Ground Number: 747
Wednesday 6th December 2017
Coventry United 3-3 Bromsgrove Sporting (3-4 Pens)
FA Vase 3rd Round Replay
COVENTRY UNITED - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club is fairly young one, having been formed in 2013 by four supporters unhappy with the way Coventry City was being run. In one of many farcical decisions by SISU, the club had suffered an alarming fall from grace and was being forced to groundshare at Northampton following a failure to agree on a lease at the oversized Ricoh Arena. Their first season was spent in the Midland Combination Division 2 (then step 8) and despite a 28-0 win over Polesworth United (the club's record win) towards the end of the season, they would have to settle for a runners-up spot behind Kenilworth Town. It was good enough for promotion, however, with 2014-15 being spent in the newly formed Midland League D2. Again they were promoted, this time as champions and they repeated the trick when they were Midland D1 champions in 2015/16. Since then, they have competed in the Midland League Premier Division. Following a decent 8th place finish in their debut season. This season, they have moved to Coventry Rugby's Butts Park Arena, after previously sharing at Coventry Sphinx and the Alan Higgs Sports Centre and currently sit 6th in the table.
Coventry United have been entering the FA Cup for the past couple of seasons, having their best run in their debut season of 2016/17. Starting in the Extra Preliminary Round, they beat Shawbury United (after a replay) and Lichfield City before a 2-0 defeat at home to the local side and Southern League Bedworth United in the 1st Qualifying Round. As for the FA Vase, they are currently enjoying their best-ever run.Starting in the 1st Qualifying Round, they progressed with a 3-1 home win over Tipton Town.The next round saw a 2-1 victory on home soil against Stone Old Alleynians.They'd have to travel in the 1st Round, but came away from Lutterworth Town with a 3-2 victory. The last round saw a thumping 6-0 win at Quorn before Saturday's 1-1 3rd Round game at Bromsgrove Sporting. Locally they won the Midland League Presidents Cup in 2015 as well as being runners-up in the Birmingham FA Vase the previous year.
With me completing the top 232 teams in England with my visit to Tiverton Town on Saturday, I was looking out for a midweek game. With step 3 having been finally completed, there were no other leagues that I was looking to complete and could, therefore, concentrate on the best grounds and games. One that ticked both boxes was the FA Vase 3rd Round replay between Coventry United and Bromsgrove Sporting with the original game having been drawn 1-1. It would mean having to do a game on Wednesday as opposed to my usual Tuesday, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make to see a decent game. Fellow hopper Anwar would finally be doing a game with me again after a few weeks break and he was in agreement that it was the best match to go for. So I planned it in, instead, spending my day off on Tuesday at home instead of going to a game. I spent some of the evening doing my research for the following day - both in regards to club history as well as parking and food options at the ground. I'd had a good night's sleep on Monday night, getting up at 11.30 on Tuesday morning, however, it was a problem when it came to the following night as I was wide awake and only got around an hours sleep before waking at 4 am.
As a result, I was knackered the following morning and was hoping for a light day. It turned out to be the case, but even so, I didn't get back home until 1. I managed to get a few hours sleep, waking up at 4.15, getting my stuff together and leaving at 4.30. The journey over to Aylesbury was a pain - usually taking 25 minutes, I arrived in Aylesbury an hour later to mean Anwar. The main culprits were an inconsiderate tractor driver who decided to take his 10 MPH vehicle out on a 60 limit road in the middle of the rush hour, plus a prang further along the route that was only just being cleared as we sped up. The general traffic was busy too, but even so, it's never taken longer than 40 minutes away. I eventually picked Anwar up and we were soon on our way. Thankfully the rest of the journey was a lot better and Simon Mayo on Radio 2 kept us company until we reached Coventry at 6.55. After navigating the city's complicated one-way system we parked up in a street near the ground. Some dinner was in order and we chose the Spon End Fish Bar near the ground which provided us with a reasonable portion of chips for £1.70. From there, it was a couple of minutes to the ground where a ticket was purchased for £7 at a booth before going through the turnstile. I didn't bother with a programme as I had a paper ticket but I did buy a pen from the club shop for £1. I bumped into fellow hoppers Laurence and Tony and it was nice to catch up. After walking around the ground, I took a seat in the stand which offered a great view of the game.
