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Puny City lose the plot again; BIG MATCH ANALYSIS.

Byline: By Andy Turner

Sky Blues 1 Stoke City 2 IT'S HARDLY surprising that Sky Blues can't log back-to-back wins when one considers they can't even stay on top of their game for 90 minutes.

Saturday's narrow victory over Luton Town saw Micky Adams's men perform poorly in the first half and then come out fighting for a deserved three points after the break. But last night's match produced the reverse as Coventry looked strong and lively in the first half but failed to appear in the second.

What made it worse was that, having got their noses in front with an opportunistic 12th-minute strike from Lilian Nalis, City then conceded a sloppy goal just before the break when Gerry Taggart returned to haunt his old manager, and promptly lost the plot and all semblance of shape - a fact highlighted when The Potters caught them on the counter attack and Paul Gallagher curled an impressive finish into the top corner just 10 minutes after the restart.

The manager claimed after Saturday's game that he has given up on half- time rollickings, opting for a more calm and collected approach, but judging by the way his players performed in the second 45 against Stoke, they clearly need a rocket behind them.

"I am just disappointed that we lost," said defender Marcus Hall, who was up against his old club who brought an end to a dreadful sequence of results on their first visit to the Ricoh Arena.

"We started off very well and got a good goal and had a few more chances to probably go two or three up. But the keeper has pulled off a couple of good saves and James Scowcroft hit the post, and then Taggart scored a decent goal for them just before half time. We had chances to clear it and we thought there was a foul on Stephen Hughes before that.

"We went in at half time one-all and thought we were still the better side. But in the second half we just didn't seem to get going. We were still getting crosses in and stuff but we didn't get on the end of things or win those second balls, and then they got a second goal.

"Even though it was a great strike, I had gone down the flank and crossed the ball and they hit us on the break and put one in the top corner. So that was unfortunate because they didn't really break us down, just scored two long-range shots, which is very disappointing.

"The crowd are obviously frustrated and you can see why, but the lads are frustrated as well, especially after getting a good win against Luton. We wanted to carry things on and push up into the middle of the table."

Adams bemoaned the fact that he didn't have his strongest team available with Andy Morrell and Claus Jorgensen injured and Gary McSheffrey suspended. But he arguably made matters worse by sending on two youngsters to do a man's job when the Sky Blues were 2-1 down and facing an uphill battle against an extremely physical opposition who immediately picked up on their inexperience and set about exploiting it.

To be fair to Kevin Thornton, an exciting attacking midfield prospect who can give as good as he gets, he put himself about and showed confidence beyond his tender 19 years.

The Academy player who was sent off for violent conduct in the reserves 24 hours after his impressive first-team debut at Crystal Palace in September, was booked just six minutes after entering the field of play and at the centre of a number of skirmishes, proving that he clearly needs to keep a lid on his temperament. But his enthusiasm and work-rate could not be faulted.

Liam Davis was the other teenager to get a run-out for 30 minutes and, while he also worked hard, he looked a little out of his depth.

Deployed out wide on the left, he didn't see a great deal of the ball and his inclusion begged the question as to why the left-footed Neil Wood, who was back on the bench after recovering from injury, was overlooked bearing in mind his greater experience.

And, for that matter, what has happened to Youssef Sofiane and Baz Savage, both of whom may not be fully match fit but would have at least provided an attacking option had they been included in the squad?

As it was, City failed to test Steve Simonsen in the Stoke goal for most of the second period until a late Adebola header forced him into a good save.

Other than that, there was very little creative play and far too much route one football, which proved to be meat and drink to the visitors' well-organised side that played out the remainder of the game quite comfortably once they had restored their own fragile confidence with their second goal.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005 RICOH ARENA Coventry City 1 Stoke City 2 Attendance: 16,617

Teams SKY BLUES (4-4-2): Marton Fulop; Richard Duffy, Robert Page, Matt Heath, Marcus Hall; Andy Impey (60 mins, Kevin Thornton), Lilian Nalis (60 mins, Liam Davis), Stephen Hughes, Michael Doyle; James Scowcroft, Dele Adebola. Substitutes not used: Clayton Ince (goalkeeper), Neil Wood, Richard Shaw.

