COVENTRY CITY 1-0 WATFORD BY KEV MONKS
Coming at the end of a miserable week,when withdrawals made the headlines, namely Mr Dhinsa's "bid" and secondly Jaguar pulling out of sponsoring the Arena (a wise decision considering the ill feeling towards the company now owned by Ford in the city), City's first home win against Watford in seven attempts came as an early Christmas present.
With Michael Doyle suspended, Isaac Osbourne who played at centre half for the reserves in their 3-0 defeat at Norwich came in for only his third ever appearance whilst fit again Stuart Giddings replaced Steve Staunton. Adie Williams was out with tonsillitis and a hamstring injury and was replaced by Florent Laville and Stern John came back at the expense of Eddy Johnson.
On what is traditionally the lowest Saturday of the season attendance wise, it was pleasing to see a decent turn out from the Sky Blue support with supporters from as far away as Norway making the trip.
The same could not be said of Watford who only had around 200 in the away end and it was the away side who were first to attack when Paul Devlin got to the by-line in front of the West Terrace in the third minute and as he tried to keep the ball under control, the Scottish midfielder hilariously fell and ended up on his back.
When Watford regained possession seconds later, this time there was no hilarity as Heldar Helguson attacked and hit a low shot which Luke Steele sliced out for a corner with a miskick.
A second corner followed after Giddings beat James Chambers to the ball with a header. Neil Ardley took the kick but sliced it over the goal net and out on the opposite side.
Corner number three came in the sixth minute, but as Ardley prepared to take it, Referee Mr Webster spotted a hole in the pitch.
City officials looked on as the arbiter called for the groundsman to get it sorted. Eventually,two ground staff appeared on the pitch complete with a hoe and a fork and repaired the damage before being ordered off by the match official who added five minutes onto the end of the first half for the delay.
The corner was cleared up to Andy Morrell but just as he went forward,in came Brynjar Gunnarsson who shoved the former Wrexham striker over. Mr Webster gave City a free kick did not give the Icelander anything more than a cursory glance.
Morrell recovered to head a ninth minute cross for Hornets keeper Richard Lee to catch from a Giddings cross in what was City's first real attack on the East Stand goal.
To say the first half was dire was certainly not an understatement and as we were busy discussing everything else but the game, a 21st minute foul on Stern John by Sean Dyche saw Adebola rise to meet the free kick only for Neil Cox to clear.
Two minutes later, City were nearly a goal down when a Dyer cross was toe-poked over the bar by Helguson from four foot out. The away fans held their head in their hands but it would not have counted as there was a flag up on the far side.
Isaac Osbourne was having a decent game in midfield and he played a neat ball to Dele Adebola who played a one two with Stern John before hitting a low 25th minute drive which Richard Lee flung himself at to block. As the custodian tried to make a second grab at the loose ball in came James Chambers who crashed into the keeper.
A stretcher was immediately summoned and Lee was taken to hospital with a fractured cheekbone. Lee received a good ovation from both sets of supporters as he was carried away and Watford boss Ray Lewington sent on one of my favourite keepers in this division - Alec Chamberlain.
With chants from a small section of West Enders saying exactly where Mr Dhinsa could be stuck, Luke Steele dived to his left to push a Devlin shot around the post for a corner.
City were pumping lots of high balls into the air in the hope that Dele Adebola would get on the end of one and it was one such ball from a Carey 32nd minute free kick which led to a City corner.
Another corner taken by Louis Carey who has still to win over much of the Sky Blues support followed in the 36th minute but again it was easily dealt with by the visitors.
Gary McSheffrey was now starting to get into the game and in the 40th minute,he smashed the ball high into the East Stand from a Carey cross.
City were now the better of two poor sides and with the game in the first minute of the five added on for stoppages, Dele Adebola got in a back header from a Osbourne through ball and Chamberlain dived to his left and whilst in mid air, pushed the ball away.
