FOOTBALL: THE CHECKATRADE Trophy has become a competition of protest for many fans across the country this season, but for the Sky Blues it has been something of a welcome relief way from the club’s disastrous League One campaign.
The Sky Blues opened their campaign with a convincing 4-2 victory over West Ham Under-23s, on a night where Jordan Turnbull scored a rare brace, while Ruben Lameiras and Jordan Willis also got their names on the scoresheet.
History was made in their next outing as loan striker Daniel Agyei scored one of the goals of the season and the fastest ever recorded at the Ricoh Arena in a comfortable 3-1 victory at home to Northampton Town.
The Burnley striker, who was on loan for the first six months of the season, picked the ball up on the half-way line and beat five Cobblers defenders before striking the ball low past David Cornell.
The visitors pulled one back in the second minute but Jodi Jones and Lameiras again were on target to make it two wins out of two.
It looked as though the Sky Blues’ 100 per cent winning run in this year’s competition was going to come to an end in their final group match away at Wycome Wanderers.
Under the stewardship of interim manager Mark Venus, the Sky Blues found themselves 2-0 down with just over half-an-hour left at Adams Park, but the visitors staged a remarkable comeback.
Full-back Ryan Haynes scored twice in the space of just three minutes to pull the Sky Blues level and late strikes by Academy graduates George Thomas and Gael Bigirimana earned Venus’ side an impressive 4-2 win.
City’s reward for progressing past the group stage was a home tie against League Two side Crawley Town in the knock-out stage of the competition.
A record low attendance of just 1,338 watched Marvin Sordell score the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win which set up a potentially difficult tie against Brighton & Hove Albion Under-23s in the next round.
With new manager Russell Slade at the helm, City were desperate to get back to winning ways have not tasted success in over a month since their last Checkatrade Trophy outing.
Lameiras volleyed home his third goal in the competition to open the scoring just before half-time and George Thomas was on target again too before Haynes scored City’s third and best goal with an excellent curling shot from just outside the area.
A quarter-final clash away at Swansea City at the end of January proved to be difficult test for the Sky Blues who went behind to an Oliver McBurnie penalty with 20 minutes to go.
But Slade’s side showed plenty of character to force penalties after skipper Jordan Willis equalised five minutes from time and the visitors held their nerve to win the shoot-out 4-2 and book their place in the final four.
With a place at Wembley up for grabs, the biggest home crowd of the season (11,672) gathered at the Ricoh Arena on February 7 to cheer Slade’s side on against a Wycombe Wanderers side who had almost produced a big shock in the FA Cup just weeks before after losing 4-3 in a thrilling contest at Tottenham Hotspur.
The Sky Blues made the perfect start and were two goals in front inside 20 minutes thanks to an impressive turn and strike from recent signing Stuart Beavon and a superb volley from Academy graduate George Thomas.
Wycombe came out flying in the second half and set up a tense finale when Adebayo Akinfenwa, or ‘The Beast’ as he is more commonly known in the football world, pulled one goal back for the visitors.
But Slade’s side managed to hold out for a 2-1 win and at the final whistle thousands of elated Sky Blues fans took to the pitch to celebrate the a return to Wembley 30 years on from the club’s finest hour in 1987.
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