STOKE CITY (4-4-2): Steve Simonsen; John Halls, Carl Hoefkens, Gerry Taggart, Lewis Buxton; Paul Gallagher (81 mins, Karl Henry), Darel Russell, Dave Brammer, Hannes Sigurdsson; Mamady Sidibe, Sam Bangoura.

Substitutes not used: Ed de Goey (goalkeeper), Junior, Martin Kolar, Andy Wilkinson.

Clockwatch

4 mins: Dave Brammer shoots wide as Stoke force City on to the back foot with their early attacking play.

7: Michael Doyle fires wide at the far post from an Andy Impey cross.

10: Marcus Hall hits a powerful shot from 35 yards straight at the keeper.

12: Lilian Nalis gets Sky Blues off the mark when he nips into the six- yard box to lash home an Adebola knockdown. 1-0.

13: Stoke are all over the place as Adebola breaks through and forces Simonson into a good save.

14: Paul Gallagher almost pulls the Potters level but hits an inviting chance across the face of goal.

15: James Scowcroft heads on to the post and Robert Page follows up with a shot that the keeper traps under his backside.

26: Adebola cuts inside and lifts a powerful shot just over the bar.

33: Mamady Sidibe heads straight at Marton Fulop from a corner.

37: Gerry Taggart drills the ball through a crowd of players to put Stoke back on level terms. 1-1.

43: Hughes drives a low free kick at goal but the keeper gets down low to save.

44: Adebola fires the ball across the face of goal.

52: Impey hits in a hanging cross which the keeper is forced to punch over his bar.

55: Stoke hit City on the counter attack and score when Paul Gallagher curls a 20-yard shot into the top corner. 1-2.

59: Scowcroft heads into the side netting.

60: City send on youngsters Thornton and Davis in a bid to pep things up.

75-76: Stoke threaten with two free kicks just outside the box.

79: City are forced to defend another free kick after Heath pulls down Russell just outside the box.

85: Hughes has a powerful shot blocked as Coventry try in vain to pull level.

87: Adebola forces Simonsen into a good save from a header.

Referee:LEE PROBERT (Gloucestershire)

BOOKINGS: Kevin Thornton (66 mins, foul on Carl Hoefkens), Paul Gallagher (71 mins, foul on Kevin Thornton), Matt Heath (79 mins, foul on Darel Russell).

Bosses' verdict

Micky Adams

IT WAS a poor second half when, for some reason, we just looked lethargic.

We started the game well, got the goal and could have been two or three up when Dele had a chance and Scowie hit the post.

They got a goal through Mr Taggart and for whatever reason we looked deflated. I can make all the excuses under the sun but we simply weren't good enough in the second half.

Jan de Koning

I WAS very pleased for Gerry Taggart - he never shoots at goal in training but it was a fantastic strike. Gerry knows he can't play all the games any more - he felt his legs at half-time but because we were winning he kept on playing.

He organises everything and you always know Gerry Taggart is in the dressing room. He's very demanding of his own players but he had a word for them all at the end. He was very happy.

STAR MAN:DELE ADEBOLA Had a hand in the goal and was City's biggest threat throughout the game

Terrace Verdict

MARK COYLE TOLD YOU!

STEVE RICE ANOTHER defeat and poor performance.

Micky has got it all wrong - he cannot keep blaming the finances. he has brought these loan signings in and they are simply not good enough.

We played for 15 minutes and then just stopped; there was only going to be one winner after they equalised.

We do not even look like a good League One side.

Time for some action from the board down - we cannot continue like this for the rest of the season.

JASON BOWN

WAS this the same team we hailed on Saturday, the same team who came away with their heads held high, proud as punch to have earned their City shirts and place in the team, or did I go to the wrong stadium? Well, after that shoddy game I wish I had.

It would be nice to have at least one positive remark to carry into the next game , but, as usual, this Jekyll & Hyde team put in an incredibly poor performance and make it even impossible for me to find one .

What's going on with the substitutions, Micky? You got that so very, very wrong.

CAPTION(S):

BRIGGHT SPOT... Lilian Nalis pounces to fire the Sky Blues in front as Stoke fail to deal with a corner.D29035_14. HEADS UP... Dele Adebola wins this aerial duel with Stoke's Carl Hoefkens.D29035_10. HEADS DOWN... James Scowcroft gives Hoefkens a run for his money.D29035_11 Pictures: Richard Nelmes
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 3, 2005
Words:1696
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