Watford 0 Coventry 0 – We didn’t lose!

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After ten successive defeats, the Sky Blues have eventually halted the away slide and ground out a draw against an in-form, but equally unimpressive Watford.

A whopping 84% of those who voted on my pre-match poll had this down as a Watford win. That struck me as a little high, even for us. I suspect there were some Watford fans causing mischief, but either way, being one of the four (yes, four) fans to predict a draw, at least I can give myself a pat on the back.

The game as a spectacle was pretty rubbish. I was desperate for a win, but as the match wore on, it appeared we were perfectly happy to accept the 0-0. We struggled to find a comfortable tempo, with Watford also having trouble developing any sort of rhythm. Possession changed hands far too often, and in hindsight, there were few good individual performances.

It’s worth taking a moment to think about the standard expected and what a good individual performance actually is. Decent moments in a match don’t necessarily equate to good overall performances. Aside from Joe Murphy, I don’t think anyone can be entirely pleased with how they played. I’m openly critical of Joe as I feel he rarely makes the big saves when we need him to, but he did on Saturday and his performance played a huge part in the clean sheet.

Jordan Clarke and Nathan Cameron have also found themselves in my bad books lately, but they were the best of a pretty average outfield bunch. The effort was there in the most part, and you can see they’re trying, but quality was low.

I do get frustrated with the exaggeration I hear about our players, when in reality, often they’re just slightly better than someone who’s played poorly. Brilliant, excellent, fantastic, amazing. These words are starting to lose all meaning as we continue to devalue their purpose and apply them to any old performance.

Yes, Clarke and Cameron had good moments, and relative to the rest of our players, earned higher ratings. Cameron had a perfectly legal goal disallowed, and Clarke is gradually starting to remove the mistakes and settle down. But compared to the standard they can perform to, they’re still a way off. Heaping lavish praise on players willy nilly does not sit comfortably with me. I’m pretty sure the players themselves feel the same. They know what they’re capable of, and won’t look back and be satisfied with games when they give the ball away so careless.

Richard Keogh has shown the highest level of performance this year, but even he wasn’t at it on Saturday. As ever, he had good moments, and maybe we’ve been spoilt by his consistency, but he will admit he was uncharacteristically shaky.

Up front, Alex Nimely had one of those games when he couldn’t get involved. He looked a bit miffed to be taken off, but he’ll have to learn that we can’t afford to play him if he’s not having an impact. Cody McDonald replaced him and came mighty close to snatching the game in the final moments. Even without putting those away, his lively display justified his introduction.

“Forwards!”

The biggest disappointment for me was our below-par midfield. Thorn’s already admitted that the shape was a little off, with Gary Deegan playing right-ish. Both Norwood and Clingan kept their positions to a reasonable degree, but on the ball, they were disappointing.

The Sammy Clingan we see at the moment is a shadow of the player he can be. He seems to be aware that his performances are coming under scrutiny from the stands, and looked genuinely scared in possession. This was a worry and there’s no defending him in that respect – he did not play well.

Some of the criticism and jeering of him during the game is wholly moronic however. I sat/stood/perched my way through the match (depending on how the people in front were feeling), and had to bite my tongue as a shrill woman behind bellowed out the word “Forwards!” every single time Clingan got the ball. Regardless of the position, regardless of the situation, and without bloody fail. 

Really? Is that the most constructive encouragement we can offer. I don’t know what people are thinking (and to be fair, it wasn’t only her). Do they genuinely believe the only way to play the game of football is to move forwards and only forwards. These aren’t pawns in chess. You can’t go mental every single time a player passes the ball backwards. That’s ridiculous.

I can accept that we need to be more positive, and there are occasions when we move backwards and you can’t understand why. But there’s clearly a difference between being unable to construct an attack because of a lack of vision, movement, quality or ambition, and the player being genuinely forced to play backwards because it’s simply too risky to do anything else.

I’m sorry, but if anyone thinks screeching at Sammy Clingan for keeping the ball rather than giving it away is justified, or that it’s possible for him to move forward every single time he receives it, then you need to watch a bit more football. That’s not me refusing to accept an alternative opinion. There’s having an opinion or a different perspective, and then there’s being wrong. Plain wrong.

Like I say, it’s clear he had a bad game on Saturday and he made some shocking passes. But booing him after every single pass, even if he makes it, is insane.

The hilarious thing is, that huge rant aside, I was actually really proud to be part of that support at the weekend. Once again the Sky Blues faithful turned out in their droves, and at one of the more unfashionable grounds in the league. When it comes to the sheer volume we’ve been taking on our travels, it’s incredible.

There aren’t many other clubs down the bottom of the league supporting their team on the road like we are at the moment. As the losing streak has become bigger, so has the noise, and so have the crowds.

We’ve always been a bit strange like that.

Sky Blues Blog is Neil Allison. When he's not moaning in this blog, you will also find him writing the occasional short piece for The Guardian and other football sites (when they ask him), rambling on the Nii Lamptey Show podcast, or fiddling about with stats as the official CCFC researcher for the award winning Football Manager series.