Coventry Aid The Struggling Again

Last updated : 18 September 2004 By Kev Monks
If a team is bottom of the league without a league win and struggling to find the net, then a trip to Highfield Road is always welcome and yet again,the Sky Blues duly obliged with a dour performance against Rotherham United.
In training yesterday, loanee from Fulham Dean Leacock picked up an injury. Peter Reid acted quickly and signed Southampton and England U19 defender Matthew Mills on a months loan a few hours before kick-off.
The centre half took his place in a defensive back four that also included Louis Carey,returning after a one game suspension in place of Andy Whing whilst the rest of the team was unchanged from that which had drawn with Gillingham on Wednesday.
In front of a reasonable crowd of 13,834, Graham Barrett got in the first shot of the game with a low drive which Millers keeper Mike Pollitt,who I rate as one of the best in the division getting down to save.
In the sixth minute,the first caution of the game came when Steve Staunton was fouled by Robbie Stockdale and went into the book of referee Phil Crossley.
The free kick was cleared and Rotherham went up the East Stand end where Luke Steele saved from Mike Proctor.
City came back at the Millers through Louis Carey who skipped his way into the penalty area. His cross was half cleared and when it came back in,Stern John headed wide.
The first corner of the game came in the 12th minute when a Carey through ball caused problems in the visitors defence. As Barrett raced to meet the ball,Chris Swailes stuck out a leg and put the ball out of play.
Michael Doyle took the kick which was half cleared back to him. This time,the Irishman sent over a far better effort for Stern John to head straight at Pollitt.
Graham Barrett was doing his best to get City attacking down the left and twice in quick succession,the former Arsenal player was involved when in the 20th minute, he tore down the left wing,spotted Stern John had called for the ball. John wanted it played to his feet and did not run as Barrett drilled the ball across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick.
Then two minutes later, Michael Doyle did well to get to the by-line and his cross cum shot bounced off the crossbar. John and Barrett had both timed their runs wrongly and ended up in the net and Darren Garner was on hand to clear the danger.
That was a close as anyone got all afternoon. Barrett and Doyle both went wide before Stephen Hughes went crashing to the ground in the 31st minute. Hughes got up but to no further part in the game and was replaced by Bjarni Gudjonsson. Hughes was taken to hospital with a suspected fractured tibia. He was treated on arrival and it was found to be no more than severe bruising which will mean that City will be without him for three to four weeks.
At the Fans Forum on Thursday, Peter Reid said that players low on confidence such as Bjarni Gudjonsson is would not be played. He had already loaned out Gary McSheffrey to Luton Town for a month,so why was he giving the Icelander who has not performed at all this season a run-out?
With Stern John doing his best to impersonate Darren Huckerby as time and time again,he failed to work out Rotherham's offside trap, the Millers won a 33rd minute corner.
Ronnie Moore,a frequent spectator at City reserve matches last season, was holding his head in his hands three minutes later when a long ball from the right was met by the head of Proctor for Steele to gather with ease.
Tim Sherwood sliced wide from twelve yards in the 37th minute and from the resulting goal kick,the visitors attacked and Louis Carey was forced to make a rash challenge for which he was booked.
"We Only Want One Goal" chanted the 167 (yes I did count) Rotherham supporters who were making a good bit of noise in the away section of the Sky Blue Stand, as a defensive wall were lined up for the place kick. Much to the disappoint of those supporting the team in red,City's defence did it's job clearing a poor free kick.
As half-time approached,City won a 42nd minute corner which Garner headed away and then Carey found Morrell who cut the ball inside for Michael Doyle. The Irishman curled the ball towards to the top left hand corner of the goal by Pollitt moved across to raise his arms aloft and grab the ball.
Mr Crossley added on two minutes of stoppage time which saw Garner head well over from a corner and a twenty yard curler from Gudjonsson easily caught.
As City were being booed off by certain sections of their support,our attention was averted by a girl in a black low cut top and black thing sticking out of her white trousers,making her way past us towards the exit.
The highlight of the half was how my long standing friends have asked me to describe it.
She returned some minutes later after the prat from Kix 96 had done his best to take away some very young boys moment of glory as they took penalties against Sky Blue Sam, prompting one of our gathering to think that his luck was in. However, the lady in question was not best pleased at this suggestion and replied with a scowl.
With our minds back on the game, we watched on as City won a corner some forty seconds after the restart and a minute later,groaned as Bjarni Gudjonsson was played in only to spoon the ball over the bar and high into the East Stand.
Both sides won a corner apiece, thanks to good work from Graham Barrett. Doyle flag kick was poor but he made amends when the ball was played back for him to deliver a splendid cross for John to plant a header into the hands of Pollitt.
Chris Sedgewick became the third booking in the 51st minute for bringing down Steve Staunton.
Things were becomingly increasingly more frustrating, playing 4-5-1 with Morrell again very deep was not helping.
Stern John headed over a 54th minute Staunton cross. Now, John might have cost the club £250,000 but apart from putting away the penalty against Gillingham,he has not netted from the good number of chances that have come to him in a manner that one would expect.
Both sets of fans were doing their best to lift their sides but it was clear that nothing was going to work today.
Any crosses that came into the Sky Blues penalty area were very confidently dealt with Luke Steele and although Rotherham were now looking the better side,they did not have enough in attack to do anything about it.
In the 71st minute,Peter Reid who has been linked along with Gordon Strachan for the Manchester City job if and when Kevin Keegan gets the sack made the first substitution of the game, surprisingly replacing Graham Barrett with Patrick Suffo.
The former Arsenal midfielder was not best pleased with this and threw a jacket at the floor in disgust.
Boredom amongst the City supporters was now setting in as firstly Richie Barker fired wide and then an alleged foul by Matthew Mills who had a good game in defence for Coventry,saw Proctor play a one-two with Millwall reject Paul Shaw before firing wide form six yards. Not that it mattered as offside had already been given.
In the dying seconds,a poor free kick was caught by Pollitt. Rotherham won the ball back seconds later attacked through John Mullin who squared for Proctor to stab the ball into the net.
A few Rotherham fans jumped up but the offside flag had been raised before Proctor even got to the ball and the match ended as nil-nil,leaving the City team to be again booed off the pitch whilst the visitors were left to celebrate only their fourth point of the season with their small band of fans.
ATT 13,834
Booked - Stockdale,Carey, Sedgewick
Man Of The Match - Luke Steele for his confident and safe handling was an easy winner.
Steele,Carey, Staunton,Mills,Shaw, Hughes (Gudjonsson 31),Doyle,Barrett (Suffo 71),Sherwood,Morrell,John SNU Shearer,Whing,Johnson