City: Burge Willis (C) (Dion Kelly-Evans 60), Stokes, Turnbull, Haynes, George Thomas (Jones 81) Bigirimana, Stevenson, Reid, Lameiras, Beavon (Tudgay 95), Subs: Charles-Cook, Harries, Gadzhev, Folivi, Tudgay.
Oxford: Eastwood, Lundstram, Nelson, Hemmings, McGuire, Edwards, Rothwell (Ruffels 91), Hall, Ledson, (Sercombe 57), Johnson, Dunkley. Subs: Stephens, Riberio, Skarz, Long, Carroll.
HT CCFC 1-0 OUFC FT CCFC 2-1 OUFCFC 74,434 Goals Gael Bigirimana 12, George Thomas 55, Liam Sercombe 75
Coventry City are the 2016/2017 EFL Trophy Winners after a 2-1 victory againt Oxford United in a thrilling final at Wembley Stadium.
After nearly two months wait, the day was here and the famous Coventry City were going to Wembley after beating West Ham U23’s, Northampton, Wycombe away and home, Crawley, Brighton U21’s and Swansea U21’s. You would be well within your rights to dismiss the format of group stages and Premier League and Championship reserve sides entering the competition but whilst the Sky Blues have under-performed in the league, this competition has proved a welcome distraction.
It was a day that was always billed as one for the supporters and City supporters were out in force, with a magnificent 43,000 of us flying in, taking the train, tube, coach, car, bus or even walking to the national stadium.
Relying on what I knew and information from those who follow England, I let the train take the strain and used a couple of pubs to meet up with many of you, before I got into the stadium and took my place in what was a a vast ocean of sky blue which stretched round half of Wembley Stadium. The players were led out by Steve Ogrizovic and after the national anthem was belted out by the City support and a number of former players, the Sky Blues in their home kit, before a massive chorus of the Sky Blue Song which showed our presence in the stadium to the Oxford support, many of whom were making a return visit after their appearance in last year’s final and provided an emotional start to proceedings.
Against an Oxford side which was odds on favourites to win, I was pleased that Mark Robins named a team which had six players whom I have been watching for a good few years in City’s Academy and U21’s/U23’s with one Cov Kid in Jordan Willis captaining the side.
The U’s, who included former City loanee Chris McGuire in their starting line up, were first to show but, backed by some tremendous noise from the City support behind the goal that the Sky Blues were defending, City got into the game with the first chance coming from Gael Bigirimana, who recently became a father to Gael firing wide with six minutes gone.
The next time Gael Bigirimana got the ball, he caused pandemonium in the areas for City supporters as the Sky Blues got a throw on the right, the ball came over from Willis and there was Bigirimana who drove home in the 12th minute.
The unbridled joy was there for all to see and what had already been a great day got even with the early goal that the Sky Blues always need if they are to win a game.
Kyel Reid was causing problems wherever he went against an Oxford side forced two corners before a foul on Reid brought a free kick and a catch for Eastwood and Stokes had to head a free kick behind in the 20th minute for a corner which was followed by another.
A Reid cross had to be scrambled away but on the half hour mark, Oxford should have a penalty when Hemmings was challenged in the area by the solid Ryan Haynes. Nothing was thankfully given and Coventry recovered and eventually won a corner.
A reckless challenge in the 38th minute saw Gael Bigirimana who worked hard in the first half, booked before Hall missed a good chance and Oxford had another two corners but City were ahead at the break.
The City support were still coming back from their half-time beverage, snack or sneaky fag as Jordan Willis won a corner fifty seconds into the second half.
The sense of purpose that City had displayed in the first half continued with Ruben Lameiras displaying a neat touch, Ben Stevenson always looking to get City pushing forwards whilst George Thomas was his lively self, winning a corner that Reid sent over the bar before hitting a lovely shot that Eastwood had to tip over for a 53rd minute corner. City attacked again this time in the 55th minute, it was down the left when Kyel Reid got past his marker and picked out George Thomas on the edge of the area with a peach of a cross. George Thomas hit it superbly and it flew under the diving Eastwood on his right and into the bottom corner of the net.
The City support went ballistic, supporters tried to get on the pitch and flares were lit, giving the masses of stewards cause for concern. Did we care? No, City were two goals up and it was looking more and like the dog that is Coventry City was going to have its day.
The sight of the City support stood up after a chorus of Stand Up If You Love City was a joy to behold and the Sky Blue Song was next to be lasted out by the City support who then embarked on a massive chorus of “We Want Sisu Out. Cov kid and former Coventry Sphinx youngster Dion Kelly-Evans slotted in well after coming on for the injured Jordan Willis after an hour, whilst in the stands, there was a brief skirmish in a section to the bottom right of the Royal Box.
Back on the pitch and Oxford were getting more into the game. Lee Burge pulled off another cracking save, pushing a 73rd minute free kick over for a corner but two minutes later, he was picking the ball out of the net when substitute Liam Sercombe hit a 75th minute shot from the edge of the area which was allowed to go through a crowded penalty area and into the net.
The Oxford supporters in what was a record crowd of over 74,000, celebrated and urged their team on and gasped as Lee Burge came out to block in the 78th minute after two more shots from George Thomas.
Jodi Jones came on for City with ten minutes left in a game which still had a few nervy moments for the City supporters to endure.
However, Lee Burge pulled off a cracking save from point blank range deep in stoppage time and after what seemed an age, referee Chris Sarginson who handled the game well, blew his whistle and Coventry City had won the EFL Trophy.