be played in about a fortnights time when fingers crossed we’ll have some of those injured players back. What we had at the Coventry Building Society Arena I don’t think would have got anything against the Tykes.

So on to Carlisle next Saturday who have only won one of their last 11 league games.

First though there’s the Bristol Street Motors match at The Cherry Red Records Stadium. Unlike the one we’ve just been dumped out of this is a competition we should have a chance of winning. I’m trying to work out if I care.

Much may have changed before the next FV.

Transfers in and out?

Planning application in or more silence?

Oh, another positive. Liam Sercombe 2 Pompey 1. Just seven points behind the leaders with a game in hand now.

Drums at football. No thanks



This entry was posted on Sunday, January 7th, 2024 at 11:54 pm and appears under Export, News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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