Chairboys beaten in a Christmas Pantomime at the Ricoh.
Wycombe Wanderers were beaten 3-2 by play-off rivals Coventry City as Marc McNulty bagged a match-winning brace at the Ricoh Arena on Friday night.
That's okay isn't it? I can stop there. That exclamation of horror and disgust is enough to explain this "game." No? Oh dear. Here we go then.
Wycombe Wanderers went into the game looking to end a run of five league matches without a win on the road; the last one coming at Cambridge United back in early October. Manager Gareth Ainsworth made two changes to the starting line-up that had beaten Chesterfield 1-0 at Adams Park the previous weekend. Adam El-Abd missed out with a slight calf strain and was replaced by Dan Scarr, whilst in what can only be described as some festive jollity he went for a "really solid" midfield with Matt Bloomfield preferred to loanee Eberechi Eze, who dropped to the bench. He was joined there by Will de Havilland.
There was no Scott Kashket-shaped early Christmas present in the squad. Ainsworth stuck with his tried and tested 4-3-3 formation, which looked liked this…
Sido Jombati - Anthony Stewart - Dan Scarr - Joe Jacobson
Sam Saunders - Matt Bloomfield - Luke O`Nien
Craig Mackail-Smith - Adebayo Akinfenwa - Nathan Tyson
Mark Robins; the Coventry City manager and famous for scoring the goal that saved Alex Ferguson`s job at Manchester United named an unchanged starting XI following their 2-1 win over Cheltenham Town.
Jack Grimmer - Jordan Willis - Rod McDonald - Chris Stokes
Michael Doyle - Tom Bayliss
Peter Vincenti - Marc McNulty - Jordan Shipley
A sparse Ricoh Arena served as a reminder of the state of our opponents as we faced them in a league match for the first time. Owners SISU are a hedge fund founded in 1997 (they won`t remember Mickey Quinn and that Jason Cousins free-kick!) and their company biography claims they "invest in alternative investment markets of Europe with a focus on United Kingdom. It makes event driven investments in high yield and distressed debt securities for the restructuring of industrial companies."
No wonder there was a banner to the late Jimmy Hill at the opposite end of the ground. Even his reaction to the intentions of SISU would be met with a chinny reckon!
Remarkably 7,234 people ventured to this soul-less concrete bowl on a Friday night less than three days before Christmas. You can imagine one of the three wise men on his long walk from the East to Bethlehem thinking to themselves, I could be at the Ricoh Arena watching Coventry City play Wycombe Wanderers instead of traipsing in the dark to visit the son of God! £25 for a ticket and a tenner to park? Damn! I`ve only forgotten the Myrrh!
Enough of this heresy, a Coventry City blog previewed this game with the claim that we`re "pretty good." Oh but then qualified that statement by adding that League Two appears to consist exclusively of dreadful football teams. Alas we went on to prove that statement quite conclusively.
Reading some official reports on this game, and even some comments from supporters, you might be fooled into the belief this was a good, enjoyable game with goals and entertainment. It wasn`t. It was appalling. It was a farce. It was a pantomime.
All pantomimes have a villain and ours was referee Tony Harrington. There is little more tiresome than hearing or reading criticism of referees. Those who watch the Premier League see it week in and week out as managers and supporters try and deflect blame from their own team`s inadequacies. If Harrington`s performance plumbed the depths, then we sunk lower. Why he felt the need to blow his whistle EVERY time was baffling, if not at least consistent. Maybe he felt left out with the general buffoonery going on around him and just wanted to join in. It is Christmas after all.
It could be argued that there was a second villain; the Ricoh Arena pitch. It was atrocious; like a homage to Leek Town in 1986. The ball was unable to roll properly on the rutted surface and the bounce was inconsistent and regularly ended up underneath a players chin. Quite how they are expected to play football on it is anyone`s guess. Of course the reason the pitch is in that state is because rugby is played on it. And by those parasitic London Wasps, once of this parish and who now own the Ricoh Arena. The size of their emblem inside the stadium, twice the size of the Coventry City crest adjacent to it, suggests that the rugby union have some issues over size. Another reminder of the state Coventry City find themselves in and a glimpse into what could have been our future at the Hayes Dome in Booker. Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you.
