I was only able to know I could go to the game late in the day and only managed to book tickets with Cardiff City ticket office as they were returning the unsold ones with the stewards. It took me ages to get through on phone lines blocked with customers more interested in getting Arsenal tickets even though they didn't go on sale until next day and couldn't be bought from the club. 1,072 were sold by City but, after all that hassle, sod's law that Coventry had a cash turnstile open when we got there anyway taking the away following well past 1,100.
The journey up went smoothly despite delays around Newport and, fortunately, getting past a three car pile up blocking two lanes of the M5 moments after it occurred and before emergency services arrived. It would significantly delay those further behind.
The beauty of Cardiff City's new ground is that it remains central, is easy to get to and is near habitation, pubs and shops. Ricoh Arena, while easy to access straight off the M6, is effectively 4 miles outside Coventry itself meaning you can only get there by transport. Car parking at the ground was £10 or about £5 at several places 15-20 minutes walk away. I took my dad for a night out, good son you see!, so paid the premium but it meant we had no pre-game pub and none are nearby.
The stadium itself is very impressive, built and finished in better style than the 'New Ninian' but it's 33,000 arena containing less than 15,000 spectators meant it was soulless and devoid of atmosphere from the home fans whom City subjected to the timeless chants of "they're here, they're there, they're every ****ing where, empty seats, empty seats" as well as "your ground's too big for you".
Team news saw City name an unchanged side from the 11 sent out to get that creditable weekend draw with Arsenal. Jay Bothroyd, the only doubt, passed a late fitness test so it was. CARDIFF CITY: Enckleman; McNaughton-Johnson-Gypes-Kennedy; Burke-Rae-Ledley-Parry; Bothroyd-McCormack. Subs: Heaton-Comminges-Johnson(Eddie)-McPhail-Purse.
The Sky Blues started and finished the night in 14th spot but went into the game unbeaten in 7, having won 4 of their last 5 and unbeaten at home in 6 making them tough opposition even if locals had not been overly impressed with the performances during this run but their home record wasn't great - it now reads 5 wins, 5 draws and 5 defeats in the league - so gave City hope and, on the night, there were made to look a painfully limited side devoid of any meaningful tactics or ideas. Credit to Cardiff for that however.
Coventry City: Westwood; Hall-Ward-Turner-Fox; Mifsud-Sawyer-Gunnarsson-McKenzie; Eastwood-Morrison.
Attacking the end furthest away from us City could have opened the scoring inside the first 20 seconds as a Bothroyd flick sent McCormack away but he failed to shoot with only Westwood to beat. Maybe the ball was running away from him, it was hard to tell from so far away as City fans cramped and jostling about as stewards closed the back half of the stand making it overcrowded at the front until they finally saw common sense.
That wasted chance was cancelled out at Freddie Eastwood should have put the home side ahead, Gunarrsson (their only stand out player) dispossessed Rae, sent him clear on goal but he shot straight at a relieved Enckleman when it was far easier to hit the target and sent it past him. Last summer, I felt City should have gone for Eastwood and felt let down when we took Bothroyd from Wolves instead but you have to hand it to Dave Jones. Jay at £300k has proved a bargain, Eastwood at £1.2M and only 3 goals to date looks a very expensive mistake.
Coventry had two tactic and two tactics only - diagonal balls to the Maltese Midge Michael Mifsud to take on Mark Kennedy. Mifsud, whose gloves looked bigger than he was, was the shortest man on the pitch and while he enjoyed a little early success, it was far too easy to put right but that didn't stop Cov trying and trying until he was eventually removed in the 2nd half. The other tactic was a bizarre long throw where the taker delivered corkscrew-fashion by taking a 5 yard run straight down the pitch before running to the touchline on a curved motion, the ball coming in with spin and distance. It caused early problems as Enckleman and the defence flapped at a couple which saw one cleared off the line by Roger Johnson but, once they sorted themselves out, that was null and void too.
However one of those scrambles saw an early end to the night for Kevin McNaughton who was kicked in the back of the leg but Miguel Comminges, on his natural right side, did well replacing him.
The useless Clinton Morrison claimed for a penalty, it never was, and entertained us as, child-like, he beat his fists into the ground and moaned. He never stopped his antics and eventually disappeared from the game, can't remember any football from him, there was no partnership from Eastwood and himself.
City settled down and for the 2nd period of the first half played as well as I've ever seen them on the road, it was a travesty they only led by 1 goal but they had only themselves to blame for that.
