The two CCFC's played out the archetypal 0-0 bore draw. A Coventry fan to a late night radio phone-in wryly observed that it was a score that flattered both sides, so poor was this encounter. He had a very fair point but his side were never going to win it and never going to score either, The Bluebirds, still off colour, still could and should have done both.
It's a game not worth talk about for too long so I'll cover what's necessary.
Finished work early in Newport, met my stepson, Mike Morris and his family at Cardiff West Services and set off on the 135 mile drive to Cov four hours before the game in glorious weather with the clearest of blue skies, blazing low sun, no wind and temperatures around 60 degrees in the middle of winter, close to record highs for February.
Weather this good by day does mean a chilly Tuesday evening in Warwickshire under those same skies, the game played just a couple of degrees above freezing. With the game taking place at school half-term in Wales, I anticipated a clear run but it's not half-term in England. A couple of accidents along the M50/M5/M42/M6 journey meant one detour and arrival with just over an hour to spare. Ricoh Arena is adjacent to Junction 3 of the M6 and we arranged car parking at an away fans only pub, The Black Horse, about 15 minutes on foot from the ground. It felt like another county. We found another pub, and chippy, en route but then took football's strangest walk to an away ground as home fans recommended a short cut along alongside a canal in pitch black conditions but which came out next to the ground. Not the sort of walk you'd want to take at some away grounds, that's for sure.
Coventry don't have a ground or a stadium, they have an arena. It is big, both outside and inside and includes a Jaguar museum and a casino. Outside, what looked like the Blue Peter garden was an area to scatter the ashes of your beloved Cov supporter.
It is impressive looking but when it's less than half full with a dreadful game unfolding, a depressing soulless place in those circumstances. Apart from one rendition of the Sky Blue song and moaning at their man, Leon Best, continually standing offside, the home support watched in complete silence and most City fans were numbed by it all too even though chants lasted all game from a number in our end. I was surprised when the crowd was announced as 15,260 which included 900 City as it looked and felt about 10,000 with masses of empty seats all around the place.
There is a habit of clubs sacking managers or installing new managers immediately before playing City and Coventry became the latest of several over the last couple of seasons sacking Iain Dowie - a man who makes me good looking by comparison! - just 24 hours beforehand. The Sky Blues have had a turbulent 12 months under Dowie losing more than they won, 19th in the Championship and facing Cardiff only 4 points above the drop and being clear leaders after the first month of the season. Their only highs through the misery came in cup games with incredible 2-0 wins at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup and, in the FA Cup, 4-1 at Blackburn just over a fortnight ago to take them, like City, into the 5th round this weekend. Truth is, however, Dowie has had no money at all, administration looked very close recently but losing 5 of the last 6 with a new owner in ex-Man City owner and football moneyman Ray Ranson in place, the parting was an obvious one.
With a caretaker team in charge, Coventry lined up with Marshall, Osbourne-Dann-Ward-Fox, Tabb-Doyle, Michael Hughes-Gray, Mifsud-Best.
As for City, Dave Jones certainly isn't blessed with options with only 18 available players including 3 goalkeepers and a couple of kids but reluctantly accepted he had to freshen and change things after two damaging successive 2-1 defeats with flat performances in both games, reminiscent of earlier in the season when we were going nowhere. He's been stubborn far too often but credit to him for dropping his skipper Steve McPhail, who was awful last weekend, for Aaron Ramsey. He finally also gave Enckleman a go between the sticks. The one change everyone expected, Thommo for Jimmy, didn't happen though and a small surprise on the bench as Jon Brown got a call up from nowhere at the expense of Darcy Blake and even got a debut as he was brought on deep into added time.. Congratulations son.
City fielded Enckleman, McNaughton-Johnson-Loovens-Capaldi, Whittingham-Rae-Ramsey-Ledley, Hasselbaink-Parry. Subs were Oakes-Brown-Purse-Ramsey-Thompson
The first half was dreadful, so bad that I lost count of the number of people who told me not to bother writing anything. Although there were those who also told me to write expletives about how crap it was too.
Coventry didn't just look a poor side, they looked awful. They ran around a lot, not more than their midgets (Jay Tabb and Michael Mifsud) and showed spirit but were devoid of any quality, it was more a case of hitting th ball anywhere and hoping they got to it first. Somehow Cardiff got dragged down by Coventry's 'headless chicken' tactics and were little better.
The first half incidents of note were few and mostly insignificant. Glenn Loovens successfully collected his 10th yellow card of the season for blatant blocking earning him a 2 match which cleverly means he is available for FA Cup duty this weekend and the quarter-finals if we get through. I'm sure he wasn't thinking that, was he?
