Well, City don’t half put us through the motions! All I can say is ‘phew’. I’m so relieved that we’ve kept ourselves in this division. It has been a long, hard slog but hopefully we can put this miserable campaign behind us and really push on in the 2015/16 season. Looking at the final league table, it turns out that even if we’d have lost we would’ve stayed up anyway. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasant feeling to know that we’ve decided our own fate. At one point when we were 1-0 down I was ridiculously nervous as a Crewe equaliser at Bradford would’ve put us in the bottom four. Thankfully, my heart rate had just about returned to normal when the final whistle was sounded.
I went in to the game fearing the worst as you never know what to expect with the Sky Blues. I had a funny feeling that everything would go against us to be honest, but I’m very thankful it didn’t. It shouldn’t have gone to the final day of the season, but the table doesn’t lie and our inability to win games throughout the season had cost us, forcing us to do it the hard way.
It wasn’t the most spectacular game of football you will ever see in terms of quality, but the effort from both sides was clear. Crawley made it very difficult for us in large parts but we defended well and held our own. Admittedly though, when we went a goal down I couldn’t see a way back for us…but it seemed to spark the players in to life. The severity of the situation looked to sink in and we took the game to the home side, and even after going 2-1 up we looked the most likely to grab another goal. As I said, it’s been a fairly painful season but I’m pleased for the supporters that we’ve secured our League One status.
A long summer certainly awaits, but at least we’ll be playing the likes of Bradford and Peterborough next season as opposed to Barnet!
The game began at a very high pace as both sides looked tenacious as you’d expect in a relegation decider. City had the better of the opening exchanges though and the ball was in the back of the net on 4 minutes. It was a superb John Fleck delivery from a dead ball situation that reaped havoc in the Crawley area. Brian Jensen couldn’t hold the cross in the home goal and the ball was bundled over the line, but to the supporter’s dismay, the assistant’s flag was raised. Another chance was created just a minute later and Fleck was at the centre of things again after good pressure from Grant Ward and Marcus Tudgay won City a throw-in. The ball eventually fell to the Scottish midfielder and his ferocious half-volley flew narrowly over the bar from the edge of the area.
Crawley seemed to settle down a little though after around 10 minutes following a shaky start. In front of a sellout crowd, they then began knocking the ball around well and confidence seemed to increase with every move. Their first attempt on goal came after 12 minutes with a slick build up leading to Kelly Youga’s attempt, he could only fire over though after cutting inside with his right foot. They continued to probe for a way forward as Izale McLeod and Marvin Elliott looked the most likely to cause the Sky Blues any problems, but the away defence stood firm to restrict the home side.
The midfield battle was really taking shape now but it was the home side who started to look the most effective in there. Elliott and Fowler were really pulling the strings in the centre of the park and it was a Fowler pass that released Lewis Young down the right. His darting run was thwarted by the combative Jim O’Brien who slid in clumsily, the home fans were calling for a red card but referee Steve Martin decided it only warranted a yellow.
A fairly dull period followed as both teams continued to scrap for possession. Chances were hard to come by but it was the home side who were next to register an attempt on goal with 28 minutes on the clock. It was a counter-attacking move from the Reds involving Mathias Pogba and Izale McLeod that looked to put the Sky Blues under pressure, the chance was however wasted as McLeod, who has scored 19 league goals this season, could only blaze over under no real pressure.
The first half petered out from that point onwards but the Sky Blues were awarded a penalty just before the half-time whistle. A John Fleck cross picked out Marcus Tudgay in the area, he then used intricate control to draw a foul in the area as Gavin Tomlin made contact which forced the referee to point to the spot. On-loan Nick Proschwitz then stepped up to take it as he looked for his second goal for the club, but the experienced Brian Jensen got down well to save what was a fairly weak penalty to deny the Sky Blues a lead at the break.
City had the first chance of the second period as Nick Proschwitz skewed wide from 20 yards, it was however the home side that had the edge early on. With 48 minutes on the clock the Reds took the lead to heighten the nerves within the away support. It was a poor goal to concede in all honesty as too much space was given to Gavin Tomlin out wide, he was then allowed to put in a great cross which the unmarked Mathias Pogba headed emphatically in to the top corner past Lee Burge. City looked very nervy after conceding and further damage was nearly inflicted straight from the restart as Izale McLeod broke through before testing Burge.
Crawley began to look in control after going a goal to the good, but James Maddison’s introduction at the expense of Adam Barton on 53 minutes changed the complexion of the game. The home side still looked relatively comfortable but the young midfielder added quality going forward and his quick feet were catching the eye of the City faithful. Another attacking change was then made on the hour mark as Mowbray looked to bolster the front line. The disappointing Proschwitz was replaced by Frank Nouble who would be looking to make an impression after a string of poor performances.
