Bigshirt

Making a pigs-ear of the giant shirt. (It was a giant shirt, honest).

When will we learn! All the hype surrounding this fixture should have served as a warning that it probably wouldn’t go to plan. 

Let’s be fair, it wasn’t your standard Coventry City bottle-fest. There was loads to grumble about, and frustration a-plenty, but for the 17 million extra fans who turned up for this game, they might just have left with the feeling that this side is a little different to the ones they’ve known recently.

Letting Leeds take the lead so early on rattled us. For such a big game, we really were too tentative, and while there were periods in the first half when the majority of the play was spent attacking, we seemed sluggish around the penalty area. Too many attacks just petered out. 

2-0 at half-time flattered them, although you can’t take anything away from the finish that doubled their lead. Put the first goal down to poor defensive positioning all you like, but Snodgrass pulled one out of the bag for the 2nd. The clapping plonkers round our way should get a bloody grip though. I’ll quietly acknowledge a good goal when I see one, but I do this in my head. Don’t try and show yourself to be an ‘appreciator of good football’ with inane clapping.

In the 2nd half, you couldn’t fault our endeavour – you rarely have the feeling we’re completely out of games nowadays. We came out and very quickly got a goal to get the crowd believing again. The problem was, Leeds had an unfortunate knack of kicking us in the teeth at the worst possible moments. Opening 5 mins, last 5 mins of the 1st half, and then once we’d wrestled ourselves back into the match, they dealt us another blow. 

I like Richard Keogh. He’s got a fantastic engine, and on occasion looks a very good player. He had a stinker today though. Going forward, his legs appeared to enjoy taking him down cul-de-sacs (I blame his legs, because I’m not sure he had any conscious control in what they did). But it was defensively when he looked most shaky. He was at fault in all kinds of ways for the penalty. And just in case you were wondering, it was a penalty.

The colossal Ben Turner immediately dragged us back into a game though, and made himself top scorer in the process. He’s become a man-mountain this season, and his determination to win is awesome. You only have to look at the effort he put in to clear Becchio’s shot off the line. He smashed into the posts, but it was worth it.

The most frustrating thing is, that was about it. After Turner’s goal, we essentially had 30 minutes to grab ourselves an equaliser, but we barely created a chance. Yes, teritorially we pressed them hard, and threw the ball into good areas. But we lacked any real method, and it struck me that we sent balls into places in the hope that something good would come of it, rather than with any real purpose. That’s understandable when you’ve only got a few minutes left, but there was more than enough time to pull ourselves level, and we just stuck rigidly to our long ball guns. That was disappointing.

I was pleased to see the majority of fans more focused on the game than applauding the 28,000 attendance. That always embarrasses me. Internally, we all know that’s brilliant for us, but there’s an element of keeping up appearances which many of our fans don’t seem to be aware of. 

If we’re serious about finally getting our act together and getting out of this league, we need to shed the culture of acceptance and “happy to be trying hard”. We’re a bloody big club, with a bloody good squad, bloody good manager and even better bloody stadium than anyone else in the league. Derby, Leicester, Norwich will get 25,000 and not bat an eyelid. Today’s attendance was great to see, but also a strong reminder not only of what we’re capable of, what should eventually be the norm.

There’s no point over-analysing the game itself too much. We put a lot of effort in, and on reflection it was probably one of our best performances of the season in terms of spirit. Admittedly, I didn’t think that as I was walking away from the ground, but after a couple of hours grumbling, the bottom line is, the team has improved massively. We’ve got to stick with it.

Bouncing-back is important now, but there’s enough character there to do so.

P.S. Noel Whelan can piss off.

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