Ugh! I have tried putting off writing about the football but I am going to have to bite the bullet. Inside the opening 90 seconds Scott Brown had to come off his line to dive bravely at the feet of Marc McNulty before Maxime Biamou sliced the rebound wide. That was the high point for Brown who might have been better packing his bags, grabbing his blue passport and heading East because it was about to go very wrong.
We were 14 minutes in when Craig Mackail-Smith hooked the ball away in the vague direction of Matt Bloomfield. He was caught on his heels whilst Michael Doyle charged in and launched a left-footed cross high into the box. It didn`t really go quite where he intended to be honest. It dropped out of the air and Brown, in something of a panic, flapped two hands at it as if he was attempting a slam dunk. He didn`t really get near the ball as it thumped the underside of crossbar before bouncing into the net. Brown was left looking like a chump. And he was already wearing that ridiculous shirt.
He was almost caught out again soon after when Jordan Shipley`s right-wing corner sailed over his head and bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Jack Lester, manager of our previously defeated opponents Chesterfield, claimed in his pre-match preview of their trip to Broadhall Way today that "Stevenage are not quite as direct as Wycombe." Whilst recognising that Lester`s grip on reality is a bit tenuous given he felt his side deserved a goal-less draw last weekend, that is still quite a statement.
Yet having fallen behind to the Sky Blues, the players in mucky orange then proceeded to spend the next half-an-hour launching ball after ball after ball into the Coventry night sky, ostensibly in an attempt to find the head, chest or any part of Adebayo Akinfenwa`s anatomy. It`s not like he`s a difficult target to miss but we managed it with quite a high success rate.
When everything is falling apart you try and find even the slightest glimmer of light and it came with Sido Jombati, who even on this surface managed to conjure up a lovely piece of skill with a back heel. It even went straight to the feet of Mackail-Smith. Hooray! Mackail-Smith then immediately lost possession. Haroo!
Shortly afterwards Joe Jacobson lifted the ball skilfully over the head of his opponent…and then played it straight to another opponent. What`s the point? Why am I even here?
It was only a few minutes later that Nathan Tyson threw the ball to O`Nien, who attempted a return pass from five yards but it shanked off his boot and went out of play. Who needs Widow Twanky?
It wasn`t just the visitors who were dreadful. Somewhere around the half-hour mark Coventry City left-back Chris Stokes tried his luck from distance. It flew nearer the corner flag than the goal posts. I might not have mentioned it but the aforementioned Stokes boasts even fewer brain cells than your average footballer. He once claimed not to know what the epithet "bunch of faggots" meant after using it on social media to describe Chelsea and Spurs players. You have to feel for Robins, imagine trying to explain the intricacies of tactical formations to imbeciles like Stokes.
We had almost made it to half-time but alas it was to get worse, much worse. Peter Vincenti played a raking pass from the right flank which Anthony Stewart jumped to try and cut out. He got a slight touch but it reached McNulty anyway. As they squared up in the box, Stewart had clearly landed awkwardly and McNulty shifted his feet before curling the ball past Brown and into the bottom right-hand corner.
2-0 down and Stewart was helped off having pulled a calf muscle. He was replaced by Will de Havilland. Father Christmas really was spoiling us. Yet like a bolt out of the blue, Jacobson`s free-kick was headed out to Scarr just outside the box and he controlled with his chest before hitting a sweet left-foot volley into the bottom right-hand corner. Lee Burge had no chance and somehow despite being outplayed, we went into the half-time break trailing by just a single goal.
One Coventry City fan quipped at half-time that it looked like the visitors had dragged 11 men off the street at random. That was one of the more flattering comments. The team came out at the start of the second half and remarkably looked like one that had been motivated to play a game of association football. It was in stark contrast to the first 45 minutes.
Inside two minutes Akinfenwa felt the hand of Jordan Willis in his back and went tumbling to the turf in an attempt to win a penalty. It was clearly not enough to send a man of his incredible physique over and he was rightly booked by Mr Harrington for an embarrassing dive.
