On This Day 2005

Eight years ago today, Coventry City played their final game at Highfield Road

We look back to that day in April 30th 2005 with Kev Monks' report on the game.

Coventry City said farewell to Highfield Road in the best possible way with a 6-2 victory against Derby County.

And so the day of the last ever league game at Highfield Road arrived. It had originally felt like it was visiting someone for the last time before their death, you don't really want to do it but feel you have to, when I woke up this morning.

But when I made a farewell tour of the ground, meeting some of the many friends that watching Coventry City over the last 35 years has brought me,whilst pausing to remember those sadly no longer with us who would have revelled in such an occasion, I knew that this was an historic day that I was going to enjoy.

A parade of Sky Blue legends warmed up a sell-out crowd (although not a capacity crowd judging by the attendance figure of 22,728) and saw Tommy Hutchison presented with a trophy that had to be reblasted after the original had been mis-spelt, for being the all time player.

On a day that saw bright sunshine after early morning rain, the atmosphere inside our home of 106 years was electric and one of the best I've ever experienced in the 1600 first team games I've seen.

I'd been a leading campaigner in getting all City supporters to wear Sky Blue and it was something that was taken to heart. The "Sea of Sky Blue" filled the ground apart from the 2,200 Derby supporters who had experienced the same emotions we were going through when they left the Baseball Ground to move to Pride Park.

However, there was the rather large matter that Coventry City were still not mathematically safe from relegation following a season of bad management from the Board as well as Peter Reid and the players throwing away points late on in games.

Micky Adams who has emerged "Red Adair" esque to come in and attempt to quell the fire and damnation of a drop into League One, brought back Marcus Hall for Andy Whing and in midfield started Claus Jorgensen in place of Lloyd Dyer. Derby County gave an outing to Sky Blue hero Mo Konjic who was cheered when he warmed up by the City supporters rather than those from his current club.

Now Derby only needed a point to guarantee a play-off spot and were nearly ahead in the third minute when the impressive Inigo Idiakas smacked the crossbar with a free kick before Luke Steele punched away for a corner which Michael Johnson headed wide.

As Stern John headed over from an seven minute corner, news was starting to filter through that our opponents in the final game of the season - Crewe Alexandra were 2-0 down at Ipswich Town. This meant that a win would be enough for the Sky Blues to be playing Championship football when the Coventry Arena opens in what could be mid to late August.

In the 20th minute, the first signs of a victory came when Gary McSheffrey ,who spent most of his life living a free kick away from Highfield Road, latched onto a Michael Doyle through ball, cut round two defenders before slotting the ball past Lee Camp to put the Sky Blues ahead.

With the Sky Blue song echoing around the ground, Luke Steele pushed a Tommy Smith effort over the bar for a 22nd minute corner. Big Mo was cheered by West Enders as he came up for the flag kick which came to nothing.

However, five minutes later, the Bosnian international was receiving more cheers from the Sky Blues support when Claus Jorgensen forced his way into the penalty area, only for Konjic to barge over the Faroe Islander. Referee Mr Fletcher from Worcestershire, awarded a penalty and cautioned Konjic. Up stepped Gary McSheffrey who dispatched sent the ball past the wrong footed Camp to put City further ahead.

Rams boss George Burley immediately replaced Ian Taylor with Canadian Paul Peschisolido whilst in the reduced away section,Derby followers annoyed that their Premiership aspirations were starting to wane, were starting to be ejected by some of the 400 police officers at the game.

Dele Adebola whose, like a good number of other players, Sky Blue future will be sorted one way or the other in the coming weeks, had missed the target when he rose to nod over a 33rd minute Jorgensen cross. But three minutes later,the Nigerian made no mistake when he scored after collecting a through ball from Stephen Hughes, got past two defenders including Konjic,rounded Camp and tapped the ball into an empty net.

As we danced for joy, some away supporters headed for the exit. Some wanting to leave had not made it that far when City went further ahead when Stern John jumped to meet a Hughes corner and planted a firm header into the back of the net. When half-time arrived, the ovation the City players got from this tremendous first half performance was deafening.

Beach balls and balloons were everywhere as the West Terrace volleyball team made it's final ever appearance and were still being knocked about as McSheffrey found Adebola on the left in the 48th minute. He advanced before delivering a ball that Stern John missed by a matter of inches as it flashed across the face of the goal.

