…Well, I never felt more like singin’ the blues
‘Cause I never thought that I’d ever lose…
…well, I never felt more like cryin’ all night
’cause everythin’s wrong, and nothin’ ain’t right
…and, I never felt more like runnin’ away
But why should I go ’cause I couldn’t stay
Without you, you got me singin’ the blues
Singin’ the blues…Guy Mitchell
…how to start?
Always with a positive or two.
The burger was good. Steve Hood did another fantastic job organising the Supporters’ Club coach. The rain held off. Cliffie Hodgson made his first start of the season. The parrots arrived 15 minutes before we left. Eoghan Grace came onto the coach to give his thanks to those who had travelled down. There were no hold ups on the way back.
And that’s about it really.
The rest of the day was…disappointing.
And that’s putting it mildly.
I’m fast coming to the conclusion that Esher are becoming a bit of a bogey team for us. I can only remember the one Cov win against them, at home, when John Inverdale sat in front of us for the first half but, after Esher were completely overrun in the first 40, failed to return to his seat for the start of the second. Other than that, we might have had another win somewhere but it if so, then I can’t recall it.
Things didn’t augur well when we got caught in heavy traffic approaching the M25 following an accident and were delayed by 30 minutes. With the team coach some 10 or 15 minutes behind us, a late start was inevitable and it was no surprise that on arrival at Esher we learned that kick off had been put back to 3.30 pm.
The team coach didn’t get to Molesey Road until 2.30 pm and whilst that’s no excuse for the poor performance, I’m sure the team could have done without it.
Perhaps the only bonus in the delay was that we had less than an hour to hang around after the game, rather than what would have been 90 minutes or more otherwise. When you’ve watched your team underperform as badly as they did yesterday, the inclination is just to get on the coach and drive off as soon as possible…an hour and a half would have really been rubbing salt into the wounds.
So what of the game itself…?
Well, it certainly wasn’t Coventry’s finest hour yesterday, in fact other than the James Stokes try and a couple of Cov scrums that caused huge problems for Esher, it’s hard to pick out a finest 5 minutes in all honesty.
It was imperative we didn’t do what we’d done too many times already this season and ship a couple of early tries and then have to play catch up for the rest of the game, so when we took the early lead, I rather think most Cov supporters in the crowd were fairly confident that we would see this one out. How wrong we were proved to be!
Cov started well enough…8 points up and looking confident, including a wonderful try; an individual effort from James Stokes who angled his run to find the gap and then used his considerable pace to outstrip the covering defence.
And that’s where it all started to go pear-shaped. Eoghan Grace was given a yellow and having successfully wound down 9 minutes of his enforced absence, we conceded a soft try with missed tackles letting Esher in.
And from that point Esher began to believe and Cov didn’t.
In truth, neither team looked anything but ordinary in the opening 40 minutes and although Coventry had dominance once again in the scrum and the lineout continued to hold its own, in almost every other area of our game we were outplayed and out-thought by an Esher team that grew in confidence and which, by the end of the 80 minutes, were very good value for their 5 points. We certainly got enough ball to cause Esher problems and had our moments in attack, but we seemed toothless for most of the game and even though the backs saw a reasonable amount of possession, it rarely got out wide and Dan Rundle and Corey Hircock seldom got a chance to create anything in attack.
At times during the pre-season games we played at real pace, putting the opposition under constant pressure and creating the space for the backs to run into. That doesn’t seem to be the case now and we just aren’t able to punch the holes in defences that would allow this to happen. We don’t use quick ball as we did, and some of the passing seems laboured and slow and somewhat predictable. Esher were able to off-load in tight situations several times yesterday yet we tended to keep hold of the ball in the tackle. And at the breakdown, whereas increasingly Esher had players in support, we seemed to leave our ball carriers isolated and were turned over on more than one occasion simply because of a lack of support. Yesterday wasn’t the best of days for the Coventry back row.
Once again, our tackling was poor. Having seemed to show signs against Hartpury that defensively we were sorting things out, yesterday we looked uncertain whenever Esher ran at us. Too often first tackles were missed and once the Esher players were given a bit of space, they had the pace to cause us problems. When the ball is kept close to hand and in the opposition forwards, by and large we defend well, but when there is any sort of width and space, we look frail.
