FOOTBALL: A 30-YEAR wait for a return to Wembley for the Sky Blues and their long-suffering fans is finally over after Russell Slade’s side beat Wycombe Wanderers to book their place in the Checkatrade Trophy Final.
Stuart Beavon and academy graduate George Thomas scored the all-important goals in the first half and despite a spirited Wycombe fightback after the break, City produced a performance full of grit and determination to hold out for an historic win.
“It was a good night for us, and I’m pleased for the lads,” said a delighted Slade, who was able to celebrate only his third win since taking over in December.
“We rode our luck at times but credit to the boys they hung on in there, and we’ve got the job done.
“Unbelievable support tonight, I’ve never known it that vocal. They were terrific, the twelfth man tonight. Magnificent. It was great to see the fans so excited and enjoying it.
“We’ll enjoy it tonight, but then back to business on Thursday.”
Both Callum Reilly and Myles Weston had early chances in front of a vocal crowd of just under 11,700 at the Ricoh Arena on a bitterly cold Tuesday evening.
But in the tenth minute the game was turned on its head with ten minutes. Weston’s left-footed volley from the edge of the area looked destined for the far corner, but Reice Charles-Cook made a fine save.
Within seconds the Sky Blues were on the counter and when the ball found Beavon inside the area, he was able to turn his marker with one touch before beating Jamal Blackman with another to send the home support into jubilation.
The home side doubled their lead with 19 minutes on the clock. Another quick counter led Kyel Reid picking out Thomas and the young Welsh striker chested the ball down before firing an unstoppable volley into the back of the net.
Wycombe had looked dangerous in and around the penalty area but they had very little to show for their first half efforts.
On 24 minutes Luke O’Nien struck a powerful shot from the edge of the area which was well held by Reice Charles-Cook, while at the other end Callum Reilly delivered a deep free kick into the box which was headed inches wide by Andy Rose.
The best chance of the half for the visitors fell to their dangerman Weston but after being picked out unmarked at the far post he somehow hit his shot over the bar to the dismay of the visiting support.
The visitors were very quick out of the blocks and Weston looked determined to put that earlier miss behind him but a curling shot from 25 yards out was inches wide and his volley moments later across the face of goal was excellently saved by Charles-Cook.
Adebayo Akinfenwa had lived up to his nickname ‘The Beast’ having been a nuisance since his introduction at half-time and it was no surprise to see him pop up in front of goal and beat Charles-Cook with a powerful close range finish in the 55th minute to bring Wycombe right back into the contest.
Just two minutes later Garry Thompson fired inches wide of the target and Charles-Cook had to be alert to keep out Marcus Bean’s long range deflected shot.
At this point the Sky Blues were up against it and without Beavon’s threat in attack following his half-time substitution, they lacked any real threat going forward.
Wycombe continued to press and Jordan Turnbull made an important last ditch tackle to stop substitute Scott Kashket’s route to goal and with nine minutes remaining Akinfenwa almost conjured something out of nothing but failed to get the all-important touch in front of goal.
Substitute Jodi Jones could have sealed the win in injury-time but his powerful shot was palmed away for a corner and City were able to play down the clock to book their place in the final.
Slade added: “A game of two halves really, scored two in the first-half. Mixed our play up well, and a great ball from Reidy to get the second goal. We were comfortable.
“We knew that would change though, they had Akinfenwa to come on and Kashkett – they threw the kitchen sink at us in the end. It is a young back four, we had to be resolute and do our jobs.
“We need to take this in to the league programme now. We’ll have to brush ourselves down and prepare for Saturday, I hope this gives us momentum.”
Attendance: 11,672 (764 away)
Team: Charles-Cook, D.Kelly Evans, Haynes, Harries, Turnbull, G.Thomas, Rose, Reilly, Ried (Finch 64), Tudgay, Beavon (Jones 45)
Subs not used – Burge, Bigirimana, Lameiras, Gadzhev, Stevenson
Cian Harries (@Cian_Harries) – “WE ARE GOING TO WEMBLEY!!!! QUALITY FROM EVERYONE, WORDS CANT DESCRIBE HOW HAPPY I AM!!! #PUSB.”
Jordan Willis (@J2Willis) – “WEMBLEY!!!!!!! Massive well done to the boys on the win tonight… Final next 🙌🏾🙌🏾 #pusb.”
Jodi Jones (@JodsJones) “WE ARE GOING TO WEMBLEY !!!!! SO SO SO HAPPY!!!”
Jordan Turnbull (@JordanTurnbull_) “Looks like we’re going to Wembley then @Coventry_City #pusb.”
Reice Charles-Cook (@MrReiceCook) – “GET ME TO WEMBLEY!!! #PUSB.”
George Thomas (@george_thomas14) – “WHAT A NIGHT! Great effort from everyone to get to the final!! Fans were quality #PUSB.”
Gary McSheffrey (@sheebagee) “Congrats to @Coventry_City on getting to Wembley. Buzzing for the players and the fans, best dust off one of my old shirts for the trip.”
James Maddison (@Madders10) – “It’s what everyone at the football club deserves & I’m so happy for the fans to finally have something to cheer about! Bring on Wembley #CCFC.”
Adam Armstrong (@AdamArma9) – “Congratulations to all at @Coventry_City, great result, well done to all the boys! #WEMBLEY #PUSB.”