The Championship – Tuesday 29th January 2008
Caleb Folan. Cost us a million plus and has so far been effective without devastating, with question marks over two things – his first touch, and his finishing.
In the coaching manual, it should really say that a striker with limited finishing ability and a suspect first touch isn’t that much of a striker.
But a new Caleb emerged, butterfly-like, from the cocoon of the substitutes bench at the KC, ready to avoid the nets and chloroform of Coventry’s lepidopterists and score a graceful and distinctly un-Folan like winning goal.
The fading batteries on the PA mic were being rolled around for one final announcement – that of three minutes’ injury time – when Wayne Brown decided to pump a long ball Folanwards, right down the middle.
A defender in sky blue – nice and traditional Coventry’s colours have always been, I’ve always nonetheless thought “sky blue” to be manifestly effeminate an expression – was the favourite to win it; however, his stretched toes could only divert the ball into Folan’s lap as he rushed through.
This is the point where he miscontrols and is forced wide, or brings the ball down and swipes dead air or – if you take Stoke as an example – runs to the corner flag hoping misguidedly to protect a point.
The script had been shredded. Try this for size…
Folan controlled the ball on his upper thigh and in one thoughtful movement, clipped a delicious lob over Konstantaopoulos – yes, that ex Hartlepool keeper who you hope has a quiet match in order to avoid RSI – and into the net via a hint of the far post.
Bedlam. Folan ran to the corner flag, doing that ‘A’ thing with his fingers for Fitz Hall’s charity, and the rest followed. Iain Dowie turned to the West Stand as if to plead with them not to be so beastly towards him in their joy.
And it was joy, lots of it, in what had been entirely a joyless occasion to that point. City and Coventry never carve out Championship classics at the KC – witness Cov’s last ditch win here last season, one of numerous nadirs Phil Parkinson quietly put into the waste paper basket when being interviewed for Charlton and Huddersfield – but last night’s match upped the threshold of horrid spectacles. More horrid than Loyd Grossman’s.
City carded Myhill. Ricketts, Dawson, Turner, Brown, Walton, Marney, Hughes, Garcia, Windass, Campbell. On later were Barmby, Folan and Pedersen, staying off were Doyle and France. More on this unconventional team selection later.
Bryan Hughes nearly scored from a flowing, zig-zag run on three minutes but put his shot too close to that goalkeeper.
Well, as it was a negative match, we may as well focus a little on negatives. Firstly, and many will feel sharp pains in the spleen as they read this, but City looked lost without the unwell Ian Ashbee on the field.
Illness is something you can’t negotiate for, and the skipper’s presence as a leader and motivator – and, after recent displays (not that 17 days without football makes the games prior to that particularly recent), his work on the ball is even a little missed. Especially when Dean Marney is playing like he’s forgotten he is a footballer.
Marney’s frustrating, 2006-esque performance was all the more alarming because of the newly-arrived, ankle-socked Simon Walton on loan, who looked unfamiliar and unfit. he can be forgiven the first, but with David Livermore available and good, it seemed an odd decision, especially in the captain’s absnece, to throw the new boy straight in. He did ok. He’ll do better.
Dean Windass was quiet, Fraizer Campbell a little livelier. He could have helped Cov into a ten man game in the first half when he was hauled down just inside their half, but despite the presence of no discernible last man, the ref saw it fit, probably correctly, to give a mere yellow. And to those who say Coventry’s defenders are no match for pace of our beloved Manchester United rental striker, you may be right. But refs aren’t required to learn each protagonist’s best time for 100m as part of his pre-match prep.
Cov were lifeless and lacking in any real endeavour beyond the honesty which pro footballers are obliged to churn out for fear of Trades Descriptions issues. I scorned their lack of travelling support prior to the game; then nodded my head in understanding of their paucity once the game was underway. I’d be tempted to stay at home in front of Sunderland v Birmingham on the box if my 304-mile round journey was to watch guff like that.
They do, however, have Adebola. He is somehow blessed with little ability and yet amazing effectiveness, the like of which Kevin Kyle and other lummox-type strikers can only dream of. I like Adebola, and he scares me when he plays against us. Always. Such was the dearth of craft in Coventry’s deeper ranges though, that the big, admirable fellow only got once chance which he headed over after Myhill had beaten out Mifsud’s long range swish.
City’s defence was a little bored but remained efficient – Andy Dawson played very well, actually – and the midfield was better in the wider positions while not making inroads centrally, due to Walton’s stranger status and Marney’s less forgivable lethargy. I blame that warm-weather training, me.
Brown brought on Barmby, who was dreadful, and then Folan, whose contribution could not be described similarly. Good to see Pedersen back in the fray too, and with Hughes on song and desperate to prove he can do it in the centre, plus Marney’s inexplicable loss of form, expect a sly switch of positions on Saturday at Plymouth where Marney will fall victim and Hughes and Pedersen will benefit.
This is all housekeeping, really.The pitch saw little except midfield scrapping, long balls going nowhere and Myhill occasionally rooted to the spot when his own defenders were in possession. The main source of entertainment came from the high-pitched caterwauling issued by tedium-riddled East Stand people at Jay Tabb, mimicking a eunuch-like yell he let out when clattered in the first half. The tackle may have been unfair and he may have suffered real pain, but there is no excuse to sound like that. Unless he actually is a eunuch.
So, a late goal, and a late win. City are 11th but three points off the play-offs with a game in hand. And, frankly, as the next games are Plymouth, Blackpool, Colchester and (possibly) Colchester again, I want 15 points from 15 by the time we go to the Hawthorns for a barbecue and a controversial but heroic defeat, please. (AD)