Bothroyd, booed and jeered by home fans on a return to a former club, and cheered by City fans, should have scored midway through the half but fired over. Moments later, he was narrowly wide with a blazing drive across goal. The highly rated Cov keeper Westwood showed why as he produced a stunning save meeting McCormack's equally stunning 20 yard piledriver and Burke horribly chipped into the crowd when fantastic movement sent him in on goal from an angle.
However the breakthrough, now long overdue, came on 35 as lovely football got Mark Kennedy into space, his far post cross was met by JAY BOTHROYD whose downward header was blocked by Westwood but he lashed home the follow up high into the net from point blank range. He made sure Cov fans knew who had scored, we went ballistic.
City should have put the game out of sight but two Westwood saves and misses by Parry, McCormack (twice) and Bothroyd amongst others meant the home side were still in it. Their football was fantastic, at times it looked like demonstration stuff, but City fans feared their lack of killer instinct and clinical finishing would cost them.
Half-time: Cov 0 Cardiff 1
Cardiff were more composed but continued to carry the only threat in the game and finally got the second goal they fully deserved on the hour. A home player lost the ball on halfway, McCormack was played in by Rae, burst past two defenders and fired low inside Westwood's near post all in front of us.
That was game over but Cardiff still had more chances but were now happy just to play within themselves and hold onto what they had.
Joe Ledley, supreme in central midfield, came off after taking a knock with McPhail replacing him and for the final 15-20 , they looked a little tired, no surprise after their earlier efforts and this game coming after that Arsenal clash.
The all round team display was excellent, defence looked rock solid again, Joe and Gavin ran the show, Chris Burke entertained all night long and really has promise and talent, Jay was fantastic but Ross McCormack was City's best man in my eyes. He was on the very top of his game, his pace, skills, awareness and trickery had the home defence in trouble throughout.
City fans were in buoyant mood. Chris Burke has his own chant to Sloop John B, "He plays on the left, he plays on the right, that boy Chris Burkes, makes Routledge look sh*te" while there was a cheeky one for our keeper, "Enckleman, Enckleman, Peter Enckleman, when he kicks the ball, it's out of touch, Peter Enckleman", to Coventry City there was, "one CCFC, there's only one CCFC" and when the ref went out injured late, there was "you're not fit to referee" followed by "we want the other one back" as his replacement immediately penalised Jay Bothroyd.
A highly satisfying night and the fastest of journeys homes as the motorways were roads were empty, noticeably with no lorries about going side by side blocking up the lanes or anywhere to be seen really. There are some advantages to this credit crunch then.
Onwards and upwards City.
Cardiff City maintained their strong run of form with a convincing win at Coventry.
Goals either side of the break by Jay Bothroyd and Ross McCormack lifted Dave Jones's team up to fourth in the Championship table and condemned the Sky Blues to their first defeat at the Ricoh Arena since November.
Coventry handed a debut to on-loan Chelsea midfielder Lee Sawyer and the home team started the match well.
Freddy Eastwood had two great chances inside the first 13 minutes but failed to take them.
In the 11th minute, Michael Mifsud set-up the Wales international but he shot wide from the edge of the area and then, two minutes later, he fired straight at Peter Enckleman when one-on-one.
Coventry defender Elliott Ward, who spared the Sky Blues' blushes with a late goal in the FA Cup at Torquay at the weekend, had a couple of opportunities but one flew over and the other was deflected clear in the 22nd minute.
From that moment, Cardiff took over and completely controlled the remainder of the first half.
Bothroyd should have scored in the 24th minute but he fired over after being given too much time and space in the box.
The former Coventry striker went close again two minutes later but, after cutting inside, he shot wide.
McCormack was looking a class act in terms of touch and movement and he produced a stunning volley in the 29th minute but it was matched by an athletic save from Keiren Westwood.
Coventry were being pushed further and further back by Cardiff and the pressure told in the 34th minute.
Mark Kennedy swung in a cross from the left, which Bothroyd met with a header. Westwood made another good save but Bothroyd blasted in on the rebound.
Cardiff had three further chances before half-time but Coventry managed to survive without conceding again before the break.
The Sky Blues were looking to get back on level terms straightaway in the second period and had a chance three minutes in. Eastwood crossed to the back post but Ward's header was soft and easy for Enckleman to save.
Cardiff got their second goal just after the hour mark when Sawyer gave the ball away in his own half. Gavin Rae picked out McCormack who raced towards goal and calmly shot under the body of Westwood.
Coventry Official Website
Cardiff City Official Website