COVENTRY CITY 1-2 IPSWICH TOWN BY KEV MONKS
A lack of communication cost City a point thanks to a late bizarre own goal against Ipswich Town at Highfield Road.
Prior to this game moved for the purposes of Sky Television, I'd met Coventry's Olympic hero Marlon Devonish who showed his gold medal from the recent games in Athens to myself and Matty Evans.
The runner was presented to the crowd before kick-off and received a standing ovation from both sets of supporters. Now Steve Staunton must have being wishing that he had been that popular, as when the teams came out (not to the sounds of "A Message To You Rudy" to mark the 25th anniversary,an idea supported by both Coventry and Ipswich supporters but not the club obviously),Staunton's name was booed by a good number in the West Terrace.
The Irishman who was again abused as he got his first touch after just over ninety seconds,took his place in a City side that had two changes. With Louis Carey suffering from a bad back (Peter Reid has a bad side,but never mind!), Andy Whing deputised at right back whilst fit again Stephen Hughes replaced Claus Jorgensen in what was a 4-5-1 formation.
In pouring rain and with City supporters gathered in bars all over the world watching on, Ipswich attacking the West Terrace had the ball in the net in the net through Darren Bent in the sixth minute. Bent finished neatly with a sixteen yard drive but the flag from the assistant referee in front of the 600 plus Ipswich fans had already been raised to indicate off-side.
The same happened a minute later when former Stockport and Sheffield Wednesday striker Shefki Kuqi slotted into the net.
During the midweek practice game at Northampton (1-0 Cov,Eddy Johnson scored),City had been practicing their passing and despite the slippery conditions were passing the ball around nicely.
A good move by Stern John in the 12th minute,saw the Trinidad & Tobago striker push the ball forward into the path of Andy Morrell who again had been given a right side of midfield role. As Morrell steadied himself to shoot, Town keeper Lewis Price deputising for the injured Kelvin Davis, came out and put Morrell off and the ball went out for a goal kick.
Four minutes later, a lovely run from Stephen Hughes saw him burst through the visiting defence,only for the former Charlton player to pull his shot wide from the edge of the area.
Price's kick reached the halfway line, Stern John pounced on it,found Andy Whing who threaded the ball inside to Tim Sherwood. The former England midfielder headed for goal. He got into the penalty and as he was approaching the six yard area,Drissa Diallo stepped across and brought down Sherwood.
Referee Clive Penton took one look and awarded City a penalty kick. Stern John stepped up and aimed for the keeper's bottom left. He did not strike it particularly well and Price was able to dive to his left and push the ball away.
Let-off by this penalty miss, Ipswich nearly made City pay when Darren Bent got past Richard Shaw, City custodian Luke Steele did well to deflect the ball before it fell for Dean Bowditch to thunder a terrific strike against the crossbar from fifteen yards. The ball crashed to the ground where it was banged away and the danger cleared.
Kuqi then ripped Staunton apart before getting to the by-line. He sent over a lovely ball by Steele was equal to it and pounced on it like a cat with a mouse to prevent any further damage.
Against a side who would go second if they were to record a victory at Highfield Road, City were matching their opponents in every department and were starting to gain a slight advantage.
In the 25th minute,Graham Barrett fired wide and minute later, Barrett found Staunton on the left and the Villa loving defender drove low for Price to dive and save.
Steele beat away a Bent drive from an Bowditch pass before Bent sought to gain an unfair advantage by falling down in the penalty area in the 33rd minute. Mr Panton did not even bother thinking about it,such was this poor attempt at a dive and also decided that it was not even worth a booking for unsporting behaviour.
A minute later, Andy Whing found John who advanced before his effort was blocked for a corner. Doyle took the kick swung it in. There was a clash of bodies between a Town defender and Andy Morrell and play was halted. Morrell received treatment and a new shirt which had no number but was able to continue.
After a rare moment of skill by Steve Staunton to flick the ball past a defender, only for John to be offside, Kuqi rose for the ball at the other end, missed it but still won a corner. When the place kick came in,in what was an act of justice,Kuqi succeeded in heading the ball away and then was in an offside position when the ball came back in.
At half-time boxer Andy Helder was introduced to the crowd and also roundly applauded.
City came out on the attack in the second half and won a free kick in the opening minute which Michael Doyle from twenty five yards sent well over the bar.
With Tommy Miller booked for a trip on Tim Sherwood,Steele made a good save from a 49th minute free kick to push the ball away. The on loan keeper couldn't hold the ball and it fell Richard Naylor to slam into the side netting.
On the hour mark, Peter Reid made his first change of the afternoon replacing Graham Barrett with Bjarni Gudjonsson. This did not go down well with some in WT6 as there were chants of "You Don't Know What You're Doing" whilst the rest of the West End clapped off the Irishman who was not happy with yet again being replaced.
Joe Royle's side were starting to look dangerous and after a looping shot from Bowditch from 35 yards had grazed the crossbar, Steele did well to save from a Kuqi effort.
A minute later, Kuqi who I thought looked the most likely to score almost did with a stinging 25 yard shot which Steele superbly one handedly pushed over the bar for a corner which Steele confidently caught.
However, for once,the City's keeper distribution let him down and the ball fell for Jim Magilton to send over a ball and with the goal at his mercy,Kuqi got to the ball but skyed his shot very wide when it looked easier to score.
And score was what the visitors did. Tim Sherwood had been booked for a foul on Kuqi (prompting more chants of "Off,Off,Off" Andy Whing got the ball from the free kick, motored down the right before delivering a cross which Price caught.
The ball was sent upfield. Bent got past Staunton on the right flank, delivered a ball across the face of the goal for the unmarked Dean Bowditch to net at the far post and give the visitors a 69th minute lead.
Chants of "Reid Out" and "Sack The Board" emanated from the disgruntled in WT6 as the replacing of Tim Sherwood for Patrick Suffo drew huge ironic cheers.
This time,a Reid change did the trick and after two superb saves from Steele, thwarted the visitors and Kuqi sloped off the pitch to be replaced by Ian Westlake, City drew level.
Andy Whing got the ball on the right, played it inside for Gudjonsson. The Icelander chipped the ball for Patrick Suffo to run on to and lift the ball over the advancing Price and into the net.
The goal briefly lifted the majority of a 12,608 crowd but with Jorgensen on for Morrell and Suffo missing with a header from a Staunton cross,City's luck in this game,finally ran out.
With three minutes left, the ball came out of midfield to Matthew Mills who turned trying to play the ball back to his keeper to waste a bit of time rather than hoofing it upfield. Mills played it back alright but hit it too hard. On the greasy surface,the ball span as Steele came out to deal with it and by-passed the City keeper. Mills could only look on in abject horror as the ball rolled into the empty net.
It was a cruel blow and although City played a lot better than they did at QPR, another defeat was not what the fans or the club wanted.
To his credit, Mills apologised to everyone he spoke to after the game but when we play Leicester on October 16th,apologies won't be acceptable if we fail to win.
There was one good result for City in that Coventry City Ladies finally managed to win a game at their eighth attempt with a 3-1 home victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
HT CCFC 0-0 ITFC FT CCFC 1-2 ITFC
ATT 12 608
GOALS - Dean Bowditch (69 mins)
Patrick Suffo (76 Mins)
Matthew Mills OG (87 mins)
MAN OF THE MATCH - Luke Steele for some fine saves
Steele,Whing,Mills,Shaw,Staunton, Hughes,Doyle,Barrett (Gudjonsson 60),Sherwood (Suffo 72),Morrell (Jorgensen 78), John