Cinderford – the pantomime season starts this Saturday…
…and with the pantomime season soon upon us, let’s hope that Cinders won’t get anywhere near the ball on Saturday.
Coventry must play the part of the pantomime villain and in a complete reversal from the original Cinderella, make sure that the home side is banished to 80 minutes of servitude at the hands of the Coventry pack (the ugly sisters, perhaps), Matt Jones and his right boot gives them no more than a few scraps to feed off (the wicked stepmother, maybe) and Prince Charming (in the guise of the referee) blows the whistle on Cinders if there are any complaints.
And if somehow we can encourage the Fairy Godmother to turn to the dark side (maybe free admission in the dressing room to enjoy the post-match celebrations?), then perhaps she’ll grant us a single wish (I’m not one to push my luck) – a performance to match that of Saturday’s against Blaydon with the top three to lose convincingly…okay, then, two wishes.
If the Coventry forwards are able to control the game in the way they did at the weekend and squeeze the confidence out of the Cinderford pack that struggled to gain control against Fylde on Saturday, then the backs will again have an opportunity to exert their influence on the game. And there is some real talent there. Dom Lespierre just needs some ball and he’ll cause damage to any defence in the league, on the few occasions Gaston Mieres saw the ball he scored one try, created another and looked dangerous in attack. Rob Knox, too, showed signs of recapturing his confidence at times displaying the kind of form that made him the most feared centre in National 1 last season.
Social media was abuzz over the weekend with praise for the team and widespread relief that Coventry had at last produced a performance worthy of such a talented squad. Scott Morgan must have been a very happy man and deservedly so. He’d had to ride a growing storm of confusion and then frustration as results failed to deliver the early season promise.
It was, however, Phil Maynard who was left to sum up the feelings of the club in the Coventry Telegraph post-match report:
There were justifiably smiles on faces again.
Blaydon are never an easy side to play against, I thought the forwards were really excellent and there were some outstanding performances.
Having defended resolutely, the rewards came in the second half with some superb running as confidence grew.
It’s no more than the coaches deserved. Whatever criticism has been levelled at them over the past few weeks, they selected a team and came up with a game plan that worked, and worked so effectively that Blaydon left the field without having scored a single point. No mean achievement.
It was great to see both Will Hurrell and Dan Rundle at the ground on Saturday. Both are sorely missed and whilst Will has moved on to pastures new, Dan will hopefully be back in action at some stage in the new year. In the meantime, his presence in and around the club is important, being both good for morale and a reminder that for much of the second half of the season Coventry could have their leading try scorer back in the team, someone who puts fear into the opposition by just being on the pitch.
Cinderford are presently 15th this season, one place off the bottom on points difference. With only two wins from their 10 games so far this season, their record is similar to that of Blaydon. And just as Blaydon played Fylde the week before coming to the Butts, so Cinderford played them a week before we travel down to them, so comparisons between how the two teams fared are of some interest. Coincidently, both teams fell 14-0 down to Fylde in the opening few minutes, but that seems to be where the similarities end. Whereas Blaydon had reeled the opposition in by half time to go into the break at 14 all, Cinderford were unable to do the same, despite plenty of possession inside the Fylde half. In the second half, Fylde’s strength began to tell and they ran in a further 5 tries, reminiscent of Coventry’s domination over a faltering Blaydon team in the final quarter on Saturday.
Had Coventry showed any sort of consistency in their form over the last 10 games, then it would be fair to make Coventry favourites for the win against Cinderford, but although the team showed the level they are capable of playing at against Blaydon, at present there is no guarantee this can be maintained over a number of games. However, the mood amongst the players, coaches and supporters seems very different to that of earlier in the season when we were beating teams like Plymouth and Hull, but in a manner that was far less than convincing. This new found confidence is one of the most encouraging things to come out of the game for me.
Players seem determined to repay the supporters for the way in which they have remained loyal to the team despite the run of poor results and certainly whenever I’ve contacted players to ask if I can use some of the photos that they have taken amongst themselves, not only have they been more than happy to say yes, they’ve also been at great pains to thank everyone for their patience and support. It clearly means a great deal to them.
I’ve always wondered just how aware of the crowd players are during the game. I imagine that they blot everything out whilst on the pitch, but it is clear this is not the case – the volume of noise, the cheers of support clearly resonate with players and can lift them to the next level. I’m hoping that attendances have plateaued now at around 1100 and that once results begin to improve again, as they surely will, gates will increase to a level approaching last season’s average of 1500+. I’m sure the Board would welcome that for the financial benefits 400 happy supporters might bring to the club alone, especially as income must be down on pre-season forecasts at this stage of the season. But for the players, playing in front of an even bigger crowd will hopefully help raise their game even further.
At the moment, I’m hoping that other than the expected knocks and bruises, no injuries were picked up against Blaydon that will prevent anyone from being unavailable for selection against Cinderford. That would be a blow. Coventry have been particularly unlucky with injuries and illness in the last three months or so. Up to now, every time we think that the situation’s improving, so someone else is sidelined. If we can go a few weeks without anyone picking up a major injury, then there’s no need for the wholesale changes we’ve seen at times this season, even less so when the team is winning. And consistency in selection creates greater understand and confidence within the team as they play more regularly together.
An interesting week ahead. This time last week we were all beginning to fear the worst; three consecutive defeats and a potential loss to Blaydon on the cards given Coventry’s recent mediocre performances. The Blaydon result has done so much more than just provide the coaches with a win and a break from anxieties being expressed by concerned supporters. It has also pointed them in the direction of what their ‘best’ team might actually look like. and that is probably the worth even more than the 5 points achieved on the back of such a convincing win.
Whilst the comparison to ‘Cinderella’ at the start of this post was of course very much tongue-in-cheek, Coventry’s season could yet be a Cinderella story in itself. By analogy Cinderella has come to be associated with someone or something that achieves some sort of success following a period of relative obscurity…
Ring any bells?
Oh no it doesn’t…
Oh yes it does…