If you don`t succeed try, try again goes the saying and Nathan Tyson went crashing over under Devon Kelly-Evans clumsy challenge and this time Mr Harrington felt the Christmas spirit wash over him and pointed to the spot. Jacobson sent Burge the wrong way with supreme confidence to make it 2-2. In doing so we became the first to score twice in a league game at the Ricoh this season. Errr, quite remarkable!
Perhaps Mr Harrington had been at the sherry and having just given one gift felt it was appropriate to give a present to the hosts. McNulty fell over standing next to O`Nien, who hadn`t even attempted a challenge but a penalty it was and McNulty showed no remorse for his blatant cheating as he smashed his spot-kick into the roof of the net, with Brown given no chance.
The Sky Blues almost added a fourth goal midway through the half when another Shipley corner was met by Jack Grimmer but Sam Saunders was in the right place to clear off the line. Saunders cut an especially frustrated figure in the middle of the park, regularly screaming his angst amongst the chaos around him.
Ainsworth tried to affect the game by bringing on Paris Cowan-Hall and Eze as substitutes but it was the hosts who looked the more likely to find the net with Brown getting down well to parry a shot from McNulty. Three minutes later after yet another misplaced pass from the visitors, McNulty was played clean through on goal. He took a heavy touch as he attempted to round Brown and then tripped over his legs in another blatant act of cheating. This time Mr Harrington showed him a yellow card instead of awarding a penalty.
Six minutes of injury-time were added on and in the first of those, the moment came. O`Nien went bombing down the left wing before whipping over a cross which should have been routine for Burge. This is League Two remember and he dropped it like the proverbial bar of soap. Scarr hooked the ball towards goal but Grimmer managed to head off his own goal-line despite being clattered into by a team-mate. It hung in the air perfectly for Cowan-Hall to head into the empty net as time went into slow motion but he got too much air on it and it looped harmlessly over the bar.
There was still time for Akinfenwa to control another long-ball on his chest but he was also unable to keep his effort down and Mr Harrington blew the whistle to bring an end to this charade.
At least half-a-dozen people could be heard using the word shambles as they walked out of the away end at the Ricoh Arena. It is difficult to know where to start to try and deconstruct this performance and impossible not to use hyperbole. Robins said afterwards that the ball had got a headache. We've all got one of them mate! The first half was of such incompetence that it would even make Theresa May blush. Speaking of blushing, they did at least kindly give me this second-hand Government laptop to write this report on. Just kidding, I`m actually a Russian bot!
These terrible jokes can`t disguise this terrible performance. Without even the merest hint of sarcasm Ainsworth said "We go again." Like sprouts on Christmas Day, you just do it but there`s no joy in it.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Brown 4 - It was the nightmare before Christmas for the stopper who ended up looking like a pudding.
Jombati 6 - Tried to balance his natural talent with the hoofball demanded of him and did okay.
Stewart 5 - Showed more composure than those around him before injury ended his evening early.
Scarr 5 - Took his goal exceptionally well but otherwise was found wanting up against McNulty.
Jacobson 3 - His delivery from set-pieces was utterly appalling and seemed incapable of passing to a team-mate.
O`Nien 4 - Looked leaden-footed for the most part and struggled to have any impact on the game.
Bloomfield 3 - He will run through brick walls but sadly showed the touch and passing of one.
Saunders 5 - Looked like a man questioning his very own-existence or at least why he wasn`t on set-pieces.
Mackail-Smith 3 - Appeared to have aged at least ten years as he lumbered around the pitch, affecting nothing.
Akinfenwa 6* - Did everything that was asked of him and won his battles. Shame about the dive though.
Tyson 3 - Appeared to be struggling following his recent injury and was simply awful.
De Havilland 3 - Has the finesse of a combine harvester and regularly caused panic in defence.
Cowan-Hall 4 - Looked more of a threat than either Mackail-Smith or Tyson but wasted a glorious chance to steal a point.
Eze N/A - came on too late to affect the game.
Next up: Wycombe Wanderers v Newport County / Tuesday 26th December 2017 / Kick Off 3pm / Adams Park.