Mifsud's shot at Enckleman was his only save of the night although a later free-kick was scuffed narrowly wide. . For City, attacking towards us, there were also no meaningful efforts on goal but there really should have been plenty yet nobody was showing responsibility for shooting. I counted 7 occasions where we stretched Coventry or had players able to shoot but they elected to pass or go wide and lose out instead. Aaron Ramsey was bright and it was a breath of fresh air watching him always running at players or moving the ball forwards, I hope Mr McPhail was taking note. Ramsey also threatened as he burst past three challenges but his shot was high and wide.
That, pretty much, was it, ex-City loan man Julian Gray, a quality operator, was reduced to knocking balls out of play time after time. I even thought I was in America for a moment when oventr announced that "the multi-ball system is in use tonight, if a ball comes out of play to you, please return it to the nearest ball boy" and the big screen displayed messages that the corner-kicks were sponsored by a local scrappy. Reality was however, surroundings apart, old dungeon games at Halifax, Rochdale or Macclesfield were more entertaining and sometimes better quality too.
Half-time: Coventry 0 City 0
The second half was one way traffic. Coventry looking an unbelievably poor side who, if they continue like that, are every inch relegation contenders. Their only effort came when Leon Best, a footballer with less concept of the offside rule than a school dinner lady, got away with pushing Glenn Loovens but his shot was blocked by superb Roger Johnson covering leaving Peter Enckleman with the easiest full debut possible and enjoying himself with ayatollahs, staying on the pitch by himself at final whistle after the other to come to us and smiling to himself. I liked his yell after one goal kick and it was refreshing to see a City goalkeeper coming for, and taking, crosses even if he was never under pressure but his kicking radar was way off beam overall.
It was therefore worrying in a half that Coventry were clearly there to be beaten and in which we dominated throughout that we never won it and you somehow didn't feel that we would either. The January Cardiff City side would have taken full advantage, the February team seem unable..
They nearly did twice within 90 seconds of the restart as Cov keeper .Marshall made a great block when Rae got behind them and Paul Parry was blocked when he looked certain to follow home the rebound. Just after that, Whittingham was a fraction wide in his only telling moment of the whole match as he put in another poor 90 minutes, he's now having far too many of those.
Chances came throughout the half but although stats show we had a number of on target efforts, the reality was that everything was hit directly at Marshall. We had more than enough good chances or half chances to have put Cov away but failed to. Parry a couple of times, Whittingham again and Thompson (coming on with 15 to go instead of the last 10) should have done better with a header in front of goal.
Aaron Ramsey produced some sublime moments and more than justified his place ahead of McPhail but man of the match yet gain was Kevin McNaughton, the only player who has been consistent recently and producing top form. A hammer blow came just after the hour when Joe Ledley went down then limped off clutching the back of his right leg, it instinctively looked like a hamstring. We can only pray it's not.
It ended City's losing streak but I felt it was a must win game. 1 point out of 9 sees us almost in mid-table, 11th, and now 4 points behind the play-offs where we seem to be one of 8 sides chasing 6th place but with no league game this weekend due to cup action and three of the next four also away with two of them against higher placed rivals, we will do well to stay in contention over the next 3 weeks or so.
The drive back was clear apart from some bad spells of freezing fog but the walk back to the car took ages so it was a long night and late night. I'll have to catch up on the zzzz's Wednesday night, the things you do for City..
Managerless Coventry City earned a vital point against Cardiff City in a goalless draw.
The Sky Blues, who parted company with manager Iain Dowie on Monday morning, had lost five from their last six league outings before the game and were dangerously close to the relegation zone.
But while new chairman Ray Ranson searches for 'a more progressive and modern management approach', caretakers Frankie Bunn and John Harbin rallied the troops and looked to halt the team's slide.
Cardiff, meanwhile, looked to bounce back after two defeats which have seen them lose ground on the play-off places.
If Coventry's players were distracted by the off-field shenanigans, it didn't seem to show and they started well.
However, their dominance did not produce chances and they had to wait until the 29th minute for their first shot.
After Michael Hughes won the ball and fed Michael Mifsud, the striker found space and fired in a low shot only to see it palmed away by Peter Enckelman.
The chance woke-up Cardiff and three minutes later they had their first chance.
A mis-hit Coventry free-kick eventually fell into the path of Paul Parry, but the Welshman's bouncing effort was gathered well by Andy Marshall.
Cardiff started the second half with a flurry and should have been ahead within a minute of the restart.
Gavin Rae's should have scored but his shot was saved by Marshall and the loose ball fell to Parry, but Isaac Osbourne's last-gasp dive blocked the shot.
Cardiff dominated the half and pressed for a winner and Parry again came close in the 75th, but the impressive Marshall was equal to the threat.
Coventry managed their only effort in the second period four minutes later when substitute Robbie Simpson tried his luck from 20-yards out, but his weak shot was simple for Enckelman.
The Bluebirds continued to press for a winner but in the end had to settle for a point.