Jan. 8, 2022

Total Cov Blog #25 - Coventry City 1-0 Derby County, 08.01.2022.

Total Cov Blog #25 - Coventry City 1-0 Derby County, 08.01.2022.

After another COVID enforced postponement on New Years’ Day (thanks Luton), today’s FA Cup 3rd Round tie at home to Derby is the first chance we’ve had to see Coventry City play in 2022. A large crowd wasn’t expected ahead of the 12:30pm kick off, with quite a few Sky Blues fans seemingly not to bothered about watching this game.

Personally I had mixed feelings ahead of this one. On the one hand, if we beat Derby today then we’d go through to the 4th round which would mean another game on top of what will already be a congested fixture list over the coming months, as postponed games are re-arranged. On the other hand, a cup run is always nice, especially if we get drawn away to a big side from the Premier League - I couldn’t decide which outcome I would prefer, as I’d love the chance to tick off a new ground on a big day out but then again, there’s every chance we could be drawn against another Championship side again or be drawn as the home team again which would be less exciting. At least one thing was certain - if the game finished as a draw the tie would be settled today rather than via a replay, which is a relief!

We have Forest away on the weekend that will see the 4th round played, so if we were to lose today and Forest end up going through in their tie (they have Arsenal at home, but anything’s possible - magic of the cup and all that!), then we would end up with a free weekend which would be perfect for a re-arranged fixture if possible. I certainly wouldn’t have had any complaints if things worked out that way, as it would mean we could avoid potentially having to squeeze a game in on a Tuesday night as the re-arranged games will inevitably be.

I was pondering all of these permeations right up until kick off still not sure which outcome I wanted more. It would be down to the 22 players on the pitch to determine after all, and Mark Robins had picked an interesting side today - Ben Wilson remained in goal after our last game against Millwall, with Simon Moore on the bench. Jake Clarke-Salter returned to the side in a back 3 that featured Dom Hyam and Michael Rose - Rose was playing in the middle, which would be a big test for him as Kyle McFadzean has been running the show in that role this season. Sheaf and Hamer would be our central midfield pairing with Jamie Allen and Jordan Shipley ahead of them - Shipley has had pretty much no first team football this season, so today would also be a big opportunity for him to impress. Matty Godden was given the Captain’s armband today as he led the line up front on his own.

I could tell it was FA Cup weekend once I got to the ground - the half and half scarf sellers were out! Honestly, I could understand the want for these if we had someone like Liverpool at home but it’s Derby, there’s no need for commemorative scarves for this tie! It did make me chuckle as I walked past them on my way up the steps to the ground. I realised this is actually my second FA Cup game of the season as well - I went to watch Bedworth United in the 1st Qualifying Round in September with my brother. That game finished 4-1 to the hosts, but somehow I didn’t think I would see the same score line in the 3rd round today!

It was a cold and wet afternoon, but that didn’t seem to dampen the mood of the travelling Derby fans who made a very decent amount of noise on their day out in the cup. As expected, numbers in the home end were very low by comparison to our league games this season. The football on show was of a good standard though - Derby started the game quite brightly and had forced Ben Wilson into a good save inside the first 3 minutes after a well worked move down their left hand side.

Once we settled into the game we looked reasonably comfortable, as did Derby - a few risky passes across our own 18 yard box were played but we survived every scare, and it wasn’t long before we were testing Derby at their end as well. Matty Godden was absolutely gifted a chance after a Derby back pass was under hit - Godden got straight on the end of the ball, had time to turn and pick his spot but ended up lifting his shot high over the crossbar. For a man who is normally so composed in front of goal, this was a surprise! I put it down to our lack of matches recently.

One thing I noticed throughout the whole game was Ryan Allsopp (a former Sky Blues loanee) in the Derby goal playing very high up the pitch - keepers normally tend to stick to their 18 yard box but Allsopp has been given license to join in with play around 30 yards out. It was mostly when Derby had possession, but I couldn’t help hoping that someone like Gustavo Hamer would catch him off his line for a long range effort!

