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Monday, December 08, 2008

Coventry Preview

In a season where nothing has gone right, it somehow seems appropriate that we have to travel all the way to the Blackpool lights, play in front of a meagre 6,000 people, lose the game to the Seasiders and sunk to rock bottom in the table at 10 to 5. And we can't say it wasn't expected, even with all the optimistic talk before hand. And it feels a bit like those Second World war submarine films where the anxious crew are watching the depth gauge going past their maximum depth until finally, to everyones relief, the sub hits the bottom and they're all still alive. Because its all a bit of a relief to know we can't go any lower, at least for another 5 months...
Hopefully on the long trip home plans were being made to cope with the next hurdle and get us out of this mess by achieving the seemingly impossible task of actually winning a game.
And who better to give us a few tips on achieving the escape act than the most famous houdini club, Coventry. Back in the last century, the only thing that the Sky Blues were famous for (apart from that Cup Final) was their perpetual fight against relegation which sadly ended after 34 consecutive years in 2001. Gordon Strachan, now enjoying life much more in Glasgow, was in charge then and not able to cope with the shame, left a few months later. Since then they've had no less than eleven managers - OK, 5 were caretakers - before Chris Coleman's arrival last February.
As a probable consequence of so many managerial upheavals, finance at last ran out late last year but they were fortunate to find a saviour at the eleventh hour, when, just 30 minutes away from administration, with its impending 10 point penalty, millionaire ex-footballer Ran Ranson casting around for a club to buy, came to the rescue in December 2007 and took over the club.
He's now Chairman and shortly after he arrived there was the inevitable change in management. Iain Dowie was shown the door in another short-lived employment and Chris Coleman, still only 38, took over. Coleman had been in northern Spain working to revive the just relegated Real Sociedad. Employed on the recommendation of living legend, in San Sebastian anyway, John Toshack in July 2007 and tasked with taking them straight back to La Liga after relegation the previous month. He had just 6 months in San Sebastian and promotion back to La Liga was looking harder to achieve than he perhaps thought so three days after leaving Spain he was installed as Coventry boss.
As for the Sky Blues, last seasons flirtation with relegation appeared to have been solved and they started the season well with two wins at home to Norwich and away at Barnsley but its been pretty much downhill since then. Four defeats on the road, at Doncaster (0-1), Cardiff (1-2), Wolves (1-2) and most recently Reading (1-3). But after looking forward to the poor home form of Blackpool with no result, perhaps we should be wary of Coventry because their only two wins in the last eleven games were away at Birmingham and Wednesday both with 1-0 scorelines; two of the 5 occasions that they have stopped the opposition from scoring.

Form Guide Similar to Blackpool with only 2 wins in the last 8 games but after only 8 goals scored in the last 10 games, they improved by getting a couple at the weekend in the 2-2 home draw with Forest.

Who They Got? The Maltese mosquito, number 17, is Michael Mifsud who scored both of Coventry goals against us last season and after scoring just once this season will be more than eager to play against a team at the bottom of the table. And there's the troublesome number 10 Freddy Eastwood on two goals. But after Blackpool with 8 loanees, Coventry are completing lacking in any.

And Coventry appears to becoming a neo-Irish stonghold with 5 internationals although not all are Irish. Manchester-born goalkeeper Keiren Westwood - an old mate of Nicky Weaver from Man. City days - is one and made his international debut in May because of an Irish grandmother and Clinton Morrison also wears the green because of his grandmother. There's a real irishman in number 8 Michael Doyle from Dublin and number 21, last season player of the year, Jay Tabb, also wears irish green although born in not very Irish Tooting.


Leading goalscorer and captain is number 19, ex-Palarse and Birmingham, and Irish international, Clinton Morrison, with 7 in all games but it took him a while to adjust to fizzy football and he didn't score till late October but now with 5 fizzy goals in the last 9 games... Once a 4.5M buy by Birmingham, he's playing his first season at Coventry.
What's Their Secret? After last seasons relegation fight Coventry are among a host of clubs whose first priority is to get to half-time drawing, Coventry have done it 10 times out of 21 with the Addicks only 6 out of 21. But they like to score first and only 5 teams in the fizzies have gone in front more times than Coventry, 11 out of 21, but this conceals a soft centre as they then find it hard to hold a lead and this was aptly displayed on Saturday as the twice went ahead against Forest only to concede two equalisers.

And like a surprising number of teams - 10 in all - us included, they have still not won after going behind. But they do have a sting in the tail and have scored more goals in the last 5 minutes of games than in any other five minute spell with 6 goals being scored at the death.

What're They saying? Probably the most disheartening thing about the weekends result was the Parky's remark afterwards, "I can't dress it up, we got beat today by the better side." If Blackpool are better than us then we really do have problems.

Meanwhile Chris Coleman bemoaning injuries and lack of playing staff, told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire: "We are putting square pegs in round holes. We know the balance is not great and that needs to be put right."

History Coventry will hardly be looking forward to the Valley, a ground where they have only won once in 15 visits, a 2-1 win on 18th February 1967. Since then there have been 6 consecutive draws before our 4-1 success last May. We're not much better at their place so overall, ignoring 3 FA Cup games, its 10-9 to them with no less than 11 draws.

Team News Every job has its own terminology and one of the most annoying football ones, because we don't know what it means, is "he picked up a slight niggle". It happened to Todorov before the game at the weekend and his place on the bench was taken by Dickson so we don't know if Todorov can be expected to add a bit of class to tomorrow or not.

But surely a major faux pas was made by the Addicks management in the recent dealings with Derby. More obsessed by a full-back problem than a striker one, we got a full-back when we should really have swapped a striker for a striker and loaned Liam Dickinson for a month in exchange for Luke. And of course it was the ex-Derby man, incensed by our giving Luke to Derby, who was the main difference on Saturday.

Cranie may be left out of Tuesday due to his dislocated shoulder sustained over the weekend, giving right-back spot to Moutaouakil and perhaps giving a home debut to young Waghorn.
Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Fortune, McEveley; Gillespie, Semedo, Bailey, Bouazza; Gray, Burton.
Subs: Elliot, Holland, Dickson, Todorov, Waghorn. (Loanees in red)

Prediction With Pardew getting 1 point from his last 3 games in charge but with 6 goals scored, Parky, despite adding to the strikeforce, has the same number of points from his first three games but with only 1 goal scored. Less goals conceded and improved performances may be a bonus but goals and points must be got this week or the writing will surely be on the wall for Parky. Although lets be honest, a draw these days is the most we can expect, so as they are so common against the Sky Blues, 1-1 it is.

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