Many people were heading out for their half-time cuppa or toilet break on what was an afternoon that got colder the darker it got, when a ball was played out to Giddings on the left, it found Adebola who played the ball across to Gary McSheffrey. The Coventry kid had his back to goal but was able to turn. When he was facing the goal, he controlled the ball and then smashed it into the net from eight yards.
Boosted by this goal in the final minute of stoppage time,City came out for the second half with more purpose.
They won a 47th minute corner but were sound back defending when Helguson fed Dyer and raced upfield to head wide from
a cross by the midfielder in his second spell at Vicarage Road.
Eight minutes later, City almost went further ahead when Stephen Hughes who was having an excellent game crossed from the left and Gary McSheffrey from three yards out stuck out a foot and deflected the ball onto the crossbar and over for a goal kick.
The team supported by Elton John (who had two of his records played at half-time and at the end of the game, subliminal advertising possibly!) broke in the 55th minute through Helguson. The Icelander got in a good drive but Steele was more than equal to it and got his legs to block the ball, in raced Dyer who smashed the ball high into the East Stand.
Three minutes later, Watford attacked. Dyer got his head to a cross and sent the ball out of play. Now unless, it was a super save from Steele which nobody saw, the booing from the City supporters in the East and Sky Blue Stands gave the impression that the corner award by Mr Webster was not the correct decision.
The decision of Mr Webster were again called into question in the 61st minute when Gary McSheffrey got into the penalty area and was just on the left of the goal when Chambers flew into him,bundling the City striker off the pitch. Screams for a penalty were ignored and instead a corner was awarded.
This again came to nothing and an Ardley cross was met by the head of Helguson and Steele had to make a diving one handed save to concede a corner rather than a goal.
Now Stern John had failed to sparkle for 64 minutes and he was replaced by Neil Wood (or Dead Wood as he was cruelly nicknamed by a number of West Terrace wags).
The summer signing from Manchester United went on to the left wing allowing McSheffrey to partner Adebola in attack and a minute later, Wood found Stephen Hughes who sent a dipping twenty yarder just over Chamberlain's crossbar.
Wood was involved again when he laid on a ball from the competent and able Dele Adebola for Gary McSheffrey to run onto and smash into the West Terrace. After bouncing off a seat,the ball landed close to my feet and I was able to get an unintentional touch of the ball as I got my arm in the way as my partner Rachel tried to throw the ball back to the waiting keeper.
Wood sent a left footed volley from the edge of the area,quite wide of the goal before the visitors made their second change of the game, bringing on Ashley Young for Bruce Dyer.
McSheffrey was proving a handful for a Watford side content on either winning or conceding free kicks to break up play. The Coventry kid had flashed wide from twelve yards in the 72nd minute when two minutes later, he was poleaxed by James Chambers. The ball had fallen to Neil Wood who was through on goal. However as the referee thought that a caution for Chambers was required, the play was brought back.
Wood wasted a glorious chance in the 76th minute when he drove well wide with only the keeper to beat.
Ray Lewington had by now decided that Chambers was becoming something of a liability and in the 79th minute replaced him with Marcus Gayle.
McSheffrey continued to have the better of City's chances when he raced through only for Chamberlain to get down on his left side to make an 83rd minute save and then seconds later, lob the ball onto the crossbar from twenty eight yards
That was the last of the Coventry kid who was replaced by Eddy Johnson for the last five minutes and he left to very generous applause.
With time running out, Watford won two corners and then had a free kick on the edge of the area for a foul by Laville who was cautioned and the ball moved ten yards forward. Ardley lined up to take the kick but saw his place kick blocked by the industrious Stephen Hughes and City held on to record their first win in four matches.
HT CCFC 1-0 WFC FT CCFC 1-0 WFC
GOAL Gary McSheffrey (45)
MAN OF THE MATCH - Stephen Hughes took the votes from Luke Steele
Hughes,McSheffrey (84),John (Wood 64),Adebola SNU Shearer,Staunton,Barrett