Fankaty Dabo had a fairly tough time on the left in the first half as well. He struggled to cope with the speed of Derby full back Festy Ebosele, who frequently found room to cut inside and looked like he had the beating of Dabo at every opportunity. Thankfully we were able to block any balls across the box that Ebosele was able to play in, but he looks to be a very good player - I’d imagine he’ll definitely be moving elsewhere in the summer if Derby are relegated.

Jamie Allen had a great chance for us around the half hour mark - a free kick into the box wasn’t properly cleared by Derby, and we managed to work the ball back to the edge of the area where Allen had all the time in the world for a first time shot on goal. Allen’s shot was inches away from picking out the top corner, but sadly curled away a little too much and ended up striking the post on its way out for a goal kick. Allen had another chance not long afterwards with Matty Godden looking to pick him out on the edge of the 6 yard box - Allen couldn’t get a toe to the ball but it did get a touch from the defender who had dived in with him, giving us a corner.

Todd Kane took it, floating a lovely ball to the back post where Dom Hyam was rising highest to head the ball home. 1-0, and so it would remain until half time - it had been an even game in the opening 45 minutes, but we looked good value for the lead in my opinion. I thought that a number of our players were having decent games, Ben Sheaf and Jamie Allen in particular - Fankaty Dabo was arguably our worst performer, but again I’ll attribute this to a lack of match sharpness. Jordan Shipley had looked ok, but it’s not hard to see why he’s not a first team regular any more. There was definitely room for improvement for both sides, and it was a game that could still go either way.

The first real moment worth noting in the second half was another good save from Ben Wilson - the ball had dropped to Ebosele on the edge of our area, and he had time to think about where to put it. He opted for the top corner, but Wilson got across to it well and kept it out - the ball then wasn’t cleared properly by Dabo, and Derby came again with a cross into the box that saw well travelled centre forward Colin Kazim-Richards attempt an audacious overhead kick, but the ball was nipped away from him just before he could make contact.

Derby did have a good spell of pressure in the second half but we soaked this up with minimal fuss. Mark Robins introduced Jodi Jones and Josh Eccles for Shipley and Hamer - I was keen to see how Eccles would fair once coming on as he looks a great prospect, who’s come through the academy and is just waiting for his chance in the first team. He looked very measured and composed in the middle of the park, so no complaints from me! Hopefully he’ll prove to be a long term replacement for Liam Kelly in years to come. There was a comical bit of play from ourselves at one point as well - Clarke-Salter massively over hit a simple pass to Dabo on the left, who subsequently couldn’t control it properly and his touch was very heavy - both players then went after the loose ball, neither won it and they both tripped over each other chasing back. It was shambolic but it did make me laugh, though I can’t say my reaction would’ve been the same if we were 1-0 down rather than 1-0 up!

With around 20 minutes to play, I got the impression that we were just happy to see the game out now and not try and push for a second goal. For all Derby’s pressure, they hadn’t found a way through and didn’t look likely to either - Wayne Rooney resorted to making a quadruple substitution (5 subs are allowed in the FA Cup this season), but even this didn’t help Derby’s cause. They had a couple of shots at goal, but there were Sky Blue bodies in the way of them all. As is always the way, a last minute corner saw Ryan Allsopp given license to go up and join the attack for Derby - he actually managed to get his head on the ball after it had bounced around a little in the box but his header didn’t trouble Wilson as it looped over the bar. That was pretty much the last of the action, as the City held on to secure our place in the 4th round.

Despite my earlier mixed feelings about be result, I found that I was extremely happy at full time - there’s always that chance that we’ll get a big draw in the next round and above anything else it was nice to get back to winning ways, even if it is only a cup game. It’ll surely be a confidence boost for the players and it’s always nice to start a new year with a victory! I guess we’ll just have to deal with the re-arranged league fixtures as and when they’re thrown at us.

We may have won, but I’m still not keen on early kick offs!