The good news first…
…Pete White was at training yesterday.
Only as a spectator, but there nevertheless.
His left leg was strapped and he was on crutches, but weight-bearing.
And the prognosis is probably far better than anyone who witnessed his departure on a stretcher last Saturday would have thought likely at the time.
Whilst he’s unlucky to have a second degree sprain of the medial collateral ligaments (had to look that one up!) of both the knee and ankle, the recovery time for the two combined is likely to be something in the region of 6-8 weeks (half that time had it been just the one). However, Pete was already talking in terms of probably 6, despite still hobbling.
One thing for sure is that he’s already champing at the bit to get back…
He was in good humour and said that having been taken to Morrisons earlier in the week, he’d been tempted to use one of their mobility scooters to whizz round – probably not a good idea, but definitely one worth filming.
Definitely had you down as a Waitrose man, or M&S at the very least. Mind you, the fish counter at Morrisons is better than most and the wines, so I’m led to believe, aren’t so bad either.
It was great to see him there though and, whilst Dave Brazier is as good a replacement as you could wish for, Pete White will be missed.
Hopefully, come the crunch games against Darlington and Moseley just before Christmas, Pete will be back in contention for a starting spot. The decision to take on Northampton’s Tom Emery seems an even better one now given Pete’s injury, as although Tom’s played out wide for Cov in the last couple of game, he’s more a 9 or 10 and by all accounts from what Rowland Winter was saying yesterday evening, we could yet see him start at 9 before too long. He’s clearly impressed in his short time with us.
The news about Alex Grove is less encouraging as it looks as if he could be out for up to 16 weeks or so and won’t be in the running for a return before the new year. He’s the kind of player that you’d really want in the side in that difficult run up to Christmas, but Rowland Winter was pragmatic as always. Ever the optimist, he made the point that to have Alex back, fresh and raring to go, in the second half of the season would be a big bonus especially I guess if we are still at, or near, the top of the league.
He also made the point, quite rightly, that there is no other team in the league that could field a set of backs of the calibre of those we’ll see on Saturday whilst already having players like Fenner, Trimble, White and Grove out injured.
And it looks like competition for places amongst the three quarters might be hotting up in the next couple of weeks as well, as Trimble and Fenner are both nearing the end of their rehab and Knoxy won’t be out for too long- so that certainly offsets, to some extent, the absence of Alex Grove.
There were at least three unfamiliar faces training last night.
I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that one is a very promising centre from the Saints Academy side, capped for England in the U18 age group, whilst the others were from Salford (the league) side. I think RW said they were both overseas internationals, but whether they are on trial or here whilst the Rugby League season is taking a break, I’m not sure. I have a feeling that RW might have said it was the latter, but I’m not convinced.
I always enjoy games against Fylde even though they have been something of a bogey side for us in recent years, especially away from home where they are always a dangerous side to play. They remain a true community club, boasting something in the region of 15 junior and senior sides and the club has managed to avoid the pitfalls of professionalism and remain faithful to the traditional values that rugby still strives, not always successfully, to uphold.
Fylde is very much a family club and I have always enjoyed my visits there – their supporters are welcoming and have no illusions of grandeur, being very comfortable in their own skin and aware of their club’s limitations in terms of its ability to compete with some of the ‘bigger’ teams in the league.
I can’t remember seeing a dull game against Fylde and frankly I can’t see this changing on Saturday either. Coventry consistently score tries, even when playing poorly and with the worst defensive record in the league, I don’t think Fylde will be content parking the bus and hoping to keep their line intact for the duration of the game against the team that has scored the most points in the league this season.
In just 6 games, Coventry has scored a staggering 168 more points than Fylde – yet Cov has shown how vulnerable it can be when only just squeezing past both Old Albanian (a) and Bishop’s Stortford (h).
Fylde have always played rugby that is enjoyable to watch and they are never more dangerous than when they have the ball deep in their own half. They’ve always had the backs to create problems for teams that give them the time and the space to run with the ball. They play their own inimitable brand of rugby, one that makes watching them so entertaining, even if we’re on the wrong end of a hiding, as was the case back in April 2016 when we travelleds up to their towards the end of what had been something of a watershed season for the club.
