Coventry 1 - 2 Cardiff. Comment

Last updated : 06 April 2024 By Paul Evans

A Blackburn Rovers side that had won just once in their last sixteen Championship matches travelled to Sunderland today to face the team that sauntered to a 2-0 win at Cardiff City Stadium on Friday which could easily have been three times as clear cut and won by 5-1.


Such an outcome was a reminder that Sunderland had taken just a single point out of the last twenty one on offer and had been anything but the Brazil impersonators I’ve seen them called on social media before they played us. They were just a clearly ordinary team that was struggling to play to anything like their potential and were lucky to be facing City on one of their far too frequent off days this season, in fact this was their biggest and worst off day of the campaign.

This blog has become an increasingly bleak place in the past few years and Friday, following on from the at least once a season Swansea embarrassment, had me seriously questioning whether I wanted to bother watching today’s visit to a FA Cup Semi Finalists Coventry City – a team that had scored thirteen times in winning their last four matches in all competitions.

This morning, I was driving into Treorchy at about twenty to seven to do some early morning shopping and saw three City fans wandering into the town I assumed to catch their transport to Coventry. My thoughts on seeing this were along the lines of if they can go to the effort and expense of travelling to watch City on a Bank Holiday after having had to watch that crap on Friday, I can park my backside on my sofa this afternoon to watch us play on the telly for a couple of hours!

To say they inspired me is going a bit over the top, but they provoked a positive reaction in someone who badly needed to be encouraged when it came to my football team.

Those three people I saw and the hundreds of supporters who accompanied them to the Midlands today should have been the subject of Erol Bulut’s motivational talk before the game and I suspect they might have been.

City’s away support has declined a little recently apparently, but I’ve just been told that 1,665 travelled to Coventry today. Now, I’ve sometimes thought that the away fans are quite cute because they know that, in recent years in particular, they’re getting to see the majority of City’s better performances, but, to be serious, it takes a special type of dedication to watch the absolute rubbish we’ve served up in recent months at home (Ipswich, Plymouth and, possibly, Stoke are the only games to buck that trend) and keep on travelling hundreds of miles to watch their team.

Therefore, I’d like to think that the same players who could barely raise a trot in front of their home crowd on Friday were shamed into action by the more than fifteen hundred supporters who were willing them to succeed today.

Ipswich have just gone back to the top of the table with a remarkable 3-2 win over a Southampton  team who were much the better side for three quarters of the game thanks to a goal scored with four seconds to play, yet we deservedly beat them in an equally amazing finish three weeks ago.

Before today, that victory was a pretty clear winner of the best Cardiff City performance of the season award with the 4-0 win over Huddersfield some way back in second, but now it has a proper rival in today’s 2-1 victory over a Coventry side that have overcome their sluggish start to the season to become one of the division’s form teams with an FA Cup Semi Final to come against an erratic Manchester United thrown in for good measure.

City away wins tend to be defensive in nature by scores of 1-0 or 2-1 and in many ways this one was in that mould as we again revealed our penchant for coming back after conceding first to win on opponent’s grounds.

This time though, there was composure in possession and incisive passing, qualities that have been almost unheard of from the team this season. City were probably helped in this respect by Coventry’s commitment to attack as they possibly figured that Norwich’s loss at Leicester at lunchtime had given them a great opportunity to take a big step towards repeating last season’s top six finish.

City would therefore sometimes find themselves in a position that opponents of Erol Bulut’s team never find themselves in – that is, winning possession about thirty yards from their own goal in open play 6with more than half of the opposition team in front of the ball.

This was a situation City took advantage of on numerous occasions in the first half especially as they broke fluently to give as good as they got against talented opponents in an absorbing forty five minutes.

The second period was more of a typical City away show with the last ten minutes and more consisting of constant home pressure as that earlier composure deserted them, but, for all of their faults, City are pretty good at backs to the wall defending in away matches.

On Friday, Dimitrios Goutas was so poor, but here, he was back to being the player whose anticipation and strength have been one of the major factors in our rise of more than ten places up the table. Goutas and Nat Phillips were not  quite unbeatable in the air (Coventry won too many first contacts at dead ball situations for that), but they largely kept the latterly prolific pairing of Ellis Sims and Hagi Wright quiet.

The exception to that came after twenty two minutes of Coventry superiority. The home team had attacked at what seemed to be a quicker pace than normal for this division and  there were a couple of saves for Ethan Horvarth to make, plus home captain Ben Sheaf sent a shot on to the roof of the net.

City were clearly playing better than they did against Sunderland, but it still felt like a home goal was coming and it duly did when Coventry went through us like a hot knife through butter and Milan Van Ewijk’s low cross was turned in from six yards by Simms to keep up his recent goal a game average.

City collapsed in a heap as soon as they fell behind three days ago, but here they went on to become the better side through the game’s second quarter and an equaliser was not long in coming. Almost inevitably you might say, the goal came from a corner, but this one was interesting in that it was almost a case of our reputation going before us as the Coventry defence worked itself into a state of almost panic at the thought of defending a Cardiff corner.

Phillips has only scored one goal in his career and his attacking headers seem to lack the crispness that Goutas and Mark McGuinness can often get in theirs. The Liverpool loanee had already put a decent chance too close to goalkeeper Brad Collins from a set piece and his header from a David Turnbull corner shouldn’t really have caused the havoc it did, but it seemed like a “Cardiff factor” may have played a part in causing home defender Liam Kitching to slam the ball high into his own net as Josh Bowler looked to get in a shot.

Yakou Meite and Turnbull had shooting chances where their connection wasn’t clean enough to overly concern Collins, but he would have been relieved to see Karlan Grant’s low twenty five yarder flash a yard or two wide.

The second half began with a shot from further out by Bowler missing by even less, but, with one exception, City were not breaking with the same threat as they showed in the opening half. That exception came when Meite did well to send Grant through a yawning gap in the middle of the Coventry defence – no one was going to catch the man who is probably the quickest in our squad, but Grant again showed that he is not the finisher you would expect a £15 million forward to be by shooting a few yards wide while trying to place his effort past Collins.

Even Erol Bulut admitted that the winning goal was lucky as Bowler’s attempted cross bounced off Jake Bidwell’s knee onto the unfortunate Kitching’s shoulder and into the corner of the net for his second own goal.

That was in the sixty seventh minute and although Van Ewijk’s low effort wasn’t far wide, City were pretty comfortable for the next ten minutes or so, but the Coventry pressure was gradually ramped up and with referee Leigh Doughty applying a very liberal interpretation of what constitutes a foul, it felt like we were not getting any time to catch out breath as attack followed attack.

If City had been composed earlier, it had deserted them now and it seemed like the offside decision which robbed Wright of a headed equaliser was more down to luck than judgement on our part.

City made it through to the last whistle though to record what must be our best away win of the season and if I have to concede that we had our share of good fortune, I could at least argue that we had earned it.

Maybe Erol Bulut’s critics (I’m certainly one of them!) will have to concede that he’s not quite as bad as we think he is after this impressive win. Similarly, after struggling on Friday, Joe Ralls was impressive here, as was Manolis Siopis. No one epitomised that composure I spoke of better than Turnbull who was quite influential in the first half, while Bowler and Meite were better than they have been recently.

Clearly, City aren’t as awful as they looked on Friday, but it would help their cause so much if they could prove to home supporters that Ipswich was not some kind of fluke. All of our last three games at Cardiff City Stadium are against teams above us in the table, so a win or two from them would make such a difference to the way the team are perceived by supporters and it may persuade one or two of the doubters to buy one of the season tickets that will soon go on sale with the first, small, rise in prices for seven years I believe it is.