Coventry City’s relegation to the fourth tier of English football was confirmed on Friday as Charlton Athletic held them to a 1-1 draw at the Ricoh Arena. George Thomas did give the Sky Blues the lead during the first period, but a leveller from Patrick Bauer earned the Addicks a share of the spoils. Karl Robinson’s team now sit six points clear of the relegation zone whilst City remain rooted to the bottom of the division.
The Sky Blues started slowly following a delay whilst thousands of plastic pigs which were thrown on the pitch in protest were removed.. With the rain hammering down, both teams struggled to gain a foothold on the slippery surface, but City did create the first chance of the afternoon after seven minutes. Tidy footwork from Jodi Jones allowed him to evade the challenge of two Charlton defenders, but his low strike was parried away expertly by Declan Rudd.
Following the nervy opening exchanges the visitors looked to settle down and it was evident that Nathan Byrne’s pace was going to cause Ryan Haynes problems. The young full-back did deal with the threat well, but the Charlton winger should have handed the Addicks a lead on 20 minutes. Jay Dasilva floated in a cross and Byrne met the ball unchallenged inside the Coventry area. As the traveling supporters prepared to celebrate, the header cannoned off the bar with Lee Burge transfixed and City cleared to survive the scare.
That miss came back to haunt Charlton just eight minutes later as the Sky Blues pulled themselves ahead through George Thomas. The way in which the ball fell to him was rather fortuitous, but there was nothing lucky about the finish that flashed past the keeper to rustle the back of the net. Going ahead seemingly lifted the spirits of the home side and Gael Bigirimana saw a distant effort held before Jones forced Rudd into a superb save with 38 minutes on the clock. Josh Magennis displayed great strength up the other end to get a shot off on the stroke of half-time, but Burge denied him with an outstretched leg.
After the interval, Coventry came out of the blocks with more intent as Jones almost got on the end of a low cross. Rudd then raced off his line to pull off a vital save to thwart Thomas on 53 minutes. To City’s dismay, just a minute later the scores were level. Ricky Holmes hurled a corner towards the front post and Magennis won his aerial duel to flick the ball on. The man-mountain of Patrick Bauer then got in front of the City defence to head home an equaliser from point blank range.
With the Sky Blues in need of a victory to keep their slim survival hopes alive, bodies were thrown forward to ask questions of the away defence. On 65 minutes, the mercurial Jones called Rudd into another fantastic save but he couldn’t get the ball away from danger. It found its way to Thomas on the edge of the six-yard box, but he couldn’t adjust his body position to steer a header into the empty net. The young striker then went close again five minutes later, but the inspired form of the goalkeeper continued as he stopped his side from falling behind once more.
City’s attempts to snatch a late winner were in vein as Darren Handley’s full-time whistle signalled relegation to League Two for the Sky Blues. Amongst the tears and sadness, there was a sense of pride portrayed by the home support as the players dejectedly trundled over to applaud. A chorus of ‘City ‘Til I Die’ rang around the stadium and the emotions began to hit home. Our fate was inevitable given the dreadful season we have had, but the moment when it is all confirmed is a horrible experience and we’ve suffered that on numerous occasions.
Can City bounce back immediately next season? Nobody knows. However, I trust Robins more than anyone to give it his best shot. A few months ago I was afraid we wouldn’t pick up another point. Under him, we have significantly improved. I know there will be a huge turnover of personnel in the summer months and our squad will be almost unrecognisable, but he has shown how capable he is as a manager. Whilst it’s frustrating to a certain degree that he transformed us from a very poor side to a half decent one, that also provides some encouragement.
Next season is simply do or die for the club in my eyes. Unless the ownership situation changes I can’t see Coventry City progressing. However, we simply can’t afford to dwell in that division. If we fail to mount a challenge for promotion back into League One, attendances will dwindle further and we will fall further towards the abyss. As we saw at Wembley, the fan base is there to be tapped in to and they will come back, but too many have lost all faith in the current owners.
The solidarity between two struggling clubs was phenomenal again today and I wish Charlton all the best in their quest to get Roland out. We as Coventry fans are given false hope quite frequently and I can’t see SISU leaving. They aren’t solely responsible for the Sky Blues’ freefall down the footballing pyramid, but it’s hard to see that slide stopping under their stewardship.
Following this football club is tough and we all deserve so much better. Whatever happens between now and this time next year, I will always be proud to call myself a Coventry City supporter. Whether we get ourselves back into League One, stay in the fourth tier or even drop out of the Football League, this club will remain a part of us. All we can do is keep persevering with it and hopefully one day our luck will change.
The club is on life support, but it is still breathing. We may be down but we are certainly not out just yet – there is plenty more fight in us!
Lee Burge – 7
Jordan Willis – 7
Jordan Turnbull – 7
Farrend Rawson – 7
Ryan Haynes – 7
Gael Bigirimana – 6
Ben Stevenson – 6
George Thomas – 7
Jodi Jones – 8
Ruben Lameiras – 6
Stuart Beavon – 6
Kwame Thomas – 5
Kevin Foley – 5
Kyel Reid – 6
Coventry City: Burge, Willis (C) (Foley 73), Turnbull, Rawson, Haynes, Bigirimana, Stevenson, G. Thomas, Jones (Reid 76), Lameiras, Beavon (K. Thomas 45).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Reilly, Tudgay.
Charlton Athletic: Rudd, Solly (C), Pearce, Bauer, Dasilva, Crofts, Konsa (Forster-Caskey 59), Ulvestad, Byrne, Holmes (Aribo 78), Magennis.
Unused Substitutes: Phillips, Jackson, Watt, Botaka, Teixeira.