The visitors started very well and were ahead after just 4 minutes. A good corner was put in from the left, but the defending was poor and Guy Clark headed home unchallenged from inside the six-yard box. It was 2-0 on 18 minutes, the same sort of thing as the first goal, although this time the corner was from the right and Richard Gregory was the beneficiary from around about the same place as the first goal. The half-hour saw Bromsgrove nearly make it 3-0 but between defender Chris Cox and keeper Richard Morris, the hosts just about kept the ball out of the net. Coventry United's defending from set pieces had been questionable all night, but there was no denying that Jason Cowley's free-kick was a cracking effort on 40 minutes. This put the visitors into a commanding 3-0 halftime lead and with the stats reading 9 chances to 1 at the break. The first 35 minutes of the second half still gave no indication of what was coming. The hosts were certainly enjoying the lions share of the possession, but chances were limited and those that they did have were spurned. On 80 minutes, Lewis Rankin's cross-cum-shot from the right had side went in to give Coventry United what looked like a consolation, but suddenly they had their tails up. Aaron Opuku had come on as a sub and breathed fresh life into the Coventry side and when his cross set up Craig Reid, the striker looked set to score. He hadn't bet on visiting keeper Reece Francis making an amazing save though and so as the game approached full time, Bromsgrove still had a two-goal lead. IN the final minute, Jack Jayes put a cross in from the left for Coventry from a free kick and in the confusion, a deflection off of Bromsgrove defender Daniel Morris looped over his keeper. Game on seemingly, even with time running out. A huge scramble and a handball claim saw a corner awarded and a great save by Francis saw another corner, this time it was scrambled home by Jack Jeys.
It had been an absolutely bonkers comeback and the equaliser sparked jubilant scenes. Extras time saw the madness continue with Chris Cox clearing off of the line to prevent Bromsgrove retaking the lead before Opuku hit the post for Coventry. A last-ditch corner saw the hosts have a late chance to win the game, but another great save from Francis saw the game go to a penalty shootout. The first 6 penalties were all successful - Reid, Wint & Jones all scoring for the hosts and Quaynor, Cowley & Morris all netting for Bromsgrove. Reece Francis had been great all night and had come close to saving Morris's penalty. Jack Jeys stepped up confidently but the keeper guessed right and made a great save, Next up was Bromsgrove captain Craig Jones, but the kick was straight down the middle and was saved by Coventry keeper Richard Morris. Lewis Rankin stepped up for the 5th but shanked the ball wide with a pretty lame effort. All that John Pykett had to do was score to send the visitors through, but his shot hit the left hand upright. Coventry United breathed again but it was a shame when Francis made the save of the shootout from Opuku, the man who had played a big part in turning the game around. This time Max Loveridge made no mistake to send Bromsgrove Sporting through and spark jubilant scenes and a pitch invasion. It was heartbreak for the home side and something that no side deserved after a cracking contest. Highlights of the game are below, including a great commentary.
It had turned out to be an epic game, that I certainly didn't see coming at halftime, when Laurence joked that it was guaranteed to go to extra time and penalties with me up at 4 am. Though I'd be tired the following day, I was glad that it had, just for the entertainment levels. Talking about halftime, I'd an excellent portion of beans and chips for £1.50 which was much better than what was on offer outside. I was somewhat surprised with the declared attendance of 205, with it looking a lot more than that but Laurence confirmed that it was accurate. Certainly, Bromsgrove bought at large contingent and both sets of fans were in good voice. The atmosphere was good, but the game deserved a much bigger attendance than that. We eventually got away at 10.40, with me dropping Anwar off at midnight. I was home myself 25 minutes later, though I didn't get to sleep for ages. It was another tiring morning, but I did at least catch up with a few hours sleep the following afternoon.
The BUTTS PARK ARENA is the home of Coventry Rugby club and is a pretty decent venue. By far the biggest area is the main stand and this holds around 2500. Views from here are excellent and legroom here is great. Behind both goals is open flat standing, with the 4th side closed for football. This is more open flat standing, with a small area of cover. Capacity is set at 3000 for football and 4000 for rugby. There is a car park at the ground, costing £2, or free street parking nearby.
The club shop was above average for this level, with a good range of stock. The bar was pretty standard, but the tea bar was the best bit, offering great value and choice. There are even more options around the ground, plus some cracking pubs in the city centre, which is around 15 minutes walk away.
SCORES ON THE DOORS
1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
A decent stand, with as good as views as you are likely to find at this level. (7)
2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Plenty of street parking and food and drink choices. Walkable from the city (7)
3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
Everyone I met was great (8)
4: Value for money
Slightly above average, but it was worth it for a game of this magnitude (6)
5: Social Media & Website
Both are decent (7)
Didn't purchase (-)
7: Game entertainment
First half didn't suggest what a game this would become (9)
8: Tea Bar
Excellent choice and value (8)
9: Bar / Clubhouse
10: Club Shop
Good range, plus a few old programmes (7)
TOTAL SCORE OUT OF A POSSIBLE 90: 65
AVERAGE SCORE: 7.22
3RD OUT OF OVER 40 MATCHDAYS REVIEWED THIS SEASON