By Gerry Prewett.
Ben Garner will certainly look forward to taking on Coventry City in an FA Cup 3rd Round tie at the Mem, in the what is the start of the busy week at the Mem.
Rovers opposition are in a good run of results at present, having won 4, drawn 3 and lost 1 of their last eight games to lift them into 3rd place on the table. That run has included successive 4-1 away wins with Matt Godden scoring hat tricks in each game.
In the last game on New Year’s Day at Tranmere, the Sky Blues started the game on the front foot with Liam Kelly testing Tranmere keeper Aaron Chapman with a 30-yard drive in the opening minutes. That quick start soon led to a goal when Liam Walsh produced a delightful cross for the run of Godden who headed past Chapman after just four minutes to hand City the lead.
In a superb opening 20 minutes from Mark Robins’ side, the Sky Blues grabbed a second goal when Kelly lifted a ball into the path of Jordan Shipley who composed himself before finding the bottom corner to double City’s advantage.
Tranmere pulled a goal back with their first real threatening attack of the game when Kieron Morris played the ball into the path of Connor Jennings who finished well beyond Marko Marosi into the right-hand corner of the goal.
Early in the second half Tranmere spurned the chance to equalise when Fankaty Dabo was penalised for a shove on George Ray inside the penalty area only for Morgan Ferrier to blaze the resulting spot kick well over the crossbar.
The Sky Blues scored a third goal with substitutes Amadou Bakayoko and Callum O’Hare combining, minutes after entering the fray, before the latter slipped in Godden who finished clinically into the bottom left corner.
The substitute was in the thick of the action again in injury-time when he was felled inside the penalty area by Sid Nelson, allowing Godden to coolly slot home the resulting penalty and complete his hat-trick for the second consecutive league fixture.
City Boss Mark Robins said after the game, “It was very pleasing, Matty’s in good form but so are the other players as well and we just want to keep playing with confidence now. We want Matty to do that every game and he’ll want to do that every game but clearly that doesn’t happen in football.”
“What he does do is give us work rate and what he’s got to do is keep giving us the rate of work that he’s doing. He’ll find chances because the lads are finding him with good ball. I’ve not even mentioned Shipperz and Zain Westbrooke’s contribution today and Marko’s made some good saves as well, throughout the team we were pretty good.”
“We had a really wobbly spell in the first 15 minutes of the second half and came through it thankfully and just managed to extend the lead which killed the game off really.”
It’s an indication of the respective recent histories of the two clubs that there had been a hiatus of 52 years in competitive games, between 1964 and 2016 and if statistics that old mean anything at all, the teams are well-matched, in 44 games, there have been 17 Rovers wins, 17 to Coventry and 10 draws.
The very first game took pace at Eastville on 10 October 1908 and Coventry went away with a 3-1 Southern League win, the return game on 13 February 1909 ended up 2-2. Most of the Southern League fixtures were close results with the exception of a 4-0 home win for the Midlanders on 4 March 1911.
The first League meeting took place on 18 December 1926 as Rovers went down 2-1 at Eastville, Bill Culley scoring for Rovers and a Jimmy Heathcote double for the away team. The return fixture ended up 2-2, Fred Herbert hitting the net twice for the home team and Tom Williams and Ernie Whatmore scoring for Rovers.
On Boxing Day 2016, Rovers equalled their best ever result against the Midlanders. Peter Hartley set the tone for the hosts with a 18th minute opener, a header from a Billy Bodin free-kick. The lead was doubled in the 54th minute as Bodin cut in from the right and dummied twice as he ran along the 18-yard line before unleashing a cracking left-foot shot that left Lee Burge helpless
Sky Blues captain Jordan Willis struck back quickly, setting up a grandstand finish and giving the away side hope, but Bodin quickly made sure his side maintained their two-goal advantage when he netted his second of the match.
Bodin added insult to injury when he was brought down to earn a penalty and duly slotted home a fourth to complete his hat-trick
The last time the teams clashed at the Mem was on 22nd September 2018, Jack Bonham pulled off two fine saves early on to keep the scores goalless before the Gas scored with their first chance of the game as Gavin Reilly latched onto a long ball, outmuscled his marker and fired past Lee Burge.
The score was doubled in the 19th minute when Chris Lines floated in a brilliant free-kick to the back post where Tom Lockyer was unmarked and headed home.
It looked like the Gas would run riot when Ollie Clarke netted a thunderbolt into the top corner three minutes later, yet Coventry began to see more of the ball after that and pulled a goal back just before the break when Dom Hyam nodded a free-kick past Bonham. With no goals in the second half the score remained 3-1.
Prior to 2016 the last time the club’s clashed was back in the 1963-64 season as the Sky Blues embarked on their run under Jimmy Hill to the First Division. That season Hill’s team did the League double over Rovers but in the only ever Cup tie between the teams Rovers ran out 2-1 winners at Highfield Road.