In the 51st minute, Derby pulled one back when Adam Bolder gave Steele no chance from thirty yards with a well executed drive. Four minutes later, and City had regained their four goal margin when a throw in from in front of the away fans found Stern John inside the area.

The striker who, since the Burnley defeat, has had a point to prove to City supporters. turned and from an acute angle about five foot out drove the ball past Camp and into the net.

Back came Derby and six minutes later, Paul Peschisolido drilled a shot past Steele to slightly reduce the arrears. Burley made a second change bringing on Junior for Marcus Tudgay and in the 67th minute, Micky Adams also felt it time for a change when the industrious Claus Jorgensen was replaced by Andy Whing.

The popular defender who has impressed this season for City Reserves and looked good against Plymouth last week, had only on been on the pitch for 38 seconds when a ball from the left found him unmarked on the right flank some eight yards out. Whing took one touch before smashing the ball into the net.

Whing, who has come through the Academy ranks, went mad at the prospect of the scorer of the last ever goal at Highfield Road and after giving high fives to jubilant West Enders,finally listened to the referee and returned to the centre circle to get on with the game.

Trevor Benjamin replaced Dele Adebola as Derby supporters left in ever increasing numbers. Their players were now clearly riled at being basically stuffed by a vastly superior Sky Blues side. Michael Johnson and Idiakez were booked in the space of two minutes as "Mexican Waves" encircled the stands.

Gary McSheffrey was given a standing ovation as he was replaced by Andy Morrell in the 77th minute.

Since his return to Highfield Road, Marcus Hall has given 100% for his home town club and eleven minutes from time, he made easily the best tackle of the game to thwart Bolder was had escaped the clutches of Robert Page and prevent a certain goal.

Time was moving on and the stewards were starting to form a protective ring around the pitch. They were joined by yellow coated police officers who arrived in numbers in to the away section and at other points in the ground.

There was time for Steve Staunton to be cautioned for what looked like kicking the ball away before Mr Fletcher had decided that only one minute of stoppage time was enough and brought the curtain down on a fantastic, totally unpredictable victory and the last ever professional fixture at Highfield Road.

Five minutes from time, an announcement had been made asking supporters to keep off the pitch. Some took this as a signal to do the opposite and invaded the field of play from mainly the East and Sky Blue stands with a few West Enders making it through.

Boos and jeers greeted this incursion and it was some minutes before these supporters got off the pitch.

The players did a lap of honour with some of the Academy players who had won their league last weekend also being included. It was well received and credit should go to the Derby supporters who stayed around to also applaud the Sky Blues players.

When the players went off. Fans seized their chance to get on the hallowed turf, starting off a good natured pitch invasion. Sensibly the stewards let it happen,this had been a fantastic day of celebration with Highfield Road sent on its way in a fit and proper manner and to prevent it would have seen the club deemed as killjoys.

It looked like around five thousand men,women and children were on the pitch thoroughly milking the atmosphere for all it was worth.

Stuart Linnell grabbed a microphone and showed firstly John Sillett to the crowd before passing the microphone to Jimmy Hill. As he did in 1967 when promotion to the top flight was achieved, he led the crowd in a chorus of the "Sky Blue Song"

To finish off out of the dark steps in the directors box,came manager Micky Adams after applauding the City supporters. He said: "You have been magnificent all season. "We have avoided relegation but this is not success."

As the stewards made a sweep of the pitch to clear the ground, we made our way out of the ground and watched kids, who were obviously local as they had brought a step ladder, busy themselves with screwdrivers taking anything they could get their hands on.

As we prepare to move to the Coventry Arena in Foleshill, we can look back on today, knowing our respects have been duly paid to a very dear friend who will never be forgotten.

GOALS Gary McSheffrey (20 & 27 pen), Dele Adebola (36), Stern John (39,54), Adam Boulder (51), Paul Peschisolido (62), Andy Whing (67)

BOOKED Konjic,Johnson,Idiakez, Staunton

MAN OF THE MATCH - All fourteen City players used, the City supporters, Mo Konjic

TEAM Steele, Staunton, Duffy,Page, Hall, Doyle, Hughes, Jorgensen (Whing 67),McSheffrey (Morrell 78),Adebola (Benjamin 72), John SNU Pressman,Goater.