Whilst I couldn’t find a clip of the 2016 away game, I have included the highlights of the Cov’s visit to Fylde in the 2015/16 season, if only as a reminder of just how dangerous Fylde can be. It was one of the last games for a number of the Coventry players under the Maynard/Morgan era – not one that would provide too many happy memories though ( I game up counting after the sixth try):
Although we beat them heavily at the BPA around this time last year (it was something of a must win game at the time, with Cov having lost 4 of the first 6 games up to then as I recall), we took a heavy beating up at The Woodlands in a game that was arguably our poorest result over the entire second half of the season.
In the last couple of seasons I’ve always started a post connected with a game against Fylde with a headline that begins ‘Fylde: Under….’. Over the last couple of seasons I’ve resorted to:
- Fylde: Under ‘W’ for Wasted Opportunities…
- Fylde: Under ‘E’ for Exciting
- Fylde: Under ‘T’ for Testing
- Fylde: Under ‘P’ for Perceptions
- Fylde: Under ‘C’ for Confidence
- Fylde: Under ‘L’ for Lesson learned
- Fylde: Under ‘E’ for Entertaining
and was going to use ‘Fylde: Under ‘B’ for Banana Skin’ today, but the Cov got in first this season with ‘Fylde Under D for Danger’, so I’ll have to think of something else this time around.
However, both headlines reflect the same concerns, namely that although on paper this might be the usual ‘top plays bottom’ scenario and therefore something of a David v Goliath mismatch (as Fylde refers to the game in on their website), the reality is very different. Coventry might have the momentum and be bringing to the game a host of experienced players with reputations to match, but as we saw against Stortford, that counts for very little if Goliath is having something of an off day.
And besides, I think Fylde are selling Cov a little short by referring to us as Goliath, given he was a Philistine warrior. Whilst we might bully teams on the pitch at times, there’s nothing remotely philistine about the rugby we play…at times it can be quite the reverse; cultured and refined.
Fylde, rather like David in fact, has youth very much on its side, and whilst they haven’t had the best of starts to this season, having won just the won game against Rosslyn Park in their last home fixture, they are more than capable of causing something of an upset. Coventry has shown itself vulnerable early on to teams that take the game to them and if we can be sure of one thing, it will be that Fylde will try and play an open and expansive game.
Realistically, Cov should have the better of struggling Fylde side over 80 minutes, and it might be that the home side’s best bet of taking something out of the game is to try and score the 4 tries needed for a bonus point, rather than playing to beat us. By doing that, which inevitably will mean they play an attacking game, they might also surprise us and force us into a more defensive, less expansive game. If we tighten up, concerned about them scoring tries, we might well make ourselves more vulnerable. David’s sling isn’t devoid of some dangerously big rocks and if one or two of them find their target, we could wobble.
I certainly have yet to convince myself that Coventry is over last season’s poor away form, despite winning all three games on our travels so far this season and despite the two big wins against Esher and Hull. Old Albanian proved that we aren’t yet consistent enough to be confident that we have been totally banished those away day blues.
However, Fylde has lost a number of key players this year, including Paul Arnold who was such an important influence within the club, both on and off the pitch. With an average age in their low 20’s, Fylde are going to have to be quick learners or face a very nervy last few games of the season.
But the exuberance of youth can sometimes overcome the wisdom that comes with age and if they see Coventry’s visit very much as a challenge rather than an exercise in damage limitation, then they will have nothing to lose. Play with the freedom that Fylde teams in the past have often shown and we could find them far more difficult to beat than perhaps they ought to be.
There will be a fair few on the coach on Saturday, with many more choosing to stay over, given it is one of the longer distances to travel. Having taken over top spot from Darlington last weekend, Coventry can’t afford any slip ups over the next few weeks, especially as Darlington and Plymouth meet in Week 9 and with something having to give, a couple of wins before then could give us some much needed daylight between ourselves and the team in 2nd position.
No one at the club yesterday was taking the trip up to Fylde for granted and with a number of players missing through injury, there’s an opportunity for others to come forward and stake a claim for a decent run in the senior side.
Everyone is aware of the importance of maintaining the high standards we have set ourselves so far this season. If we play to our best, then it will be a tough afternoon for Fylde, anything less and Goliath might well find he’s got more than just a headache come the final whistle.
He’ll be well and truly stoned.
And to redress the balance, here’s Andy Brown’s try, compete with dummy, scored in the convincing home win against Fylde last season: