All entries for September 2006

September 30, 2006

Coventry 0 Plymouth 1

The Sky Blues lost their unbeaten home record at the hands of a tough and well organised Plymouth side. Mickey Adams’s side never really recovered from a slow start and were punished when debutant Cherno Samba headed home eight minutes from time.

Coventry made three enforced changes from the defeat at Crystal Palace last weekend with Cameron and John coming in for the injured Doyle and McKenzie, and Whing replacing the suspended McNamee.

Surprisingly Adams decided to stick with Burchill and Tabb on the flanks so that yet again the side had a rather narrow look. Unfortunately Plymouth wide men Buzsaky and Norris also spent much of the game tucking in on either side making the play very compact.

The Sky Blues made most of the running early on, however it was Plymouth who had the best of the chances with both Reid and Norris going close on the break.

Throughout the first half Coventry huffed and puffed, but got little change out of the Plymouth defense. Stern John brought probably the best save of the first 45 from Pilgrims ‘keeper Luke McCormick with a powerful shot launched from the edge of the area.

At half time it was apparent that Coventry would have to play much better in the second half if they were to break Plymouth down. Ian Holloway’s team looked very content to be holding their hosts at 0-0 and had in fact been wasting time since about the first ten minutes of the game.

The second half began with neither manager seeing fit to make changes, and whilst Coventry had more of the play they had few chances to show for it.

On 65 minutes Dele Adebola replaced the ineffectual Birchall who had struggle throughout the game on the right. This resulted in a reshuffle across the middle which saw Cameron switch the right, Tabb come inside and Adebola take up a position on the left wing.

Unfortunately the change did not have the desired effect and the Sky Blues began to lose the midfield battle with the impressive Norris and less impressive Buzasky both going close for the visitors.

On 73 Hutchison replaced Tabb and the Sky Blues changed to a 4-3-3 formation with John and Adebola either side of Kyle. A minute later Cherno Samba replaced Reid up front for Plymouth and with what was only his second or third touch put his side ahead.

The goal came from a Plymouth break down the left. The ball was crossed in from the wing and Samba rose to head home a debut winner whilst pretty much unmarked in the box. Mickey Adams wil be unimpressed that his side conceeded what was a relatively soft goal, however Coventry really should have done more to kill off the game by this point.

The last ten minutes were pretty comfortable for Plymouth with the Sky Blues failing to put on any real pressure. Perhaps the most interesting moment was a ruck that developed after Tony Capaldi was dragged from the pitch by a Coventry player after going down injured.

As would be expected boos rang around the Ricoh Arena as the final whistle blew on what was a very disappionting game for Mickey Adams men. Plymouth were organised and combative, but Coventry clearly were the more talented side. Given the Sky Blues patchy away form they cannot afford too many more home games like this, however hopefully today was just a blip that will soon be forgotten.

Coventry: Marshall, Whing, Page, Ward, Hall, Birchall (Adebola 65), Cameron, Hughes, Tabb (Hutchison 73), Kyle, John.
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Heath, Thornton

Plymouth: McCormick, Connolly, Seip, Doumbe, Capaldi, Norris, Wotton, Nalis, Buzsaky (Aljofree 78), Chadwick (Summerfield 85), Reid (Samba 74)

Subs Not Used: Larrieu, Sawyer

Goals: Samba 82

Att: 19,545

Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire)


Logical Thinking From McLaren

With the inclusion of Scott Parker in the lastest England squad for the upcoming games against Macedonia and Croatia it seems that Steve McLaren is going to stick with the formation and tactics that have served him so well thus far in his reign as national coach.

And I for one can’t blame him. I was worried that with the injury to Owen Hargreaves, McLaren would be tempted to meddle with his winning formula, however he appears to have kept his head and gone for a like for like swap in Parker.

Okay, so McLaren’s England have not yet faced a particularly tought test, but the side has had such a fluency to it that I for one would have been disppointed to see Steven Gerrard, for example, come back inside. And anyway, Parker is a very good player – arguably as good as any other McLaren could put in and it is definitely time for him to show what he can do in the national shirt. With any luck he’ll have just as great an impact as the curly Canadian one.


September 24, 2006

Aren't the USA rubbish.

Europe have absolutely destroyed the United States in the Ryder Cup at the K Club. Starting the day only needing 4.5 points for victory Ian Woosnam’s side won 8.5 points out of a possible 12 on the final days singles matches, Henrik Stenson sinking the putt to wrap the competition up and give Europe their third win in a row.
Surely the Post Mortem will begin for the United States, Tom Lehmann has to wonder how his ‘troops’ including the top 3 players in the world can have been so fundamentally outplayed by this strong but not unbeatable Europe team in every session of the tournament. Many would point to another pathetic performance by the most gifted golfer of his generation, Tiger Woods again failing to show in the ‘team’ game why he is no 1 in the world.
For the moment though let the champagne flow, safe in the knowledge that we may not be as brash as the United States but we are better…


September 21, 2006

Get well soon Hammond

I know it’s not strictly sport related, but given the huge influence that new Top Gear has had on the way we present RaW Sport, it seems only fair to wish Richard Hammond well after his horrific accident.

He is clearly a top bloke and hopefully he will pull through.


September 19, 2006

Has Panorama rocked the world of football?

The allegations:

Bungs: When a manager takes a cut from an agents fee to help see through the siging of a player’s contact. This is bad for the game because it suggests that players are not being signed on the basis of abilty.

- Three agents named in the programme are shown admitting to giving bungs
- Newcastle assistant manager Kevin Bond admitted he and former boss Harry Redknapp would consider discussing receiving payments from agents
- Agent Peter Harrison is shown claiming that Bolton manager Sam Allardyce can be bribed through his son – agents Teni Yerima and Charles Collymore are also shown referring to Allardyce in connection to bungs

Tapping Up: the illicit practice of attempting to recruit a player while he is still bound by contract to another team without approaching the team who hold the contract. This is bad for the game because it devalues player contracts i.e. it limits the security that a contract provides for the team to which a player signs

- Harry Redknapp caught on camera discussing the possible signing of Andy Todd with his agent (without the knowledge of his club Blackburn)
- Frank Arnesen, Chelsea’s director of youth football, is shown offering Middlesbrough 15-year-old England youth star Nathan Porritt (via his agent) £150,000 over three years to move clubs (without the knowledge of his present team)
- Liverpool are also shown trying to tempt Porritt from Middlesbrough

What do people think? I really can’t decide. Obviously the bung allegations are the most serious, however I’m not convinced there is enough evidence for the claims to stand up in a court of law. Nevertheless I think we can be in little doubt that Allardyce, Redknapp, Kevin Bond, and all the agents shown are not the straightest guys in football. But then did we need a documentary that took a year to film to tell us that? Probably not.


September 16, 2006

Can the Premiership title be decided this weekend?

Pretty unlikely, but certainly Manchester United and Chelsea can swing things a long way in their favour if they both get wins. John Terry says he can understand why we are talking about a potential two horse race, but what do people think? If Liverpool and Arsenal both lose are they out of the title hunt. Will either be able to spring a surprise and if so who? Will United miss the highly influencial Ryan Giggs? Will Arsenal miss Henry? Any one want to make some predictions? I’m going to go 2-0 to United and 3-1 to Chelsea.


September 15, 2006

Ipswich Town 2 Coventry City 1

Our local side Coventry City continued their away day blues as they fell to defeat at the hands of Ipswich Town. City were unusually under par, but looked like heading back to the midlands with a point until Town sub Billy Clarke popped up to score the winner.

Unsurprisingly Mickey Adams stuck with the same side that had trounced Norwich 3-0 at the weekend with Leon McKenzie, who had been forced to miss the game against his former side, only making the bench.

It was the Sky Blues who had the first real chance of the game when Kevin Kyle somehow managed to head a Marcus Hall cross wide whilst unmarked in front of goal. However, Ipswich missed an equally good chances a few minutes later when Gavin Williams failed to connect with Alan Lee’s pull back.

On 21 minutes a well worked Coventry free kick almost let in Kyle again, however this was a rarity and for much of the half John and Kyle failed to trouble the Ipswich defense. At the other end Town had a couple of half chances, but at half time the score was, probably fairly, 0-0.

After half time the Sky Blues came flying out of the traps with Stern John putting an effort wide. However moments later Ipswich were in front. Walton and Macken combined together on the right, before the ball was crossed in for Mark Noble to tuck into the net.

The goal came at an excellent time for Ipswich who had looked a little shakey after the break. For the next ten minutes or so the play was all with Ipswich with Noble in particular finding a lot of space.

On 61 McKenzie came on for Whing to make his debut and Coventry switched to a 3-4-3 formation. Immediately the tide began to turn with the Sky Blues creating a succession of chances, the best being a Kevin Thornton free kick which hit the bar.

Coventry were making good use of Ipswich’s obvious lack of width and on 72 they got the breakthrough. Following a corner Leon McKenzie found himself with space in the box to cross to an unmarked Elliot Ward who slotted cooly home.

At this point however, Coventry seemed to settle for the point and Ipswich started to regain the initiative. On 80 Billy Clarke replaced the flagging Macken for the home side and within moments he had put his side into the lead.

