Coventry is never a nice experience even for the hardiest of supporter, so great news that they are moving to a new stadium soon. Hopefully we wont have to visit that ****hole again, although I bet the new one isn't as near the decent pubs! Sunday's visit was of course worth it for the result alone. On balance Town probably shaded the game, and dominated in the second half, even if they never actually scored more than the opposition themselves. Town's starting line-up looked strong and positive from the off, and the chances were soon coming for Bent, Kuqi and Bowditch. Unfortunately the home side were also pressuring, and it was they who had the biggest opportunity to get ahead in the first half via a penalty given for an ambitious yet honest tackle in the box by Diallo. He'd stretched high for the ball but there was only a hint of contact, but no doubt about the contact he made with the player. Fortune favoured the Tractor Boys though, as the spot kick was at a good height for stand-in Lewis Price to save well inside the post. The opening goal seemed to be coming. It could've fallen to any of our forwards, and immediately following the pen Bowditch came close by hitting the bar from 25 yards. As it was the half finished scoreless. In the second half Town's superiority showed for a period during which we should've scored at least once before the opener actually came, Kuqi with the most glaring miss when through one-on-one with the 'keeper, shooting straight into his body. Eventually a chance was taken when Bent chased down the right wing and put in a deep cross which evaded all but Bowditch who rifled an easy effort into the roof of the net at the far post. The lead only lasted for 7 minutes though, and Coventry were back on terms through a nicely worked goal, Suffo being put clear through a split defence before he chipped the advancing Price. Nice goal, aided perhaps by some sleepy defending, again. The winner looked less and less likely, but the game did not finish level thanks to a howler of an own goal by Matt Mills, on loan from Southampton. Bent half-chased down the defender about 35 yards out, but with plenty of space it looked pointless. However, Mills sidefooted the ball first time past the 'keeper as he ran out to meet the ball, and it curled nicely into the net. It was exactly what Shefki Kuqi should've done with his earlier miss. You couldn't help but feel for the young player who looked as though he wanted the ground to swallow him up. An unfortunate way to win the game in one respect, but we got 3 points and are now level at the top of the table, so who cares!
On paper a draw was not a bad result against a team at the top of the table before and after the game. After all, draws against Reading are becoming a habit, but I can't help being disappointed with just a point from this game. The teams were reasonably well matched from the start, and the opener could've easily come from Reading, end to end stuff maybe. Thankfully Shefki was the man to seize the moment and put Town ahead though, carving out an opportunity almost out of nothing when he closed down their defence and just nicked the ball from the grasp of the 'keeper, keeping his cool really well to step past him and slot the ball home into the empty net from an angle. It didn't take Reading long to cotton onto our occassional defensive frailties though and more importantly that Town were down to 10 men with De Vos off the pitch having treatment, and soon after equalised when a hotly debated onside-offside through ball put Kitson in a one-on-one situation. He too remained cool to put it just inside the post. It was harsh on Town given that De Vos, arguably our best current defender was off the pitch at the insistence of the referee. For the rest of the match Reading faded slightly and Town pressed more and more. Unfortunately Shefki seemed to have lost his touch as the game went on, squandering numerous chances, that said he never slowed down for a moment, and often got into those scoring opportunities through his own hard work. One other notable event was the half time substitution of Kelvin Davis, replaced by Lewis Price after straining his back. Price did have work to do and pulled off some good saves. It was our glut of missed chances that made this draw a disappoinment for me, but on reflection and seeing other results, it's not bad at all.
I knew Plymouth had played some good football this season already, but with Town needing to bounce back from a humbling defeat in the League Cup I didn't expect that the newcomers to the league would be 2 nil up after 13 minutes! But, that's the position we found ourselves in after Plymouth came out of their corner fighting right from the off. They deserved their early lead too, at times seemingly pouring forward and opening up our defence at will, it was clear that Town's rearguard needed to wake up quickly before the visitors put the game beyond reach. The defence were to blame for both of the goals conceded, the first a complete mess up at the back post as a cross came in and the second, a terrible back-header from Kevin Horlock straight into the path of the advancing Plymouth striker. Thankfully it wasn't too long before we pulled one back. It came via a powerful Jason De Vos header from a corner, the defender having missed a similar chance earlier on made no mistake the second time. It soon got got worse again though. Fabian Wilnis had already been mildly assaulted on 2 or 3 occasions before he was chopped down after the ball had gone out of play, but unfortunately the ref' in his wiseness thought the way to handle the situation was to book the Dutchman for dissent. The card didn't matter as it turned out - as moments later Fabian seemed to have a rush of blood and decided to dish out his own form of retribution, arriving late for a challenge which actually looked worse at the time. We all thought it would be a second yellow, but it was a straight red, hence the prior booking being irrelevant. Thankfully Plymouth were unable to capitalise on their one-man advantage and Town plugged away and arguably had the better of the play. Plymouth were still getting the chances though, the best just after half time when Frio seemed to have time and space at the back post and although he met the cross with a clean header, thankfully it went over the bar. That was a let-off, I doubt we'd have come back from 3-1 down with ten men. The second half saw the introduction of Shefki Kuqi, on for an ineffectual Pablo. He hardly set the game alight, but was his usual busy self, chasing and harassing. It was very late on when he finally managed to get the equalising goal, Darren Bent providing a low cross beyond the stretch of the defence which Shefki buried before snatching the ball out of the net and racing back to the centre circle. It was clear that he wouldn't be satisfied with just a point, and minutes later he sent the home fans wild. Bent laid off a ball to Diallo who sent in a cross first time, which was met by a diving Kuqi whose header had both power and precision, beating the 'keeper at the near post from 10 yards. Easily the goal of the match. There had been talk of the Sheff U match at half time - remember? Down to ten men and losing, eventually coming back to win 3-2? :O)
