COVENTRY CITY 0-0 SHEFFIELD UNITED BY KEV MONKS
Date 15/01/11 At Ricoh Arena
How Coventry City failed to beat Sheffield United following a storming first half performance is one of those mysteries that those who witnessed this game will take time to work out.
A game that brought a well protected by stewards Micky Adams back to the Ricoh Arena just a couple of days shy of three years since he was sacked as the Sky Blues boss. This took place on a blowy, cold afternoon at the Ricoh Arena in front of a reasonable crowd including City supporters from as far away as China, Afghanistan and Ireland, who created some good noise as the teams took to the field.
City boss Aidy Boothroyd decided against tinkering with the team that was well balanced for an hour against Crystal Palace a week ago and kept faith with the same team, whilst welcoming fit again Sammy Clingan back to the bench.
The Sky Blues kicked off first, attacking the CT Stand end and continued the way they had played in the FA Cup win. There was plenty of movement down the flanks with McSheffrey and Baker involved straight away and within two minutes, City had won their first corner which was hacked off the line.
It didn't matter as the whistle had already gone from a referee who had failed to adequately deal with some ruthless tackles, plus shirt tugging from a visiting team more than happy to dish out the rough stuff. This incurred the wrath of the City fans (and the bench) as did the Birmingham based assistant on the Tesco Stand making some peculiar decisions.
The referee finally got his card out in the eleventh minute when he cautioned Mattock for hacking down Richard Keogh, who like every one of his team-mates was giving it their all.
By the 16th minute, City had won six corners and with Jutkiewicz leading the line very well despite the constant attention of the Blades defence, Freddy Eastwood, who had gone into the game, having scored three goals in his last three games, was able to add more pressure on the visitors.
Eastwood had a clear cut chance in the 21st minute when he wrong footed his marker and got clear only to drive at Simonsen.
In a rare raid on the City goal, United won two corners but City were back at the other end through the capable Carl Baker winning the first of two more corners.
"Surely a goal must come" we thought. But no. Enter Steve Simonsen who proved he is still one of the top keepers in the division when he firstly blocked an Eastwood shot. Then on the half hour mark, he denied Jutkiewicz and Baker before smothering an Eastwood shot after good work from City's signing from Everton.
Simonsen was not finished. In the 37th minute, he was down to block a Baker shot and a minute later, Baker got through again and hit a cracking shot which he superbly pushed over the bar for a corner that Richard Wood headed over.
There was a massive hand-ball chant in the 43rd minute from the City fans when a McSheffrey shot clearly hit a hand right in front of the CT Stand and an excellent 45 minutes work from the Sky Blues ended when a Jutkiewicz shot was deflected by Williamson.
One City fan from the CT Stand was a thousand pound richer when he became the first person to win the Kick For Cash competition at the break which again City did not need.
It gave Adams the chance to regroup his players and they were the ones doing the attacking for then opening ten minutes of the second period.
Keiren Westwood had made a good block before a long ball from Doyle in the 62nd minute saw Lukas Jutkiewicz sent crashing in the area. Again, there was a mass appeal for a penalty and yet again there was nothing given.
You could tell it was not to be City's day when Simonsen pushed a McSheffrey shot up onto the bar. The ball came down and hit the away keeper on the head and went over for a corner.
Again, Stephen O'Halloran's lack of match practice was beginning to show and it took a good block from Westwood to rectify his 76th minute error.
Adams sent on Richard Cresswell who has a good record of scoring against City and Danny Bogdanovic and with five minutes to go, Aidy Boothroyd told Nathan Cameron who was primed ready to come on, to sit down and sent on Clive Platt when Aron Gunnarsson had a long throw in a useful position.
Some of the City supporters were slipping out of the ground to get in the queue for the Birmingham Cup tickets which was snaking down the side of the Casino about fifteen minutes after the final whistle.
What they missed was McSheffrey fire over and a chance to applaud the players for a good performance even if some of the Tescos Stand thought that booing was more befitting.