Sunday, 21 December 2014

Coventry City 1 v 1 Fleetwood Town

Saturday 20th December 2014
Football League One
City of Coventry Stadium (Ricoh Arena), Coventry
Admission: £10.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 10,254
Match Rating: 3

A discounted ticket offer, which saw the club sell all tickets in home sections for today's fixture at a flat rate of £10, and at a discount of £15 where I chose to sit, prompted me to head to the West Midlands to tick off another of the 92, for an otherwise very unremarkable fixture.

The Ricoh Arena, as it is currently known, is not an easy place to get to by public transport, located about four miles north of the city centre, and with no direct buses from the railway station - one must change at the city centre bus station, or walk the mile between the train and bus station. One can then choose either a special football bus service, at £5 return, or a regular scheduled bus service, at £3.10 using a plusbus ticket - with both options predictably being extremely busy after the match. The stadium certainly looks impressive from the outside, with an extended section to one side housing an exhibition hall, hotel, casino and other facilities giving the building an interesting look. Following Rugby Union club Wasps' purchase of the stadium, it is no surprise that the stadium has a lot of that club's branding displayed on it, with just a couple of logos of the football club. Once inside, it is pretty much everything that one would expect of a recently built stadium - very neat and tidy, easy on the eye, spacious - but lacking in charm or character, particularly on days like this when the stadium is not even a third full. The stadium has "wrap-around" seating, single-tiered with one length and behind both goals featuring continuous single-tiered seating around the corners. A steep incline in the seating rows ensures a good view. The remaining length is designed rather differently and adds a little bit of variety to the overall look of the stadium. There are two tiers, the bottom tier about two thirds of the height of the seating around the rest of the stadium, with only about half a dozen rows in the upper tier, located in front of hospitality boxes and hotel room windows, with a solid wall above to the roof. Some of the roof around the stadium features perspex panelling, to allow more light into the stadium. The 68 page programme was fairly standard fare for a Football League programme, attractive and with a hardened glossy cover, but it did have plenty to read, including ten pages introducing the visiting club.

Coming into this game, both sides were stuck firmly in mid table in League One which, based on the histories of the respective clubs, is as much a fabulous achievement for Fleetwood Town as it is a disappointing predicament for Coventry City. Having only entered the Football League in the 2012/13 season, Fleetwood were in eleventh place, with seven wins and five draws from their 20 league games, whilst Coventry City, who spent 34 consecutive seasons in the top flight up to season 2000/2001, were three places and two points worse off than Fleetwood, having won six and drawn six of their 20 games. The omens did not look good for Fleetwood today though, having lost eight of their last nine away games in all competitions. Unsurprisingly, this would be the first ever meeting between the two sides.

On a bright, sunny afternoon, this proved to be very much a game of two halves. Although Coventry certainly started the brighter, showing some slick passing in midfield, Fleetwood grew more and more into the game, and deservedly took the lead on 18 minutes, albeit with a slice of good fortune. Gareth Evans whipped in a right-footed cross from the left wing, which Coventry defender Andy Webster got his head to, deflecting the ball over his own keeper and into the far corner. They really should have extended their lead by half-time, spurning several good chances, as the home side looked surprisingly flat and lethargic.

However, Coventry were a side transformed when they came out in the second half, looking much more threatening without managing to create any real gilt edged goalscoring chances, until they got back on level terms ten minutes from time. Matthew Pennington swung in a cross from the right wing, Gary Medine headed the ball back across goal and Simeon Jackson managed to slide in to poke the ball home from very close range despite the attentions of a defender. The only question now was whether Coventry would go on to snatch a winner, but they did not and a point apiece was about right, and Fleetwood would no doubt be the happier. Although only 121 fans were counted in the away section, this may have been due to Coventry's rather bizarre and distasteful decision to not extend the £10 flat range ticket price to the away fans, instead charging them the usual £22.

Video highlights of this game can be found here

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