Our discipline was poor, too. I don’t know what the penalty count was, but certainly at the time it seemed we were incurring the wrath of the referee far more than Esher. Cov allowed the Esher forwards to get under their skin a bit and although Esher had by far the worst of the scrums, their front row managed to upset Jimmy Litchfield on more than one occasion. Tom Jubb looked particularly down come the end of the game. He was substituted in the first half and didn’t seem overly happy with the decision but he did return, only to be given a yellow – not the best of days for a player that always seems to give of his best.
From not taking the option of the 3 points in any of our first 4 games, we are now taking them all. And whilst it worked against Hartpury, to an extent, in that it kept the scoreboard ticking over, I’m not sure it was altogether the right option yesterday. Okay, we picked up 3 points every now and again, but we just weren’t able to get into the red zone often enough to put pressure on the Esher line…by kicking to the corner we lose the 3 points, potentially, but we do have a chance of coming away with 7 and that’s what we needed yesterday. Pressure on the Esher line. Kick, quick throw and Esher would be on the back foot…we were too slow in much that we did and, when that happens, we don’t carry half the threat.
At half time and 17-14 down, the game was still very much for the taking. Although Esher had come right back into it, neither team was looking dominant at that stage and I’d hoped the chance to re-group in the break might be just what we needed. As it was, within a couple of minutes Esher had scored and we were suddenly 11 points down and whilst there was still plenty of time on the clock we were already beginning to chase the game.
At that point it was very much about character…Esher were definitely no better than us, but they seemed to want it more. I know that’s one of those overly used phrases, but in this instance I do think it’s appropriate. There’s bags of ability in this Cov squad but at the moment the heads seem to drop when we fall behind away from home – it needs one or two players to take the game by the scruff of the neck and lead by example, but we just don’t seem to be doing that. Whilst the overall performance wasn’t quite as poor as that of the Blackheath game, it was just as disappointing because Esher didn’t offer the same threat in attack. Even when we went 11 points down, I still felt we had the beating of them, provided we could get our A game going…but we couldn’t.
An injury to James Stokes gave Cliffie Hodgson his first start of the season, but he was unable to have any impact on a game that had already run away from Cov and in the final 15 minutes we looked second best by a distance. The second half was the most depressed I’ve felt watching Cov this season.
Because actually I wasn’t watching us being beaten by a team who were better than us at all, in many respects I was watching a team being beaten by itself.
Despite my confidence that Cov could and would turn it around in the second half, at no point did you get that feeling that any sort of comeback was on the cards and that was probably the most depressing thing of all. Esher smothered us, they were quicker to the ball and when they did have possession, they used it far more effectively.
Eoghan Grace described Coventry’s performance as ‘Awful’, and I don’t think there was anyone on the coach who would have disagreed with him. I’m sure he won’t have relished having to face up to the supporters, but he did and he said all the right things, about working hard to put it right and the appreciation of the support the players get. He wasn’t prepared to make excuses…
…and nor could he.
This clearly isn’t the start we expected, but it will come good although it’s going to take some hard graft to get to where we need to be in the next few weeks.
It will be another tough week in training but one thing that Rowland Winter shouldn’t have to do is motivate his players. They’ll know better than anyone that they just can’t afford to produce another similar performance in front of Coventry supporters next week against a Fylde side who had a good win against Plymouth Albion yesterday.
It won’t be parrots flying above BPA, more than likely the vultures will be coming to have a look around…the parrots, like the supporters, are currently off sick…another defeat and attendances will drop yet further.
3 consecutive defeats isn’t going to help the cause a great deal as far as winning over Coventry supporters, but I’ve said all along that this is a journey…Satnav seems to have lost track of just where we are at the moment, but we’ve a chance to re-route this week and further delays will be avoided next weekend.
It’s about having a little bit of faith (cue for a George Michael interjection there – or perhaps not)…however, in the meantime, whilst singing along to Guy Mitchell’s ‘Singing’ the Blues’, you might wish to change the lyrics to:
Never felt more like singing the blues,
When Esher win and Coventry lose!
Oh Cov, you really got me singing the blues…