Wednesday, 15 January 2020

14/01/20 Review: Coventry City vs Bristol Rovers

Coventry City 3-0 Bristol Rovers (FA Cup Third Round Replay)
St Andrew's

Ahh mid-January, a time where we're all still skint from Christmas and the only thing to get us through the wet and cold misery is the chance to spend the money we don't have going to sit in the aforementioned wet and cold to watch some midweek FA Cup Replay action. In my case, that would mean a trip to Birmingham City's St Andrew's stadium to watch... not Birmingham City!

Confusing, right?

With my first outing of the year also being at the "home" of a Coventry based team last week, I was wondering if the Sky Blues could be as dominant as Alvis were last week in their local cup rout over Wolves Uni at Green Lane. One thing was for certain and that was that this would be either a really good time to play the Gas, or a really bad time- and when you consider that this was my eighth time watching Bristol Rovers without seeing them win in 90 minutes, the signs were all there to suggest that there was only one way for this game to end. Alas, despite watching them draw away at Macc Town, Port Vale and Barnet, as well as suffering defeats to Millwall, Notts County and Wolves, I can at least say that I've seen them win a game on penalties as they just about edged past Grimsby at Wembley in what was undoubtedly the biggest game I've seen the Pirates play. Regarding Cov City, it would be my first time ever watching them.

... and Coventry City!

So with my poor record well documented, I turned my attentions to the game and although Rovers came into this one in atrocious form they would still fancy themselves after hosting an entertaining 2-2 in the original tie just ten days prior to this replay. On paper, it was two sides from the same league, both in the top half of the table and both with their own troubles off the field- however, bearing in mind that Rovers hadn't picked up a win in seven games in all competitions, I made my usual pre-match prediction and went for a 2-0 Cov win. An additional bit of spice to this fixture came from the fact that whoever won would play Birmingham City at home in the fourth round- a strange but interesting prospect for the tenants renting St Andrew's from the team they could be facing.

For reference, Blues fans, this is what the view from your away end is like
Before the Sky Blues could think about this though, they had to get the business done on a cold January night and after I hiked the almost 2 mile journey from New Street to St Andrew's, I arrived with only a bit of time to spare and therefore headed straight into the away end to get comfy and wrapped up for the game. It's not like me to feel the cold, but those early year outings are nippy. Of course, the joy of going to a Football League stadium in these conditions is that you tend to be offered shelter from the rain and when I entered the near 30,000 seater I was grateful not to be in the direct content of the elements as I usually am in my non-league ventures. The ground itself is of course much more glorious than the average one I attend, but as with quite a few of the "big boy" grounds I've been to I wasn't exactly blown away by St Andrew's upon first viewing. For me, the thing that makes a football trip memorable is as much the surrounds as the actual game itself, but this blue box generic renovation job from the nineties had less character than a block of cheddar and although it sits in the heart of the local community, there isn't even a funny feature to talk about. Even The Hawthorns, the last one of the 91 that I experienced back in July, had a wall of fame and a gaming corner to keep me entertained.

The turnstile was alright, I suppose
Thankfully I wasn't just there for a stadium tour and as 7:45pm rolled around my fifteen pound entry fee would result in a football match too- amazing! The squads trundled out in the drizzly floodlit setting and before we knew it the game was on- which meant that we could only be a few minutes away from an early Bristol Rovers meltdown. Just four minutes on the clock had ticked by when a simple through-ball unleashed Maxime Biamou and the Frenchman took his early chance to launch a left-footed drive past Jordi van Stappershoef- the two meter tall Dutch goalie would have to resort to picking the ball out of his net already. Coventry 1-0 Rovers. My Rovers supporting pals had warned me pre-match that this one could be embarrassing from the offset and with their new manager not in attendance due to being on personal leave it seemed that the players, subs and coaching team could do nothing but look at each other and scratch their heads whilst watching City play their way up the field to look for a second goal. It wasn't the fact that they were losing that was frustrating the visiting fans, but it was the lack of passion and failure to challenge for any loose balls. Rovers' top striker and former Sky Blue forward rattled the bar for the away side, but apart from that it was a low-key and controlled display from City and half-time looked to be a welcome break for the Gasheads who'd made the two-hour journey up the M5. As most of the fans paraded down to the bar, one old boy shouted out "they've locked the gates, you can't leave until after 90 minutes" a sad prospect indeed for some.

Still, when times are hard, there's always a half-time pie to cry into
Although things are currently pretty bleak for Rovers, albeit still fairly rosy when compared with my own club Macc Town, the visiting fans were shouting out at the start of the second-half and their chant of "you're supposed to, you're supposed to, you're supposed to be at home" may or may not have been meant as a double diss against the homeless Coventry contingent, but either way they were still silenced a few minutes in as Josh Pask grabbed a debut goal to then spark a chant from the Cov end. "We're coming for you. We're coming for yoooooou. Birmingham City, we're coming for you" rang out as Pask wheeled away and with forty minutes still to go, you felt like this one was already over. Coventry 2-0 Rovers. The hosts for the evening weren't done there though and whilst they had momentum they ploughed forward again and this allowed for Biamou to grab an unopposed tap-in against his statuesque opponents. 56 minutes played and time for the long drive home for many away fans already. Coventry 3-0 Rovers.

The magic of the cup... or not
I shall refrain in continuing to write down all of the additional chances City created and instead conclude by stating that although it wasn't the best day out I've had in terms of groundhopping, nor was it to be eighth time lucky for me watching Bristol Rovers, but on the plus-side it was nice to finally see what Cov City are all about. A very good side at the moment and playing some lovely stuff... let's just hope that they get to move back to their own city sooner rather than later. Rovers fans, I'm just gonna have to come down to a pre-season game against a Western League team in order to see you guys win a game!

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