Thursday, December 10, 2009

Seven up

Coventry 0 - 2 Newcastle Utd

"Seven up"? Yes, well, that would be a reference to the seventh successive league win (our best run since the so-nearly-glory days of the mid 90s under King Kev) taking us seven points clear of our closest challengers West Brom at the top of the Championship.

But why not the more obvious (if more cliched) "Seventh heaven" or "Magnificent seven"? Well, the truth is that the victories have largely been hard-fought and unspectacular. With the exception of Reading and Ipswich (plus Peterborough for a half), we haven't really systematically torn apart anyone this season - and those exceptions have been more a measure of the opposition than of our own quality.

Last night's win at the Ricoh Arena was just more of the same: some resolute goalkeeping and defending, a bit of good fortune in our penalty area, a couple of clinical and classy touches in theirs, and another three points to add to the collection.

Perhaps most noteably, the victory was achieved without either our leading scorer or the man who's led the line for the majority of the season. Kevin Nolan's two yellow cards (brandished, it should be noted, by Mackem whistleblower Jonathan Moss) against the Hornets on Saturday ruled him out, while Bigger Lad's absence suggested Chris Hughton doesn't think he's in the right frame of mind since getting his collar felt by the local constabulary.

With Nolan out, Danny Guthrie must surely have fancied his chances of getting a start in the middle - his repeated dereliction of right-wing duties has given enough of a hint as to his preferred position - so it will have been galling to find Nicky Butt and Fabrice Pancrate both selected ahead of him. Equally, Homer and Nile Ranger were probably a bit miffed to be warming the bench alongside Guthrie, while Big Lad was drafted in for his first appearance since early September.

But sure enough it was he who set us on our way. By that point, first-half injury time, we'd had a handful of opportunities, Pancrate in particular evidently keen to follow up Saturday's wondergoal with another strike. But if we were unfortunate that Leon Barnett hadn't walked for tugging back Peter Lovenkrands, an offence the officials missed altogether, then we had the woodwork to thank for denying both the Sky Blues striker Leon Best and his midfield team-mate Michael McIndoe in quick succession.

Big Lad's turn and shot set us up nicely for a second half in which we could have extended our lead but the home side could also have levelled. 'Keepers Steve Harper and Keiren Westwood exchanged fine saves, frustrating Freddy Eastwood and Alan Smith respectively.

Hughton made his increasingly familiar around-the-hour-mark switches, refreshing our attack by replacing Big Lad and Lovenkrands with Homer and Ranger. The latter made the bigger impact, one chance going begging before he finally got off the mark for the first team, applying the vital finishing touch to a cross from Jose Enrique and wrapping up yet another win. This is a kind of monotony I could easily get used to.

Of course, the result looked all the better thanks to a clutch of poor results for our closest (I use the word loosely) rivals on Tuesday night. Leicester slumped to defeat at home to Bristol City, Forest could only muster a goalless draw at Sheffield Utd and, best of all, West Brom were beaten at the Hawthorns by Cardiff - Agent Chopra again offering welcome assistance to our fortune, a late challenge inciting Scott Carson into a head-butt that brought the Baggies 'keeper's evening to a premature end.

By our reckoning, a few more points and we'll be safe from relegation. Why mention the R word, you say? Well, at the minute it pays to keep our feet firmly on the deck.

Other reports: BBC


Post a Comment

<< Home