Following the victories over Port Vale and Northampton Town in League One and the Checkatrade Trophy respectively, Coventry City travelled to Charlton Athletic on Saturday looking to record a third successive win in all competitions. With interim manager Mark Venus now in charge until the new year at least, the supporters will be hoping that he can guide the Sky Blues away from the lower reaches of the table.
This result didn’t do City any favours, however, as they shipped three goals with no reply in front of two sets of disgruntled fans. A positive opening 15 minutes from the away side amounted to nothing as Ricky Holmes, Ademola Lookman and Josh Magennis secured an important three points for Charlton. The Sky Blues now remain bottom of the division and they are four points adrift from safety whilst Russell Slade’s men climb to 15th.
Almost immediately after the referee blew his whistle to get proceedings underway, both sets of supporters threw foam pigs onto the field of play in protest against their respective owners. Once the debris had been cleared with six minutes on the clock, the action got underway and it was Coventry who looked to control possession early on. It was Charlton who almost opened the scoring on 11 minutes, however, as Patrick Bauer’s deflected header struck the post following an Ademola Lookman corner.
After that moment of panic, the Sky Blues looked to stamp their authority going forward and Marvin Sordell saw a shot well blocked on 13 minutes after receiving a pass from Ruben Lameiras. A lazy piece of play from City midfielder Chris McCann gifted the hosts possession in the 21st minute but Lee Novak was unable to profit as he sent a strike wide of Lee Burge’s post. Up the other end, brilliant interplay between Lameiras and Jamie Sterry allowed the latter to get into a shooting position. The Newcastle United loanee was disappointed with his attempt, however, as it rustled the side-netting.
City were on the attack again just after the half hour mark and they went the width of a post away from taking the lead. Sordell found the run of Lameiras on the right and the Portuguese midfielder cut inside before firing a low strike onto the woodwork. The agony of that miss was then added to on 33 minutes as Charlton hauled themselves 1-0 ahead. An initial clearance fell to Fredrik Ulvestad on the edge of the box and his hopeful punt back into the area dropped to Ricky Holmes. Despite the midfielder looking suspiciously offside, the linesman’s flag wasn’t raised and he poked the ball home before wheeling off in celebration.
In the latter stages of the first period, it was the home side who looked more likely to stretch their advantage. The Sky Blues could only test Declan Rudd on one occasion after 36 minutes as he held a Gael Bigirimana free kick, but it was all Charlton afterwards. With 42 minutes on the clock, captain Chris Solly whipped in a dangerous low cross and it somehow evaded the outstretched leg of Josh Magennis at the back post. Ulvestad then spurned the final meaningful effort of the half two minutes into stoppage time as he sent a volley harmlessly wide.
With a one-goal deficit to chase down, it was no surprise to see City come out on the front foot at the start of the second period. Despite enjoying the majority of the ball, chances were limited for Venus’ men and they didn’t test Rudd until the 52nd minute. A Lameiras corner intially found Andre Wright deep in the home area but his volley was parried into a dangerous area. McCann then reacted the quickest to send a rebound towards the top corner, but to his despair the goalkeeper acrobatically clawed the ball from off of the line.
As the away side continued to apply the pressure, Wright saw an optimistic penalty appeal waved away before Ben Stevenson wriggled his way into a threating area on 57 minutes. Despite the positive work from the young midfielder, his attempt was poor as it trickled way wide. Just seven minutes later, it was Lameiras who caused problems this time, but his low strike was tame and it was easily gathered by Rudd.
In the 74th minute, Coventry’s goalkeeper was on hand to deny Charlton a second of the afternoon with a fantastic save. A dangerous cross was propelled into the away area and Magennis rose above his marker to send a powerful header towards goal. Burge reacted magnificently to beat the ball away from the melee of bodies in front of him, however. He was left helpless just four minutes though as Ademola Lookman tapped the ball home after Magennis robbed Jordan Turnbull on the byline.
As the Sky Blues desperately looked to pull themselves back into the game, they were simply outdone by the home side who looked in full control. McCann did flash a strike wide on 81 minutes before Bigirimana fired off target soon after. With 86 minutes on the clock, Magennis almost turned provider again as he picked out Lookman once more. The 18-year old couldn’t keep his effort down though as it sailed over the bar. Further damage was inflicted before full-time, however, as Magennis expertly controlled a long ball before lobbing Burge with an exceptional finish to seal a 3-0 victory.
Despite being distraught at yet another defeat, today put everything into perspective. Whilst Charlton picked up what turned out to be a routine three points, their off-field problems are for more important to their supporters. The same goes for us Coventry fans – it’s looking incredibly bleak for us both on and off the pitch. Before I go into my usual thoughts, I’d just like to thank each and every Charlton fan for participating in the joint protest today. The Sky Blues’ fans deserve a massive round of applause too – hopefully both of our clubs can be salvaged soon before it’s too late.
With regards to the game, it was truly abysmal bar the opening 15 minutes of the first period and a few passages in the second. After conceding the dubious first goal of the tie, our heads seemingly dropped and all hope began to drain out of the away supporters. We played some neat football at times and we went agonisingly close to finding the net on a number of occasions, but our defending was woeful too. Gifting the ball to the opposition isn’t a wise move – particularly in your own defensive third – but we did it more than once.
Granted, we could have been level early in the second half as Declan Rudd somehow thwarted Chris McCann, but Jordan Turnbull will be kicking himself after losing possession for Charlton’s second goal. It’s those fine margins that settle games of football, but we are our own worst enemy the majority of the time. You simply can’t defend like that and expect to win games – we are in serious trouble this season and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were relegated.
I know it’s still early in the season and there are plenty of points still up for grabs, but from what I’ve seen so far, I just don’t believe we have the credentials to survive. We have a lot of technically gifted players in our squad but they don’t have the brawn, the physicality or the mental toughness to grind out results in League One. The nature of our performance at Port Vale fills with me with some hope, but we shrivelled away from the occasion today. A lot needs fixing, and it needs fixing incredibly quickly.
With the lack of investment from the owners, it will be incredibly difficult to strengthen in January and that will leave us further behind our competitors. The whole club is in disarray and it’s truly sickening. Having to witness supporters in tears as their City’s football team is being torn apart bit by bit in front of their own eyes – it’s heartbreaking. We can only hope that somehow we gain some momentum to clamber away from danger, but that won’t hide the uncertainties away from the pitch. We are effectively homeless, managerless and deep in the mire.
Lee Burge – 5
Jamie Sterry – 4
Jordan Willis – 5
Jordan Turnbull – 4
Lewis Page – 4
Ben Stevenson – 6
Chris McCann – 5
Gael Bigirimana – 5
Ruben Lameiras – 5
Andre Wright – 4
Marvin Sordell – 5
Sam Ricketts – 5
Kyel Reid – 5
Jodi Jones – 5
Charlton Athletic: Rudd, Bauer, Lookman, Crofts, Magennis, Holmes (Hanlan 86), Pearce, Ulvestad, Solly (C), Fox, Novak (Jackson 72).
Unused Substitutes: Phillips, Chicksen, Ajose, Konsa, Lennon.
Coventry City: Burge, Sterry, Willis (C) (Jones 66), Turnbull, Page (Ricketts 24), Stevenson, McCann, Bigirimana, Lameiras, Wright (Reid 66), Agyei.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Gadzhev Tudgay, Agyei.
To vote for me in the Football Blogging Awards, head over to http://www.footballbloggingawards.co.uk/about/vote-now-football-blogging-awards/ and select my name in the ‘young’ category. Much appreciated.