COVENTRY CITY 3-2 READING BY KEV MONKS
After a miserable week,which saw a cup exit and a defeat at the league leaders,Coventry City finally got back to winning ways with a 3-2 win over Reading.
In a bid to avoid ten league matches without a win,Peter Reid made changes to a defence which has let him 25 goals so far this season by dropping Richard Shaw and replacing him with a loanee from Bolton called Florent Laville.
A strange decision when you consider that Shaw has been the best defender we have had this season.
The Frenchman lined up alongside Stuart Giddings who kept his place after a good performance at Middlesbrough and a midfield boosted by the return of Rohan Ricketts with Stern John back up front alongside Eddy Johnson.
Steve Coppell's side arrived at Highfield Road without defender Adie Williams who is expected to sign for City on a free transfer in time for the visit of Reading to Highfield Road.
City attacking the East Stand were on the attack from the start and within fifteen seconds of the first whistle from referee Graham Salisbury,Andy Morrell fired at a shot at Royals keeper Marcus Hahnemann.
The visitors backed by 1300 fans and a firm of about 25 hooligans that necessitated a heavy police and steward presence, came straight back at City when a lovely cross form Paul Brooker found Glenn Little, Thankfully,the winger whom I'd seen netted the winner in the 1996 Northern Irish Cup final for Glentoran against Glenavon could not control his close range header and nodded the ball over the crossbar.
City won the first corner of the game after 95 seconds and another followed six minutes later when Stern John's right footed effort was deflected out of play. Doyle's flag kick was eventually played out to Rohan Ricketts who hit a low shot which the bald and portly Hahnemann got down to save.
City have been guilty of conceding some soft goals this season and in the tenth minute, they let in another when Glenn Little was allowed the freedom of the pitch on the right wing to centre low for Lloyd Owusu to tap into the West End goal.
"Here we go again" could be heard muttered by the City faithful,now becoming accustomed to the Sky Blues conceding an early goal.
Whilst some heads amongst the 13,663 crowd may have been dropping, the Coventry players were looking to get back in the game and this they did within two minutes.
As one person sat amongst the Reading (or Chelsea as some suggested) firm was led away by the stewards, Stern John got into the penalty area and was brought down by a clumsy challenge by Steve Sidwell and a penalty awarded. Stern John stepped up and as we were predicting put in to the keepers left and into the net.
The goal lifted City who started to close down their opponents and play the ball around when they got the chance.
A City corner arrived in the 20th minute but came to nothing and three minutes later,the ginger haired Dave Kitson,who gets offended if you mention his carrot top,unlike our Andy Whing, steamed into Michael Doyle. Mr Salisbury was straight on it and cautioned the Reading player.
In the 28th minute, the book was out again this time for Louis Carey who tried to tackle the Reading keeper. Hahnemann crashed to the ground and received treatment and was jeered by East Standers who thought he was making a meal of it.
Stern John was looking lively and a lovely run by the underfire striker saw him jink past a defender before firing wide with the outside of his right foot.
Stuart Giddings was another working very hard and in the 32nd minute,he delivered a cross for Andy Morrell at the far post who hit a shot that bounced off a defender and out for a corner.
The corner was not properly dealt with and fell for Stephen Hughes who leant back and blasted over the bar from the middle of the penalty area.
Another corner followed les than two minutes later when Dean Leacock got to Doyle's kick but only headed over.
The ejections in the way end kept occurring as Stern John rounded the keeper and went down. Nothing was given as Mr Salisbury adjudged that Hahnemann had got to the ball first.
As half-time approached a half clearance by Laville was sent well over the bar by Steve Sidwell.
City attacked in the final seconds and as Stern John tried to shoot with his right foot,he was clattered by a defender.
The knock to John proved serious (he left the ground with a caste of his feet) and the Trinidadian was replaced by Patrick Suffo at the start of the second half.
Reading were the first to show with a free kick on the edge of the area with fifteen seconds gone,Shorey curled the ball in and Luke Steele comfortably caught the ball.
Andy Morrell was enjoying himself on the right wing and he played a lovely 48th minute ball
inside for Eddy Johnson to curl over.
Glenn Little then won a corner,Shorey's kick was missed by everyone and was played up to Ricketts. A well executed 50th minute cross went to the back post and dropped for Andy Morrell. He steadied himself and lashed an unstoppable shot into the net from eight yards.
The goal was fitting reward for the hard working Morrell who headed wide from a corner won by Eddy Johnson two minutes later.
In the 57th minute,Steve Coppell made his first change of the afternoon with Bobby Convey replacing Paul Brooker.
Morrell tried his luck once more but his shot cannoned off Sonko and was cleared away by Shorey.
After Kitson had been spoken to for shoving in the penalty area after a Reading free kick had been awarded, Morrell got down the right and crossed only for Hahnemann to grab before it reached the waiting Patrick Suffo.
The City supporters were clearly enjoying themselves and were intimidating that their opponents current high placing in the league was unlikely to last when a clash in midfield left Louis Carey and a Reading player on the ground on the edge of the centre circle.
Mr Sailsbury waved play on. Patrick Suffo collected the ball found Johnson on the right side of the penalty area and the popular striker rifled a low drive into the net.
That was it for the hooligans who tried to leave via the exit nearest the West Terrace only to be forced back by police and stewards and sent out of the exit in the middle of Thackhall Street with police and stewards running after them.
Leaving early saw them miss a goal (not that many of those who left seemed bothered) as within five minutes, a scramble in the goal mouth saw Dave Kitson bundle the ball over the line after a deep cross had not been properly dealt with.
This set up a nervous last twenty minutes with Reading earning two corners,the second of which just crept over Steele's crossbar from a Convey header.
Steele then had to be alert to collect a James Harper shot which deflected off Owusu before Ricketts was replaced by Eric Deloumeaux with eleven minutes of normal time remaining.
Eddy Johnson won a corner and this was followed in the 83rd minute by a long ball from Morrell setting up Michael Doyle. The Irishman did not realise how much time he actually had on the ball and hit a first time effort which sailed into the West Terrace.
To a standing ovation,Eddy Johnson was replaced by Gary McSheffrey who also received a huge cheer as he entered the field of play.
With the game into four minutes of stoppage time,Gary McSheffrey on the right won a corner. Doyle and Deloumeaux tried to play a short as two defenders were not the full ten yards away. The second Frenchman in the City side knocked the ball forward and Doyle was immediately flagged off side by the assistant referee just in front of the visitors section.
Luke Steele having recovered from two bad games was looking good in the City goal and was commanding his area like we know he can as he twice punched cleared to allow City to get the ball upfield and for Suffo and McSheffrey to combine to set up skipper Stephen Hughes who drilled the ball at Hahnemann.
The final whistle was one of relief and promoted celebrations amongst the City support happy that a win had been achieved.
Hahnemann raced over to the Reading supporters, who to their credit clapped off the Coventry players, and handed his gloves to a wheelchair bound supporter, a gesture applauded by both sets of fans.
Unfortunately,whatever the early leavers from the away end had done, meant that West Terracers were blocked by police and stewards and were unable to leave via the normal Thackhall Street entrance.
But after a win like this, a little diversion matter not.
HT CCFC 1-1 RFC FT CCFC 3-2 RFC
GOALS Lloyd Owusu (10),
Stern John (13 pen)
Andy Morrell (50)
Eddy Johnson (65)
Dave Kitson (70)
Man Of The Match - Andy Morrell with merits for Eddy Johnson and Stuart Giddings
Hughes,Ricketts (Deloumeaux 79),Johnson (McSheffrey 83),John (Suffo 46) SNU Shearer,Shaw