Town:Chris Weale, Jermaine Grandison, Cameron Gayle, Connor Goldson, Darren Jones, Jon Taylor (Mambo, 90+2), Matt Richards (c) Aaron Wildig (Hall, 19), Rob Purdie, Luke Rodgers (Bradshaw, 85), Marvin Morgan
Subs:Joe Anyon, Asa Hall, Tom Bradshaw, Yado Mambo, Ryan Woods, Dominic Smith, Jack Gwilliams
Coventry City: Joe Murphy, Carl Baker (c), John Fleck (Clarke, 53), Gary McSheffrey, Steven Jennings (Bailey, 72), Cyrus Christie, Richard Wood, William Edjenguele, David McGoldrick, Franck Moussa (Barton, 82), Blair Adams
Subs:Chris Dunn, Jordan Clarke, Nathan Cameron, Stephen Elliott, Leon Clarke, Adam Barton, James Bailey
Assistants:R. Atkin & R. Bartlett
Fourth Official:S. Plane
Attendance:15,185 (1,413 from Shrewsbury)
Martin Wild reports from the Ricoh Arena
Illness to full-back Cameron Gayle forces Graham Turner into making a change to the side which earned a creditable draw with Brentford at the weekend. Joe Jacobson returns to the left side of defence and on the bench, new loan signing Yado Mambo wears the number 23 shirt for the first time.
Town – playing in their change colours of red and white - are backed by a sizeable following with around a thousand having made the relatively short trip from Shropshire.
Coventry came out with all guns blazing and David McGoldrick and Franck Moussa both had sighters of goal inside of three minutes with the latter denied by a fine defensive block by Jermaine Grandison.
Sky Blues skipper Carl Baker had another shot that was a heart in mouth moment but his left footed effort from 12 yards went straight into a grateful Chris Weale’s midriff.
But two minutes later Salop should have gone in front. Rob Purdie played a neat ball inside the area off to an unmarked Matt Richards and just as it looked like he would pull the trigger, he switched the ball to Luke Rodgers. Rodgers opened his body in an attempt to steer the shot beyond Joe Murphy but the City keeper kept it out with an outstretched leg. Murphy received treatment after making the stop but was able to continue once the magic sponge had been administered.
The pitch appeared to be really lively in the opening exchanges with the ball bobbling about all over the place but it was an interesting affair with both teams close to breaking the deadlock.
Town had to make a change after 19 minutes when Aaron Wildig failed to respond to treatment and he hobbled off with Asa Hall coming on to replace him. It was hard to tell what had caused the injury to the midfielder midway inside his own half.
Within seconds of the change Town had an almighty let off when Gary McSheffrey struck the underside of the crossbar with a magnificent strike from fully 25 yards, with the ball appearing to strike an unsuspecting Weale on its way down before bouncing behind.
Hall headed wide from Jon Taylor’s cross after 25 minutes but by and large it was the home team who had been in the ascendancy with Shrews having to defend for large parts of the game.
How Town didn’t score right on 33 minutes though, is anyone’s guess. Rodgers held the ball up well and some neat interchanges around the edge of the box got Jacobson in behind. He fed the ball beyond Murphy across the 6 yard line but the on-rushing Marvin Morgan was a studs-length away from applying the finish with the goal gaping. Turner’s men had fashioned two outstanding opportunities in the match and failed to capitalise on either.
Moussa’s downward header made Weale go full length to palm the ball away and briefly the home supporters woke from their collective slumbers. Then Jacobson again put the ball into the mixer and although Morgan connected this time he couldn’t steer his attempt on target.
Town had settled really well after being on the back foot in the opening 25 minutes or so and were now asking questions as an attacking force, and it was the away contingent making most of the noise in this impressive arena.
In open play Morgan was showing some terrific touches and more enterprising play from the big man ought to have brought about another chance, but strike partner Rodgers dallied and he was caught in possession. Then Morgan appeared to be slow to react from a precision pass from Richards a minute before the break, but this was encouraging stuff from a side still seeking that elusive first win on their travels.
Four minutes of injury time were played before referee Mr. Deadman brought to an end a highly entertaining first half.
Half Time: Coventry City 0 Town 0
The second half took a while to get going but just as Mark Robins prepared tp throw on Leon Clarke Town had the luckiest of lucky escapes. Richards inexplicably tried to cushion a volley back towards his own goal but only succeeded in picking out McSheffrey in acres and one on one. He lifted the ball goalwards but amazingly it dropped a yard wide of the post with no-one back far enough to cover. It was a dreadful miss from a player who has been on top form.
Clarke immediately entered the fray and headed fractionally wide from McSheffrey’s delivery within a minute of his introduction.
The game had come to life again and Town gave their supporters plenty to shout about with some good attacking play but it was Coventry who were to come close again just before the hour when Baker skewed wide with Weale beaten.
As the game swung straight up to the other end Hall wasn’t a million miles away with his left foot shot from the edge of the box with Murphy scrambling to make ground across his line. Then the midfielder got a bit too much purchase on his header when a Richards free-kick was half cleared.
Then, on 62 minutes Town struck. Rodgers delivered a magnificent cross from the left which Murphy did well to block Richards’ point blank header. But there was Morgan to gobble up the rebound and net from a couple of yards out to spark mass delirium behind the goal as the team celebrated almost to a man - right in front of their noisy band of supporters.
City fans tried to rally their resurgent side but there were more jeers than cheers with Shrews supporters still in full voice after the goal, and most if not all of the atmosphere was being created behind the right hand goal.
Blair Adams curled one inches wide as the Sky Blues looked for a route back into the game and with 26 points banked from their last eleven league outings, Town clearly still had plenty to do before the celebrations could begin.
Thirteen minutes from time Richards covered the near post and was perfectly placed to lump away Clarke’s effort from a City corner just as the away support was declared as 1,413 in a crowd of over 15,000. Suffice it to say, with the clock running down they were certainly enjoying themselves.
And they were indebted to Weale for two great saves to protect the lead – first from McSheffrey’s piledriver, and then smartly from Clarke’s follow-up when the new capture looked a sure-fire bet to level.
Turner threw on Tom Bradshaw for the last five with Rodgers the man sacrificed and that much needed away win looming ever closer. Good Friday brought the last one, maybe there’s something about Public Holidays?
Three minutes of added time were signalled and my stomach was somewhere down by my knees. Mambo came on with about a minute left to ebb away a few precious seconds and then relief – palpable relief at that from all around connected with the club. Fantastic!
Full Time: Coventry City 0 Town 1