COVENTRY CITY 0-1 MILLWALL FC BY KEV MONKS
Four games in and it looks already like a long hard season in store as City crashed to a defeat at Highfield Road by Millwall.
On a warm sunny afternoon and with the West Midlands Police out in full force for only 400 Millwall supporters, Peter Reid gave Patrick Suffo a start following the Cameroonian's good 45 minute appearance for City Reserves at Portsmouth and dropped Gary McSheffrey and Bjarni Gudjonsson to the bench with Tim Sherwood replacing the Icelander.
With Suffo up front was Eddy Johnson, whilst Gudjonsson's spot on the right side of midfield was taken by Graham Barrett who crossed on the right in the minute for Patrick Suffo to fire wide.
Millwall boss and fellow Leicester hater Dennis Wise fielded himself and kept the same team that had beaten them from up the M69 last weekend. This team included Canadian midfielder Adrian Serioux whom Wise had spotted during The Lions pre-season tour of British Columbia. (Perhaps we should try this, Mr McGinnity rather than playing teams from hamlets in the German middle of nowhere).
This was always going to be a physical game and within five minutes of the first whistle from referee Mr Atkinson, the trainer was on. It was the one from the visitors camp who was called to treat Lions striker Danny Dichio who came off worse after accidentally colliding with Richard Shaw.
As this was going on, my phone was buzzing with text messages regarding the rumoured departure of Calum Davenport to Newcastle and the fact that the story is true according to people close to the popular centre half.
As I showed these messages to friends around me,it seemed like all the players knew as well as the whole team looked lethargic and merely going through the motions.
In the tenth minute,City won a corner which was met by the head of the aforementioned Calum Davenport but was cleared away.
Two minutes later,Hughes slipped the ball to Michael Doyle who cut through to fire a low 25 yard shot straight into the arms of Millwall custodian Graham Stack who wore an all white kit ala Peter Shilton especially for the occasion.
Stack who is on loan at the Lions from Arsenal cleared the ball and a long pass from Marvin Elliot just missed the incoming Mark McCammon at the other end.
A late tackle by Sherwood only received a ticking off from Mr Atkinson before the Lions won a throw on the Sky Blue stand side. One of the reasons,that Adrian Serioux who looks like Edgar Davids without the glasses was signed by Millwall is because of his ability to cause problems with a long throw in.
Serioux launched the ball forty plus yards towards the West End goal and deep into the penalty area. It bobbled around before Graham Barrett took control and cleared for a corner.
The corner came to nothing and nothing worthy of note unless you count some poor passing by the Sky Blues, happened until the 25th minute when Elliot on the right whipped in the ball for Shearer to gather.
City quickly lost possession and Elliott knocked the ball in for Dennis Wise to cross.
Daniel Dichio was eight yards out and sent a header towards the goal. It looked like it was going in when Scott Shearer stuck out his left arm and superbly blocked the effort. The ball fell to the ground where Mark McCammon came racing. With Shearer helpless and no-one on the line. Incredibly the former Brentford striker blasted high into the West Stand from four yards.
The miss unsettled McCammon as he took out Graham Barrett with a scything elbow. Mr Atkinson called over the miscreant but as he did so,in raced Dennis Wise who appealed on his behalf and no action was taken.
As one Millwall fan was ejected from the stadium (well I suppose that justified the ridiculous amount of police and stewards in the Sky Blue stand), Serioux got down the right and deliberately kicked the ball into Davenport to win a corner.
With 36 minutes gone,City's best move of a very poor first half performance came with a four man move started by Louis Carey who found Staunton who found Doyle who sent a ball for Eddy Johnson to run and shoot straight at Stack.
A minute later, Steve Staunton won a corner with a long range tame shot that hit Elliott. Stephen Hughes took the kick which rather disappointingly, eventually was played all the way back to Scott Shearer. City's Scottish keeper who was probably glad that he did not play in his national team's defeat by Hungary, did not clear particularly well and the visitors won a corner which Calum Davenport who was doing well at the back with Richard Shaw headed for Michael Doyle to clear.
Three minutes before half-time, City won a free kick which Doyle sent over but it missed everyone and went out for a goal kick.
There were no changes at the break and it initially looked that whatever expletives Peter Reid used at half-time had done some good as straight from the restart,City won a corner.
Graham Barrett fired wide five minutes later and in the 52nd minute,Scott Shearer punched clear a Millwall corner but was fouled in the process and a free kick awarded.
There had been an underlying tension throughout the game and in the 54th minute, it all got nasty.
Mark McCammon took down Richard Shaw and was booked and as play restarted,Wise went down with seemingly no contact from Suffo. The City striker lost it and shoved Jody Morris who fell to the ground quicker than he gets thrown out of night clubs. Suffo and Wise were both booked and they were been shown their cards, Eddy Johnson raced to the City bench and told Reid and Heath to make a change as Suffo was likely to get sent off.
Meanwhile, the Millwall fans in the away stand surged towards the City supporters next to them and it was only insults that were traded rather than punches as a combination of netting,police and stewards did their job.
Ray Wilkins,the Millwall assistant manager must have heard this as he leapt into action and replaced McCammon with Villa reject Stefan Moore. Reid went for a double substitution with Suffo making way for Gary McSheffrey and Andy Morrell replacing Eddy Johnson who must have also indicated that he needed to come off.
The trouble had not died down and in the 58th minute, Tim Sherwood became the fourth player booked when he took out Wise.
As this was happening,Stack approached the referee and informed him that there was a bottle on the pitch. Now I don't know for certain if he claimed that it had been thrown but I can confirm that I saw it on the pitch at half-time when some youngsters were taking penalties.
A foul on Barrett gave Sherwood a chance from a free kick but he could only aim it directly at Stack.
McSheffrey looked as lively as ever and was cheered as he made a run before being stopped and another free kick awarded. Barrett this time took the kick,sent it into the wall,it was sent back over by Staunton to McSheffrey at the far post and as the City striker delivered the ball back into the penalty area. Millwall were awarded a free kick and a chant of "Are You Shagging Dennis Wise?" directed at the referee.
As about ten police officers in full riot gear walked through the away section and out of the ground (was there any need for this?), Stephen Hughes was replaced by Bjarni Gudjonsson.
A 71st minute cross from the Icelander was met by Morrell and Stack got a hand to the ball to tip it over the crossbar for a corner. The Icelander tried again from the corner but this time Davenport's looping header went over.
With fourteen minutes left, a long free kick was met by Dichio who powered a header past Shearer but onto the crossbar before being cleared for a corner.
Now City have problems defending set-pieces and when Michael Doyle conceded a free kick for a foul on the impressive Serioux in the 78th minute, Millwall made them pay.
Dennis Wise took the kick and swung it over for unmarked Daniel Dichio to head the ball downwards into the net at the far post.
Many City supporters knew that was that, and headed for home or the pub or Strikers which thankfully was open after the game for the first time this season.
Sherwood took another knock,McSheffrey won a corner which was marred by a poor kick from Gudjonsson and Elliott blasted over from a Moore cross but the score was not affected and the better team won the game.
HT CCFC 0-0 MFC FT CCFC 0-1 MFC
Goal Daniel Dichio (78 mins 0-1)
Man Of The Match - Richard Shaw won the votes from Calum Davenport,Michael Doyle and Scott Shearer.
Shearer; Staunton, Carey, Staunton, Davenport, Shaw,Hughes (Gudjonsson 69), Barrett,Sherwood,Doyle, Suffo (McSheffrey 55), Johnson (Morrell 55) . SNU: Marriott,Whing