By Adam Raj
Defeat number 27 and counting for this embarrassment of a City squad finally put us all out of our misery.
The loss in Warwickshire has condemned us to League Two football next season. But let’s be honest, the writing has been on the wall ever since Michael Collins was appointed back in June and the last of the glass half full supporters chucked in the towel after hopeless defeats to Walsall, Oxford United and Bristol Rovers.
So today doesn’t actually feel as devastating as it should do. We’ve had plenty of time to get used to the idea.
City lined up in a 3-4-3 shape this afternoon, with Anthony O’Connor, Connor Wood and Ben Wilson coming into the side. In a season where formation bingo has become a regular occurrence, it’s vital we are able to keep a settled side and system next season if only to breed some sort of understanding between the players which has been non existent for the past 18 months.
City actually started the game the better of the two sides, and created a number of opportunities. Connor Wood with an early cross into the box which Coventry keeper Lee Burge spilt to Lewis O’Brien who smashed the ball straight back at the keeper who saved for a corner. Three minutes later and the impressive Sean Scannell went on a powerful run into the box, but saw his low shot saved well by Burge. The first ten minutes of the game were dominated by the Bantams, but as usual we failed to take our chances, too scared to shoot and always opting to take another touch. But the first ten minutes were as good as it got for the 600 travelling City fans this afternoon.
With their first attack of the game, ex Bantam Jordy Hiwula (shock) danced past Paul Caddis and then Paudie O’Connor to fire low under Wilson. Showing the composure in front of goal which he often lacked in his time with us, he celebrated by letting the City fans know exactly what he thinks of us, just to add to the misery.
The goal, as usual killed the game for City and gave Coventry a huge lift. They went close again in the twelfth minute through George Thomas, who saw his shot blocked, and again four minutes later through man of the match Bright Enobakhare, an inspired January signing from Wolves, who’s shot hit the outside of the post. Then the ever reliably disaster ridden Nathaniel Knight-Percival got booked twice in the space of ten minutes for two ridiculous challenges and that was that.
A few weeks ago at Charlton, it took only 30 minutes for the olés to start from the stands, today it only took 28. Coventry were all over us, silky pass and move football opening us up at will. Flicks and tricks were out in full force from a Coventry side fully confident the game was won. It was an arrogant performance, which you would expect to spark a reaction from the side on the receiving end, even if it meant flying in with a few late challenges, having a few choice words with opposing players, whatever, something. But no, this spineless bunch just laid there and took it.
Not an ounce of fight, they treated it as if it was a meaningless preseason friendly. Whilst I have previously stated this lot had given up weeks ago, today’s body language from the majority was appalling.
The second half, predictably, was one-way traffic. Coventry were able to push right back Dujon Sterling into an advanced position which meant Scannell virtually played as a right back for the second half, nullifying any attacking threat that we had. The home side, at walking pace, created chance after chance and Hiwula was guilty of missing two sitters. That was until Liam Kelly played a fantastic ball over a sleeping defence (shock, again) to an unmarked Enobakhare in the box who fired home two minutes from time.
There was still time for George Miller to be presented with a great chance in stoppage time, only for him to dawdle on the ball and eventually curl the ball high and wide with the goal gaping. The final whistle blew and thankfully we have been put out of our misery.
When Gary Bowyer embarks on his huge summer rebuild, it’s of massive importance that we sign not only talented players but also leaders. When Paul Caddis was substituted today, he took the armband off and looked who to give it to, only to see former captains Anthony O’Connor and Josh Wright turn their heads away and hide. The only one to stand up was the 21-year-old on loan Leeds United centre half Paudie O’Connor, who took on the responsibility. I for one would welcome him back next season from what I have seen so far.
And to be fair to Josh Wright, he played fairly well today. He looked like a player with a point to prove and someone who was fighting for his future, despite still being under contract. It’s just a shame he didn’t feel the need to produce this level of performance in the first part of the season. Maybe if he and others played with that fire, for the whole season, we wouldn’t find ourselves in the basement division.
Today’s fixture against Coventry, another club where fans are at war with the owners, should at least provide us with some hope for the future. Two years ago, on our last visit to the Ricoh Arena the Sky Blues were the ones destined for the drop after only recently appointing current manager Mark Robins. They went down, rebuilt the squad, got promoted at the first opportunity and now find themselves fighting for a play off place in League One – that must be the target for us next season.
Gary Bowyer must be given the backing to give us a successful squad which we can be proud of and connect with. 13,000 season tickets sold for next season shows how loyal this fan base is – and the majority have signed up with the hope of having a promotion to celebrate next May.