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Question of the WeekWho will finish bottom?
The Elusive W
By: Andrew Doherty
DRAINED of hope and any form of expectation, 878 Town fans still turned out in a crowd of 8,755 at the impressive Ricoh Arena. Today's opponents Coventry have had their setbacks: from an FA Cup winning Premier league team to division 2, ownership issues, ground problems and a common link in Russell Slade.
The Grim Reaper couldn't have done a better job than Russell Slade. Coventry are now looking at the play-offs and are on the up. Town are not.
Town's end of season trialists amounted to: McKeown - Davies, Mills, Collins, Fox - Dembele, McAllister, Woolford, Clifton - McSheffrey, Wilks. One thing which Mr Jolley has introduced is a fluid formation, based on supporting units rather than rigid positional play and so we did at various points have the sight of Dembele at left back, Mills and Fox up front and McSheffrey all over the park influencing play.
Coventry started brightly with McNulty scuffing a shot wide after 4 minutes before Bayliss linked up with the same player for another chance. Where Coventry's hallmark was fluidity, with Town it was endeavour and following good work to keep play going from McSheffrey, Town won a corner on 6 minutes. McAllister committed a foul which led to a Coventry free-kick from 30 yards but Bayliss fired it straight at McKeown. Town responded and won a corner from the clearance but the attack broke down after what seemed a failed training ground move from the corner. Town put in plenty of effort but Wilks and others were guilty of poor touches, making life easier for Coventry's resolute defence. Coventry were the more skilful side and on 25 minutes attacked again. Woolford cleared but Dembele was almost caught out dithering on the edge of Town's penalty area. A good run from Grimmer found the unmarked McNulty on 31 minutes but the Coventry striker was unable to capitalise. Town huffed and puffed, and Wilks won a corner soon afterwards. Mills's header from McSheffrey's corner was good but the defence was alert and it was cleared off the line. Good work by Collins launched another Town attack but Dembele lost possession. Bayliss then miscued a shot for Coventry before a handball gave the home side a free kick. As the ball came out to the right, Mills was adjudged to have fouled the Coventry player. Shipley's free-kick from the corner found Vincenti who in spite of a number of Town defenders around him managed a solid header past McKeown. Coventry 1, Grimsby 0. The pattern of play continued as it had been before the goal. Town found themselves repelling attacks and floundered in their own build-up. Town's midfield were working hard to win balls and start attacks but the combination of poor touches in the final third and resolute defence left Town with scraps. The second half was always going to be an uphill battle.
The second half started with two runs up the right by Dembele. Sandwiched between them was a wild shot from a Coventry player. McSheffrey then intercepted the ball following a rare Coventry defensive mistake. Town pressed and pressed but finally the promising move ended when McAllister's shot from outside the box drifted past the post. Coventry went back on the offensive and McDonald went close with a header. McSheffrey then started a Town attack with good work and supplied Woolford, who was dispossessed in Coventry's half. Coventry took advantage by flying up the field in numbers. Clarke-Harris's perfectly weighted pass from the left found McNulty who struck it home on 55 minutes: Coventry 2, Grimsby 0. Mr Jolley then made a triple substitution with Vernon, Berrett and Jaiyesimi coming on for Wilks, McAllister and Woolford. Jaiyesimi almost had an immediate impact, setting up Clifton after a run but Clifton fired high and wide. Coventry passed well and were playing with confidence. McNulty had another shot but this one went wide. The Town substitutions seemed to have a negative effect with a weakened midfield as Coventry were on the ascendancy. On 70 minutes Town had an opportunity when Haynes miscued a clearance, and Vernon was able to go round the goalkeeper. Vernon's angle was too tight and although he managed to cross a curling ball into a dangerous position, there was no Town player to follow it up. Town had lost momentum, and were reduced to unsuccessful trickery by Dembele, who soon after captured the deteriorating performance with a misplaced pass out of play. Coventry had another chance on 73 minutes when a through pass evaded Mills and found Clarke-Harris who extracted a good save from McKeown. From the resultant corner, Coventry hit the bar but with Town's defence mesmerised, McNulty was on hand to convert the rebound. Coventry 3, Grimsby 0. McKeown was forced to make another good save two minutes later. Coventry were now rampant as the sky blue shirts dominated the field. Town just looked demoralised. McSheffrey was caught offside twice. Town posed no threat and didn't look like scoring, unlike Coventry who were purposeful and fluent in their attacks. On 85 minutes Biamou appealed for a penalty, claiming he was brought down, but Coventry followed this up with another attack and run from the same player. Collins was alert and neutralised the threat. But Coventry pressed on, and good work on the left from Reid saw Town spread. Reid's cross found McNulty who volleyed home into the top left corner for his hat trick. By the end, it was a procession and Town's players and supporters were dispirited. So it ended: Coventry City 4, Grimsby Town 0.
There are only so many ways that you can describe poor performance. Andy Humbo told me in one of his grammatical moments that underperforming means performing less well than expected. I've come to expect nothing with Town but they still managed to disappoint today. In the end this was a calamitous capitulation. We could hide behind the fact that until the substitutions around the 60 minute mark we had been competing in midfield but we were already 0 - 2 down and as usual didn't look like scoring. We don't seem capable of breaking down defences. Wilks was poor. Vernon tried but the Coventry goalkeeper was only tested twice over 90 minutes. Dembele posed little threat and seemed intent on doing something difficult when the simple option was better. The defence withstood some pressure but was too static. Town were caught out by a Coventry team, which had more chances, more skill and more speed. The midfield combination of McSheffrey, who was the pick of the bunch, McAllister and Woolford was an effective formula for a while although it was a Woolford who made the mistake leading to Coventry's second goal. Mr Jolley seems intent on trying out everyone but as we all knew already, there's not much there. I do like the way Town press, at least when they're motivated to do so, and interchange positions so it's not a fixed formation, but this campaign is only going to be saved if we start scoring goals. I honestly can't see good things happening. We lost our way today after competing with a superior side but at least we ignored our weaknesses for a while. But it's hard to see past Relegation Street right now.
The Americans talk in their sporting circles of the next W. For Town it's a letter with no practical application. We're still looking and I'm not holding much hope of us finding it.
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