The passing of Queen Elizabeth II meant that another of Coventry City’s fixtures was postponed last weekend - we weren’t alone in having an enforced break on this occasion, but this is only small comfort for a side who are bottom of the league following a rocky, stop-start opening to the new season. It’s been a week and a half since our defeat to Norwich last time out, and just when it looked like we would have a consistent run of games for the first time this season, our game was called off as a mark of respect to our late monarch - sometimes, it feels like you really just can’t win!
At least we were back tonight for Luton away. Before kick off, I was looking forward to the game and as ever, I felt that we might be able to get a result - Luton haven’t had a brilliant start to their campaign this year either, and I was hopeful we could capitalise on that. We had a virtually fully fit squad, and the break at the weekend had at least allowed the players more rest ahead of tonight’s game. Surely it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that we could snatch our first win of the season tonight? We were bound to get a win at some point! I made the journey down to Kenilworth Road with Joe and our mate Kev talking myself into feeling optimistic - to be honest though, I’d have taken a draw before a ball was kicked tonight. I think most City fans probably shared that sentiment as well.
Mark Robins had stuck with Ben Wilson in goal for tonight’s game. Fankaty Dabo and Jake Bidwell would play as wing backs, with a back 3 of Michael Rose, Kyle McFadzean and Callum Doyle. Ben Sheaf and Gustavo Hamer would play in central midfield, and we’d gone for Jamie Allen in the number 10 role behind Matty Godden and Viktor Gyokeres. It was a decent line up, I had no complaints about it given our current squad - I was just hopeful that we’d see a proper performance as we arrived at the famously shit Kenilworth Road stadium.
It was another new ground ticked off for me today (54/92 now!), and I have to say it’s definitely one of the worst I’ve been to - no disrespect Luton fans. You enter the away end through a row of terraced houses, and get a lovely view of some people’s back gardens as you climb the steps up to what’s clearly an old terraced stand with some seats bolted in. It’s got character, and regular readers of the blog will know I prefer characterful grounds to modern bowls, but I draw the line here - Kenilworth Road is a mish-mash of different parts of stands and it looks like a shed that’s just had bits added on over time. I think Luton actually want to build a new stadium soon and to be honest, the sooner the better for their sake if nothing else!
Still, the most important thing is that there was a football match on. Viktor Gyokeres was played through early on for a golden chance - one on one with the Luton keeper, he somehow pulled his shot slightly wide of the mark. It looked harder to miss from my point of view, and I think everyone in the away end had been expecting to celebrate an early goal! In a cruel twist of fate, one of that kind that only football can deliver, it was the home fans who then found themselves celebrating - Carlton Morris had put them 1-0 up inside 4 minutes. We hadn’t cleared our lines properly after a looping cross had come in from Luton’s right hand side - Fankaty Dabo’s defensive header was back across the box rather than away from goal, and Morris was able to bring the ball down and smash it past Wilson in goal. Not an ideal start for us.
Thankfully, Luton’s joy was short lived - Ben Sheaf sprayed a wonderful cross field ball out to the right, where Viktor Gyokeres was quickest to it - he beat his man, continued into the penalty area and then beat the keeper as well. It was 1-1, and instantly it was game on again! What a well taken goal too, the pass from Sheaf alone was Scholes-esque (and there’s no higher praise than that for me!), and Gyokeres showed his quality in what he did once he got on the ball. Quality all round.
But it wouldn’t be long until we were 2-1 down - this was starting to feel like one of those mental games that could end up finishing 5-4. A long ball wasn’t dealt with - we let it bounce rather than heading it away, a cardinal sin when it comes to defending. As a result, Luton picked up the ball on the edge of our box, and Carlton Morris was played in all too easily to slip the ball into the bottom corner. He took it well it has to be said, but it was poor defending from us again that had cost us. It’s been the story of our season so far hasn’t it?
After just 15 minutes, we’d seen 3 goals and the game was being played at quite an intense pace. I thought we were knocking the ball around quite well when we had it, but we just didn’t look like we wanted it in the air at all. We were second to every arial ball and this was undermining things that we were doing well. That being said, we didn’t threaten the Luton keeper Ethan Horvarth very much.