After receiving the ball just past the half way line the young striker ran and unleashed a firm effort towards goal, which whilst on target looked unlikely to foil Marshall in the Coventry goal. Unfortunately for the former Norwich and Ipswich man the ball bounced and seemed to just skim under his hands. And this was enough to hand the points to Ipswich.

Overall it was a decent game, however Mickey Adams’s will feel his side should have performed a lot better. Ipswich probably just about deserved the points, but both sides will have to put in improved displays if they are to finish anywhere near the play-offs this season. Strangely for Coventry thye look a different side away from the Ricoh.

Ipswich: Price, Wilnis (Naylor 66), De Vos, Bruce, Harding, Williams, Legwinski, Walton, Noble (Currie 84), Lee, Macken (Clarke 80)

Subs Not Used: Supple, Sito

Goals: Noble 52, Clarke 85

Coventry: Marshall, Whing (McKenzie 61), Page, Ward, Hall, Birchall, Hughes, Doyle (Cameron 72), Thornton (Hutchison 83), John, Kyle.

Subs Not Used: Adebola, Heath

Goals: Ward 72.

Att: 19,465

Ref: P Taylor (Hertfordshire)


September 14, 2006

One To Watch

Just thought I would draw people’s attention to a BBC Panorama special next Tuesday at 9pm. It’s called ‘Undercover: Football’s dirty Secrets’ and involves a Dutch man going round to clubs to set up stings. According to reports RaW Sport favourite Harry Redknapp and his assistant Kevin Bond feature prominently. So it should be a good watch, although rumours persist that several of the best allegations will not be broadcast for lack of evidence.


September 13, 2006

What a Difference a Year Makes

This time last year local side Aston Villa got thrashed 4-0 by West Ham at Upon Park. Last weekend the two sides met again in East London and came away with a highly credible draw. With the Villa squad having barely changed over the course of the year, how has Martin O’Neil manged to transform Villa’s fortunes so quickly? For me, the answer is simply common sense as the respective Villa lineups from the two fixtures show:

O’Leary’s 2005 side -

Thomas SORENSEN

Aaron HUGHES
Olof MELLBERG
Liam RIDGEWELL
Wilfred BOUMA

James MILNER
Gavin McCANN
Steven DAVIS
Gareth BARRY

Milan BAROS
Kevin PHILLIPS

O’Neil’s 2006 side -

Thomas SORENSEN

Olof MELLBERG
Martin LAURSEN
Liam RIDGEWELL
Gareth BARRY

Steven DAVIS
Stilian PETROV
Gavin McCANN

Luke MOORE
Juan PABLO ANGEL
Gabriel AGBONLAHOR

With the exception of Laursen (who spent last season injured) and Petrov (a £7m signing from Celtic last month) both managers had the more or less the same players available for selection. Man for man, I would argue, the level of individual player skill is roughly the same, and yet O’Neil’s side is so much more logically laid out.

One of O’Leary’s major problems was that none of his four strikers, Baros, Angel, Phillips or Moore really made a good partnership. They were all too similar in stature to play together. Even Angel, the larget by some way, can hardly be described as a target man.

O’Neil therefore has negotiated this problem with a simple switch in formation. In the weekends match, Angel played up front on his own with Moore and academy product Agbonlahor providing pace either side of him.

This also helped sort anothre problem fron last season which was a hideous lack of creativity in midlfield. O’Leary persisted in playing Barry as a winger, but he simply didn’t get forward enough. And with Davis and McCann, two fairly defensive players, in the centre that left only James Milner to do all the attacking work.

However by playing three up front O’Neil has been able to put his resourses to the best possible use by having a solid three in midfield. At the back things have remained more or less the same, however in the weekends match Melberg did have to fill in for the injured Hughes.

One of the advantages of 4-3-3/4-5-1 as a system is that for the teams which successfully operate it, it is a very flexible system. West Ham are a very narrow side (Bowyer and Benayoun cut in all the time) and Villa made good use of the space by feeding the ball in Moore and Agbonlahor as frequently as possible. Equally, though, when Pardew introduced a traditional winger in Matt Etherington, Moore and Agbonlahor were able to tuck in and make life difficult for him.

As a formation 4-3-3 is not always the most exciting, however Villa have become a very clinical side under O’Neil placing far more empahsis on working dead balls. Set plays are never wasted as key goals against Arsenal and West Ham have proved.

So there you have it. Villa are far from the perfect side, and yet with a bit of logical thought O’Neil has moulded a cohesive unit that will win more games than it loses this season.


September 12, 2006

Ashes Squads

With the announcement of the winter tour party to Australia announced at 1500 today i thought i’d pre-empt the selectors with a squad of my own.

