COVENTRY CITY 2-1 CRYSTAL PALACE BY KEV MONKS
Date 08/01/11 At Ricoh Arena
Coventry City made hard work for themselves as they progressed through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 home victory against Crystal Palace.
Following the first defeat at Barnsley for fourteen years, and coming at the end of a week where captain Lee Carsley was being linked with the Walsall manager's job, there was not much cup fever about as the 8,162 who could be bothered made their way into the Ricoh Arena on a sunny but cold afternoon.
City boss Aidy Boothroyd whose last FA Cup Third Round match was a 7-0 defeat at Preston North End last year, made four changes from the team that had lost to Barnsley on Monday. He stopped short of fielding a weak team like he had done for the League Cup tie at Morecambe, something which kept a few fans away and rested Lee Carsley and benched Nathan Cameron and Clive Platt with Stephen O'Halloran coming in for the injured James McPake.
The Irishman signed from Villa in the summer started at left back with Martin Cranie playing at centre half alongside Richard Wood whilst Carl Baker on the right of midfield and Freddy Eastwood and Lukas Jutkiewicz up front.
With the sun high over the visitors end where the noisy Palace fans were, City attacked the CT Stand for the first half and soon had Richard Keogh attacking down the right flank.
In his third raid of the afternoon, Keogh won a 12th minute corner. McSheffrey delivered a great ball to the far side of the area for Aron Gunnarsson to head over for the glove wearing Lukas Jutkiewicz to plant a header onto the crossbar.
City went looking for a goal and like a bus on Ball Hill, two arrived in the space of two minutes.
Good work by Jutkiewicz found McSheffrey on the left. He got towards the by-line and drove low into the mix for FREDDY EASTWOOD to lash the ball past Speroni from six yards.
I was still texting the good news to City supporters around the UK when McSheffrey found Eastwood whogot in another cross from the left. This time he picked out the totally unmarked CARL BAKER on the right of the area and the wideman who has scored in the few reserve games, City have played this season, absolutely smashed the ball into the net before running towards the City supporters in Block 27 of the CT Stand with a look of sheer of delight on his face.
"We're All Going To Wembley" sang the City support in the Singing Corner under the scoreboard as a City team that looked balanced and was working well as a unit, passed the ball around well.
Palace caretaker boss Dougie Freedman was by now flapping his arms so much that it looked like he was auditioning for the role of Palace's Eagle mascot, rather than that of first team manager and he watched on as N'Diaye drew huge jeers from the Palace fans for smacking one straight into the away end before they had a 28th minute corner cleared off the line.
With Eastwood leading the Palace defence on a merry dance, Lukas Jutkiewicz was able to benefit, getting some good balls from the former Wolves man.
However, Jutkiewicz failed to make the most of them and Speroni had only to make bread and butter catches.
N'Daiye was replaced in the 41st minute to huge jeers from the Palace fans and Pablo Counago, who has a good record of scoring against the Sky Blues was sent on.
The former Ipswich and Malaga man for the remainder of the half was a virtual spectator as City had the visiting defence in a blind panic with a couple of crosses that won corners.
City probably didn't need the half-time interval as Palace started the better and should have been level six minutes in when Andy Dorman was allowed to nip in the middle of the City defence with thankfully, his effort going wide of Westwood's right hand post.
Iversen went looking for a penalty two minutes later, but got told to get up before Speroni saved two Eastwood shots.
City had looked comfortable and were doing well but for some reason, Aidy Boothroyd decided to replace Eastwood with Roy O'Donovan in the 64th minute.
Eight minutes later, he sent on Coventry kid Conor Thomas for his debut and whilst the youngster who was playing and doing well for City U18's at the age of fourteen, excelled in picking out his man, City stopped creating chances and the visitors seized the impetus.
In the 80th minute, Stephen O'Halloran who had a reasonable game up to this point, gave away a ball which saw Westwood failed to clear a Wood header and NEIL DANNS was able to scramble the ball into the net.
Palace went for broke and a minute later, they were given a penalty for a blatant trip by O'Halloran. Having thought we were comfortably through, discussions suddenly changed to how much a replay was going to cost us. But our plans were not put into action as Neil Danns took the spot kick only for Keiren Westwood to expertly predict which way the kick was going and went to his left to block the kick before it was eventually cleared.
The exhausted Jutkiewicz was replaced by Clive Platt before Roy O'Donovan in one of his few touches was cautioned for a foul. That led to an 87th minute free kick which was initially cleared but Palace got the ball down the right through Zaha to sent over a superb cross. All Neil Danns had to do was to head it straight and it was surely in but no, from a yard out, Danns sent his header wide.
Keiren Westwood made a good stop from a Calvin Andrew in stoppage time and after four minutes had been played, the whistle which heralded Coventry City's place in Round Four came as a welcome relief.