Michael Rose was forced off with an injury around the half hour mark, and he was replaced by Jonathan Panzo. The game was getting a little scrappy - Carlton Morris was doing everything he could to get at the linesman on the near side, throwing himself to the floor and generally just being a shithouse, much to the annoyance of the Sky Blue contingency. The referee Andy Davies also made some questionable calls, letting some apparent fouls go and giving other, softer ones - he got one decision spot on though, to the confusion of the home fans. We had a drop ball after a clash of heads forced the game to be stopped, and the Luton player who had gone off injured entered the field of play to intercept the ball before the referee had called him back on - this resulted in a yellow card, a free kick to us and some ironic cheers as a decision went our way for a change!
Luton were a whisker away from making it 3-1 right on half time, after a deep cross was met in the air and headed goalwards - Ben Wilson was beaten, but the ball hit the post and we were able to hack it clear. We went into half time trailing 2-1, and whilst I didn’t think we fully deserved to be losing, we certainly didn’t deserve to be in front either. It was one of those games that we could be leading in if we’d had a bit more desire, as Luton hadn’t looked that much better than us - they’d simply taken their chances when we’d presented them. They had us panicking when the ball was up in the air as well, but if we could get the better of them in the second half then it was still all for the taking.
The second half started quite slowly, and was a bit stop-start, but it quickly got more interesting once we’d had a chance. Viktor Gyokeres looked hungrier tonight than he has done all season, and he showed this at one point when he cut inside from the left, beat his man and played the ball across the box for Matty Godden - Godden’s effort was pushed over for a corner by Horvarth. Not long afterwards, we got forwards again through Panzo - he drove towards goal and played a lovely ball in, but it was slightly too long for Godden to reach at the back post. It was better from the Sky Blues!
Jamie Allen went very close to making it 2-2 at one point, as we continued to dominate the second half. Fankaty Dabo made a good run down the right, before swinging in a good cross which was met in the air by Bidwell - Bidwell nodded it down for Allen to strike on the volley, towards the bottom corner. It was going in, but a last ditch block/clearance came in from an orange shirt and the ball was away. It was close, and I could sense a goal coming as we approached the hour mark. I was right, and how!
A spell of Sky Blues pressure wasn’t properly dealt with by Luton, who were clearing the ball only for us to pin them back inside their box. One clearing header dropped to Gustavo Hamer, who took a touch out of his feet and was shaping up to shoot - of course, every Sky Blues fan behind the goal encouraged him to, with the exception of Kev beside me who said “No, don’t shoot!”. My view of Hamer was obscured by a pillar as he let fly, and I expected to see the ball sail over the bar as it normally tends to, but on the contrary I saw it curl beautifully into the top corner! It was an absolute worldie - you just don’t save those! 2-2 with half an hour to go, and it was all to play for now.
There had been a greater sense of urgency from our players in the second half and we’d been rewarded with an equaliser, however the game still felt like it could go either way. Luton were not yet beaten, and as the game went on they threw everything at us. Some very dangerous crosses were being whipped in, but luckily we managed to keep them at bay. The Sky Blues had a few chances too and earned a couple of corners - Matty Godden even had a wonderful chance drop to him after a lucky Gyokeres flick on that somehow came off, but Godden swung and completely missed the ball. Neither side could break through, and despite it feeling like there was a final twist in the tale, the game finished as a Desmond.
Looking at the positives, it’s another point on the board at least, and our second half performance was very encouraging. The signs are there that things might get better for us on the pitch soon - it’s the silly mistakes we need to eradicate though. Without them we’d be absolutely fine, especially if we play with the hunger we had tonight. On the down side, we’re still winless and the longer that run without a win stretches, the worse it gets for us psychologically and literally in the form of the league table. Next up is Birmingham away on Saturday - again, there’s no reason why we can’t go there and win, but it’s one of those where you’d have to say you’d take a point if offered one. It’s a massive game for us, that’s for sure.
I probably won’t be visiting Kenilworth Road again in a hurry, but I’ll always treasure the memories I’ve made tonight of those back gardens. And of that Gustavo Hamer screamer, of course.