AUG 01] THE STUART LINNELL
Eleven Into Nine Doesn't Go!
The long-suffering supporters of
Coventry City Football Club no doubt thought they had seen it
all, until the August Bank Holiday Monday home match against
Nottingham Forest was reduced to a footballing farce.
Referee Mr Dowd dished out two
yellow cards apiece Ė and, therefore, two red cards Ė to
Forestís Matthieu Louis-Jean and Stern John and so ruined what
had previously been an entertaining spectacle, with the Sky
Blues getting stronger as the match developed.
After a worrying opening few
minutes, City had settled into a good rhythm, playing
enterprising football with young Jay Bothroyd outstanding. The
old failing of being unable to finish was still there, but there
was every indication that, if we maintained that performance
throughout the ninety minutes, a goal would come.
Instead, Forest were reduced to
nine men by harsh refereeing and we had the unedifying sight of
eleven-man City trying in vain to break through the visitors
packed defence while the home supporters grew, understandably,
more and more frustrated.
Difficult though it was to find a
way through eight men, tightly packed for the most part in and
immediately around their penalty area, protecting their
goalkeeper, there is no doubt that the Sky Blues made it even
harder by poor quality crosses and an apparent lack of ideas
from those desperately trying to pull the strings.
Carsley, Nilssson and Chippo ran
in ever decreasing circles looking for a way through or around
what was left of the Forest team, but no one had the key to
unlock the most stubborn defensive display I have seen in a long
Their tactics were forced on them
by the two red cards, but Forestís grit and determination to
throw bodies at every ball that vaguely threatened their goal
deservedly earned them the applause they received from every
quarter of the ground as they left the pitch.
Whether City quite deserved the
boos they got is another matter, but that reaction from the
Highfield Road faithful was not just about Monday nightís
It was the culmination of months
and possibly years of frustration, encompassing last seasonís
relegation and the sudden dampening of the newfound optimism
that had followed the arrival of Lee Hughes and the opening day
win at Stockport.
Writing in the match-day
programme for Monday, and referring to the home defeat by
Wolves, Gordon Strachan said:
ďSeveral times after defeats
last season I said I didnít feel that the players had
performed according to plan and it is a huge worry that after
so much has happened and we have worked so hard, that in the
second game of the season when everyone is rightly expectant,
we canít handle it.Ē
Well, Gordon, you donít need me
or anyone else to tell you that we are now four games into the
season and only four points to the good.
Yes, of course it is early days
and yes, in the first half against Forest, as I said earlier, we
gave an encouraging display that suggests that things are
getting better. Joachim, Eustace, Breen and Kirkland are among
those denied to us at the moment because of injury and Youssef
Safri has yet to make his debut, so there are many reasons to
believe that we should be able to put this disappointing start
You also donít need me to say
that it had better start happening soon, because you can quickly
lose touch with the leaders unless you start to pick up points,
and those jeering fans will soon turn into stay-away fans if a
team that we all know should be in the Premiership canít score
against inferior opponents, regardless of how many men they have
on the pitch.
Those boos came, for the most
part, from people who care about Coventry City Football Club.
People who have had enough of disappointment and struggle.
People who want a taste of what you, Gordon, were synonymous
with as a player - success.
Eleven into nine didnít go on
Monday night and the whole thing was so bizarre itís best
forgotten. But donít forget or dismiss those boos lightly. The
internationals this weekend give us all Ė coaches, players and
fans alike - two weeks to regroup and clear our heads.
Then we get back to the reality
of the First Division fixture list when our next opponents are
Grimsby Town. No disrespect to the good people who provide me
with my favourite fresh fish, but one season in the same league
as Grimsby Town is one season too many.
Lets keep that as our goal, and -
please - lets start scoring goals to achieve it!