It was Coventry who were now looking the better side as they saw more of the ball as Crawley took a more defensive approach. On 63 minutes the Sky Blues saw a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away. Jim O’Brien’s characteristic energy saw him steam down the right wing and he bought a foul, James Maddison’s subsequent delivery then picked out Aaron Martin and the defender’s strike ricocheted off what looked like a Crawley hand. The referee wasn’t interested though. Just a few minutes later and it was O’Brien causing problems again. The midfielder played a superb ball to Nouble who headed back across goal, Tudgay then chested down to Maddison who shifted the ball in to space before striking narrowly over the crossbar.
The home side continued to sit behind the ball and they were taking any oppurtunity to waste time, but it was level on 72 minutes as the Sky Blues finally got back in to the game. Substitute Frank Nouble stroked a brilliant ball to release O’Brien out wide, he then played another pinpoint cross which found Marcus Tudgay and the striker made no mistake with the headed finish. 1-1 and the Sky Blue Army were sent in to total delerium. I remained fairly grounded though as I knew it wasn’t at all job done yet…especially with the City.
The final 18 minutes were nail-biting and hard to endure, but with results going our way and us looking more likely to score again, I relaxed a little. Marcus Tudgay went close to scoring his second on 78 minutes as he nodded a Chris Stokes delivery just over before Marvin Elliott fired straight at Lee Burge down the other end. The Sky Blues continued to attack and James Maddison was causing all sorts of problems, drawing fouls to buy some time. After a few more efforts were passed by Coventry did take the lead on 90 minutes to put the travelling fan’s minds at rest. Frank Nouble received the ball out wide after a defender gifted him possession, he was then bearing down on goal before he then squared to James Maddison, the academy graduate slotted the ball home to break Crawley hearts and delight the City faithful.
This was a game that certainly tested the players nerve and they came through relatively unscathed. I’d questioned the mentality of our squad for the majority of the season, but today they showed an awful lot of heart to get us over the line. We should’ve got the job done last weekend but credit has to be given for the way the players responded this weekend. It certainly wasn’t an easy ride but they weathered the storm and won the game in front of around 1600 passionate Sky Blues supporters. It would’ve been a travesty if we had have gone down, but we won’t be, so who cares. We can breathe a little easier now without the embarrassment of plying our trade in the fourth tier…
The performance during the game wasn’t one of sheer quality, but it was refreshing to see players steaming in to challenges and fighting for every ball, particularly in the latter stages of the game. For such a young side, we defended excellently and we handled the game well. We didn’t get outdone by the occasion and despite Crawley looking to go forward consistently, they threatened to test Burge in the City goal.
I think the way in which we bounced back from a goal down was brilliant. The players could have easily felt deflated and sorry for themselves especially after the missed penalty, but we saw a reaction to conceding and it was very good to see. The players bounced off of the support and believed we could get back in to the affair. Credit goes out to them really, Jim O’Brien stated in the week that the players had to “stand up and be counted” – they certainly did.
A few players particularly caught my eye today, but the one who impressed me the most was Marcus Tudgay. He has to go down as my Man of the Match, he was exceptional. He fed on scraps for the entire opening 45 minutes but his work rate and desire was top class, it was a piece of brilliance that won us the penalty. It looked as if he was fighting to earn a new deal and I thoroughly hope we keep hold of him for next season. In the second half he began to see more of the ball and his technical ability was on show, with the addition of James Maddison certainly helping his cause as he linked up brilliantly. It was very pleasing to see Tudgay get his goal – I’ve always liked him but a lot of fans were on his back earlier in the campaign, he has certainly proved his worth since Mowbray’s arrival. A special mention must go to Maddison as well though, what an occasion for him! He has a massive future, I just pray we keep him…
As for Tony Mowbray, he’s done a superb job and he deserves a huge amount of credit in keeping us in this division. He has a meeting with SISU on Tuesday and I’ll be praying that it goes well, after all, I believe if he stays next season he could transform us from a relegation threatened side to one that will challenge up the other end. Here’s hoping…
Finally, I would just like to wish Crawley Town and their supporters every success next season.
Lee Burge – 7
Chris Stokes – 7
Reda Johnson – 7
Aaron Martin – 7.5
Jordan Willis – 6.5
Grant Ward – 7
John Fleck – 7.5
Adam Barton – 6
Jim O’Brien – 7.5
Nick Proscwitz – 5
Marcus Tudgay – 8
James Maddison – 7
Frank Nouble – 7
Andy Webster – N/A