The draw against Darlington Mowden Park was a pretty decent result, all things considered.
Make no mistake, there was a fair amount of pressure on the team and on the coaches in the days immediately prior to the game, so to remain so focused and come away with the draw speaks volumes about the character of the players who have performed so indifferently on their travels for much of the season so far.
Coventry’s performances away from home had been disappointing to say the least and we’ve seen a growing sense of unease amongst Cov’s travelling supporters who have watched periods of exciting attacking play undone by an inability to defend with any consistency at all.
Earlier in the week, Cov took the very unusual step of parting company with a coach mid-season, issuing a statement to say that it was a response to a mid-season review and the need to
correct our weaknesses in preparation for our next step forward
a decision that was generally pretty well received, although obviously with some sympathy for James Pritchard given the timing of the decision and his contributions to the team as a player.
So it’s probably fair to say that the build up to Saturday’s game hadn’t been ideal and another loss on their travels wouldn’t have made things any easier next week either, ending as it does in the long-awaited home fixture against Moseley. And by long awaited, I mean just that….we’ve been waiting nearly six long years to get the ol’ enemy back at the BPA and settle a few old scores, made that much worse by Coventry’s defeat at Billesley Common back in September.
I have to make it clear at this point that I wasn’t at The Northern Echo Arena to watch Cov play DMP, so it would be remiss of me to comment on the game. However, from reading a couple of reports it would seem that it was a much improved performance away from home, despite losing the lead in the final play of the game.
Rowland Winter’s own thoughts immediately after the game suggested as much and he even went so far as to say:
Our defence was a lot better today, partly down to Darlington who are quite limited in what they do, but points on the board are what matter away from home and, overall, it’s a small step forward.
How many times do you hear in sport generally of an improvement in a team’s performance immediately after a manager or coach is moved on?
The fact that the club decided to end James Pritchard’s contract so swiftly must have brought home to the players that in this new age of professionalism, no one can afford to sit back and take their position at the club for granted. The management team are clearly prepared to take difficult decisions, even when it involves releasing one of the most experienced and respected members of the squad.
Whilst such a reaction won’t have been the prime reason for JP’s departure, I can’t help but feel that as far as the coaching team is concerned, it’s a happy by-product. The fact that it resulted in an improved performance shows the team has resilience and far from the loss of one of one of their own causing rifts amongst the players, it has, outwardly at least, served to unite them.
In short, this was exactly the response that RW must have been hoping for and although there must be some disappointment in the Cov camp at only achieving the draw rather than the win, there must also be plenty of relief too. The two points earned takes some of the pressure off the coaches, especially with the next away game not being for another 4 weeks.
And having been on the right end of a last minute victory on three separate occasions already this season, maybe it was our turn to experience the heartache.
One of the most pleasing aspects of this past week has been just how well supporters on the Messageboard have got behind RW and the team. This time last year I think it’s fair to say the vultures were already beginning to circle, with even the most patient of posters showing clear signs of frustration.
However, this year even when a potentially controversial decision is made, such as the sacking of a key member of the coaching and playing staff, there is pretty much unified support.
Much of the difference in the two reactions can be put down to the manner in which the club has enacted the changes.
Last season, there was no real comment made prior to Phil Maynard’s sideways move to allow Scott Morgan the chance to take full responsibility for the playing side of the club. We all thought we knew the reasons, and if we didn’t we made them up because no credible explanation was proffered other than the changes:
compliment(ed) the pending acquisition of the 125-year lease to the whole of the land comprising Butts Park and the Arena by a company owned wholly by club chairman Jon Sharp – a significant move which will give the club the platform to develop the site, improving both the sporting and entertainment facilities.
It came out of the blue and most supporters didn’t really buy into it.
This season, though, there have been weekly interviews with players and coaches and comments from RW…and in most of these there have been references made to the growing concern over the club’s defensive record. No excuses have been proffered, no attempts to explain away the situation made, just an acceptance that there is a problem and it needs sorting.
…and here’s the important point…RW made the decision to relieve James Pritchard of his duties before there was so much pressure on the club that a decision of this nature had to be made.
Proactive rather than reactive.
And when it was made, it was quick and decisive…not time for rumour or speculation to create unease and uncertainty.
A clean cut.
News broke via a statement on the website so supporters didn’t have to find out the story from the local media – it was communicated openly and honestly.
Most supporters had been concerned about the club’s defensive frailties and so whilst the news was made public it was quickly accepted; it wasn’t greeted with a lack of understanding or frustration. Surprise, certainly, but on that was respected, too.
And when someone on the Messageboard posted a message that appeared to be a deliberate attempt to provoke, as happens every now and again, almost everyone rallied round, something that wasn’t necessarily the case last season when there was a fair amount of division amongst supporters about the way things were progressing.
And in turn that means there’s no real inquest, no desire to open up old wounds and with the result that the week ahead will be focused, hopefully, solely on Moseley’s impending visit next weekend and not on the internal machinations or otherwise of Coventry Rugby Club.
Of course Saturday’s result has helped greatly. I think many supporters feared the worst given Cov’s poor away record, so the fact that we come away from Darlington relatively unscathed and with 2 points in the bag is a bonus. A loss might have caused some unsettling discussions early on in the week which perhaps might also have distracted the players from the matter in hand – namely doing a job on Moseley.
Rowland Winter rightly referred to Saturday’s result as just a ‘small step’, but in some respects maybe it’s also a giant leap forward. A defeat would undoubtedly have produced some further negativity amongst supporters that wouldn’t have been at all healthy. What the draw does is provide some much needed breathing space and a chance for the coaches and players to focus on moving things forward without having to defend their actions.
I know how much the Moseley fixture means to Coventry supporters, but I sometimes wonder if it has quite the same importance for the long time Moseley supporters.
I only ask the question because in recent years Moseley has played at a higher level than Coventry so whereas we have tended to look up to Moseley and remember times when the two teams were amongst the best in the country, Moseley haven’t had to do so as they have remained the better side over a longer period.
I guess what I’m asking really is whether the rivalry is as intense from a Moseley supporters’ viewpoint. That said, Moseley are bringing two coaches of supporters with them which is more than we managed back in September and one can only imagine what the atmosphere will be like come 3.00 pm on Saturday.
‘Rocking’ springs to mind.
I rather suspect there’ll be a big gate on the day, upwards of 1800 perhaps, although there are those more in the know than myself who feel that it might be rather in excess of even that.
It’s not the easiest result to call, either.
Moseley are second in the table, having only lost 3 games and with a good away record (other than their last outing at Hartpury). Coventry, on the other hand, will have a crowd unlike any other in the league behind them and if we can produce the kind of performance that unsettled Hartpury and in the end did for Plymouth, then…
Hell…who am I kidding..?
Coventry by 25 points.