Coventry City booked a trip to Wembley on Tuesday night as they reached the final of the Checkatrade Trophy following a deserved 2-1 win over in-form Wycombe Wanderers. First half strikes from Stuart Beavon and George Thomas ensured Russell Slade’s men held a two-goal lead at the break. Chairboys substitute Adebayo Akinfenwa did give the visitors hope on 55 minutes, but the Sky Blues held out to seal their first cup final appearance at the national stadium since the famous FA Cup triumph over Tortentham Hotspur in 1987.
Wow. That game made me remember what football is all about. As a fanbase we have been through hell for as long as I can remember and we deserve a day out at Wembley. Despite the attendance not being too high, the noise we created was phenomenal and that shows that this club means an awful lot to us. The atmosphere was reminiscent to the first half of last season – probably one of the best I have experienced at the Ricoh Arena.
Going into the game, I was wary that we had three central defenders missing, but I thought our back four were outstanding tonight as a collective. Wycombe did create a few clear-cut chances that they probably should’ve converted, but we dealt with their physicality well. Considering the kind of form Gareth Ainsworth’s men were in, they looked as if the occasion perhaps got to them. They had me chewing profusely on my fingernails late on, but we showed real character to see the game out.
Jordan Turnbull has had a fair amount of criticism hurled his way so far this season, but he looked rejuvenated after a brief spell out of the side. He matched Myles Weston and marshalled him well, but the way he handled Akinfenwa was testament to him. Cian Harries put in a steady performance too and Dion Kelly-Evans’ energy was relentless, but Ryan Haynes stood out as well. I am not the biggest admirer of the academy graduate’s game, but he was a threat going forward and he dealt with Wycombe’s wide men professionally.
A pitch showing signs of wear and tear meant that the central areas were often bypassed, but then the ball did find its way in there I felt as if we looked secure. During the final 30 minutes we reverted into a more defensive position, but Callum Reilly had his best game in a City shirt. He did the basics very well and broke up play with authority – Andy Rose wasn’t so noticeable next to him but his athleticism alone got us out of danger from time to time. Kyel Reid frustrated out on the left flank but he did provide an assist for George Thomas’ goal – one that the Welshman took with aplomb.
Although Stuart Beavon only featured for 45 minutes, his contribution proved extremely valuable. The way he turned his marker to score the opener was brilliant and he put us firmly in the ascendancy. That goal gave everyobody inside that stadium a lift and from that point onwards our togetherness saw us through. There’s no doubting that it was scrappy in periods, but that performance reiterated that there is a desire there – we now need to take that into our league campaign.
I know the competition is deemed as irrelevant by many, but right now I couldn’t care less. The addition of ‘B’ teams was a poor decision on the part of the authorities, but we will face a fellow league side in the final and that is a victory for football. After following this club up and down the country I never thought we would make it to Wembley. Now it has happened and I couldn’t be more excited to watch my team in action there – it is set to be a fantastic occasion. Our league situation is precarious to say the least, but let’s enjoy this while we can.
On a final note, I wish Wycombe all the best for the rest of the season and their travelling support tonight deserves a round of applause. I know how it feels to travel that distance for a midweek fixture and to lose a semi-final must be devastating. We may see them next season – hopefully that will be in League One.
Reice Charles-Cook – 6
Dion Kelly-Evans – 8
Jordan Turnbull – 8
Cian Harries – 7
Ryan Haynes – 8
George Thomas – 8
Callum Reilly – 8
Andy Rose – 7
Kyel Reid – 6
Marcus Tudgay – 6
Stuart Beavon – 8
Jodi Jones – 6
Jack Finch – 7
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Di. Kelly-Evans, Turnbull, Harries, Haynes, G. Thomas, Reilly, Rose, Reid (Finch 63), Tudgay (C), Beavon (Jones 45).
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Bigirimana, Stevenson, Gadzhev, Lameiras.
Wycombe Wanderers: Blackman, Jombati (Akinfenwa 45), Jacobson (C), De Havilland, Stewart, Harriman, Bean, O’ Nien, Saunders, Thompson (Kashket 58), Weston (Wood 85).
Unused Substitutes: Richardson, Muller, Freeman.
Attendance: 11,672 (764 away)