This was one of those games you wish you'd stayed at home and watched on Teletext. I should've known better, having seen the previous season's similarly dismal display at Notts County. The starting line-up was by no means a second-string, with the exception of Lewis Price in goal, Dinning, Richards and Bowditch are no strangers to first team football. So that's one less excuse we can call upon. In fact there were buoyant and obviously with hindsight way too optimistic chants of "We want 6" etc. such was the apparent gulf between the sides at kick-off. That was about where the chanting and singing stopped for the Town fans though, as only 5 minutes into the game Doncaster went ahead. The tone of the evening was set. What can I say about the first half? The defence were having a lazy evening, and from what I could see of the first goal (it was up the other end) they were very gentlemanly in allowing Ravenhill and Fortune-West to combine for the opener. In fact we rarely saw the ball down our end for most of the half. One or two rallies forward usually came to a dead end, there were few shots on the Doncaster goal. Pablo twisted and turned once or twice but wasn't in the game, not that the ball was getting up to him. Both he and Bent were falling back further and further into their own half in an effort to get it forward. We hoped for better in the second half but just moments in McSporran found himself close in on goal on the right, and despite the angle rifled the ball between Price and the nearpost. It helped that there was not a defender in sight of course, Richards (I think) having got lost. Bowditch was replaced by Miller at half time, we'd not seen much of Deano which was disappointing but unsurprising given the performance of the team as a whole. And there was more dross from there on in. Shefki, perhaps more naturally suited to a game like this came on for Pablo, but any chances he got he squandered, notably when he found himself in space in the box, his volley sailing over the bar. The stand-ins did nothing to impress Joe I suspect, although Lewis Price made some good saves and was exposed for both goals. Dinning? I can't see us keeping him beyond his current stint, although stranger things have happened. Doncaster wanted this result far more than the weaklings we turned out last night, and deserved their place in the next round draw. You could say they were lucky, not on the night - but lucky they were drawn out of the bag against an uninterested Ipswich. The only gulf between these two teams was The Wash.
Town fought out a well earned draw at Upton Park when perhaps the Hammers should have finished the game in the first half. Unsurprisingly it was ex-Budgie Malky MacKay who got the opposition's opener. I'd predicted several times this week that he'd score and sure enough up he popped. It's Sod's Law, you could've put money on it, in fact I wish I had, because then of course it wouldn't have happened. The crunch for the home side came when they were awarded a penalty towards the end of the first half. There was no doubt about the decision with Davis late to the challenge in the area after hesitating to come for the ball, and Town could not have felt unlucky to have gone 2-0 down at that point. Luckily for the Tractor Boys though, when Teddy Sherringham stepped up to take it, he placed it wide of Kelvin Davis' goal, in front of the relieved away support. There was improvement from Ipswich after the break, Joe Royle sticking with the same line up for the restart, Pablo Counago having taken the place of Shefki Kuqi to start the match. He was having a pretty decent match, lively and perhaps building up some confidence, and it was no surprise that he levelled the scores with a tricky turn and shot close in. The goal had been coming, with Town being easily on top in the second half. Both sides had chances from there on in, Darren Bent having an excellent shot tipped onto the bar, Miller also having a good effort saved, and West Ham wasting a few chances or forcing Town's back four into action. Still in touch at the top end of the table, but we need to regain our winning form to push ourselves back up to the top spot. With the teams around us in the table all seemingly finding their game recently, and also a few of the fancied teams who had a stuttered start now picking up points, we'll need to do it pronto.
But can we stay there? That's the question. Who cares. For now at least, we're top of the league, so let's make the most of it. It was agonisingly painful getting the result today though, as well as we played I thought with 15 minutes to go that we'd blown all our chances and it was Sod's Law that we'd undeservedly concede. Then on came the new messiah, Pablo. Now they hate him, now they don't. We'll all have to make up our minds soon, hopefully to the better after a run of performances like today's, where he came off the bench late on and was involved in 1 goal, and scored the second. For the first goal he put through Darren Bent who shugged off the bullying defender, and in fact made him look pretty daft by delicately chipping the ball away from him before powerfully hitting it in mid air with the outside of his foot into the far corner. Class. This was near the end of a hard fought game in which Town enjoyed most of the chances, but one that Millwall defended well. Literally in the dying minutes the roles were reversed, Bent this time crossing for Counago, who could afford to be patient in front of goal and with 5 defenders surrounding him but doing little, rifled the ball into the net. He derserved that, and appeared to enjoy it too. Millwall had been physical as usual, but I could've written that before the game kicked off. Denise Wise was his usual pleasant self, leading by example. They looked quite sharp in the build up earlier in the game, but had been unable to get in any meanigful attempts on goal, largely due to a solid Town defence today, I'd like to think. Speaking of which, that was another clean sheet. Can we make it 3 in a row this time?