Batsmen -

AJ Strauss (31 tests)
ME Trescothick (76 Tests)
A Cook (9 Tests)
I Bell (18 Tests)
P Collingwood (15 Tests)
K Pietersen (18 Tests)
E Joyce (uncapped)

No surprises in my selections here, Tres’ definately has to go to Australia if he feels up to it, he is one of the most destructive openers in the world, has over 5,000 Test runs, scoring 1,000+ in each of the last three years for England, to top it all he is the safest pair of hands England have at 1st slip. If he doesn’t make it I would have Cook opening with Strauss, which will be an obdurate but effective partnership. Allowing for all the above batsmen to be available, then Colly and Joyce are the men to miss out, unless we play the extra batsman and Read drops to eight in which case Colly is the man in possession and deserves his place. The main talking point (apart from Tres’ mental state) is Ian Bell’s place, having looked out of his depth against the Aussies last time he has shown this summer that his early talent was no fluke and his extra maturity and run heavy summer mean a very different Ian Bell will face McGrath and co this winter.

Wicketkeeper -

CMW Read (13 Tests)
G Jones (31 Tests)

Perhaps the most hotly debated position in the England XI, the percieved wisdom is that Jones is the better batsman, there is no doubt that Read is the better gloveman, perhaps even the most talented pure Wicketkeeper in Test cricket. I would back Read to play at least the first three tests he deserves a fair crack at the Aussies, and as we saw against Pakistan on the way to his maiden test fifty he has a talent for unorthodox play and will be a positive lower order force while sheparding the tail. If as I suspect England try six batsmen plus Flintoff then Read has to play, he is the only one with the skill to stand up to a quick bowler, take the vital stumping and prevent the ludicrous amount of Extras Jones can concede when not on form.

All-Rounder -

A Flintoff (62 Tests)

No contest, the best all rounder in world cricket and also my pick as Captain, as long as he realises that he can’t rely on himself to do everything. An inspiration, who the Aussies fear perhaps more than any other player.

Bowlers -

S Harmison (45 Tests)
M Hoggard (58 Tests)
M Panesar (10 Tests)
J Anderson (13 Tests)
S Broad (Uncapped)
A Giles (52 Tests)

Harmison and Hoggard have to play, they put pressure on the Aussies last time and are vital to England’s defence of the Ashes. Harmy will especially enjoy the bouncy quick wickets down under, as long as he controls his homesickness he could be the ‘man’ this winter. Monty Panesar also has to play ahead of Giles, while Giles is a better allround cricketer he doesn’t offer the variety or menace of Monty’s spin. Hayden, Ponting et al have already said they want to take the game to Monty, a sure indicator that they respect his ability, he could also be another star performer. My other picks are James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Anderson has has a rough time with injury, providing he comes through his fitness tests and performs well in the warm ups he will be the extra bowler, he will be keen to show that he deserves to be part of the set up for a long time. Broad is the future; already described as like the young McGrath but better, I don’t expect him to play unless we are ravaged by injury or are 3-0 up with 2 to play (if only!) but there is no doubting his talent, this tour will be good for him as a player and as a person – getting used to long periods away from home is perhaps the biggest test for a touring cricketer and he will come back for next summer a more complete player ready for his first cap.
Ashley Giles could be a feature as long as he stays injury free, but the King of Spain is behind Monty in the pecking order and beyond injury or horrific loss of form i can’t see him playing a test (unless Duncan Fletcher wields the axe mid tour….)

On standby in Perth -

R Key, S Mahmood, N Compton, L Plunkett, R Bopara

My reserve tourists are a mixed bunch, Rob Key is talented but has lost ground, he is batting cover with Tres’ particularly in mind. Mahmood is an enigma, fast and accurate or fast and hit all over the place, not quite good enough for me the Aussies will certainly go after him, one for the next tour. Plunkett likewise, good cover for our frontline attack, behing Mahmood in the pecking order, another one for the future. With our array of batsmen i don’t expect either of my final choices to feature, Bopara is prodigiously talented and deserves to be part of the set up and Compton has been in fine form this season, is young and is my wildcard, maybe if he continues his current form the selectors may take notice soon, his batting is stylish but will perhaps be part of the 2009 vintage rather than todays.

Finally this will be a very close series, with for me the Aussies slight favourites, however if England’s best side turns up and plays well we will win. Perhaps the Australian’s undoing will be their age, as we saw in 2005, their bowlers cannot manage a full 5 test series and perhaps the bowling as in 2005 will be where th series is won and lost. England to win 2-1. Feel free to tell me i’m wrong….


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