Coventrians have made their home at The Colliery Sports Ground, a fairly large expanse of land just to the North of Coventry city centre in the suburb of Keresley. Currently there is a housing development in progress at the site which means that half of the car park has been given over to construction office buildings and various portacabins. However, the club had stationed stewards at both the service road leading to the ground from Bennetts Road, and in the car park itself, in order to assist with the parking situation. There are two full size pitches and plenty of space for more when the drainage has been fixed (the training field was pretty spongey). Between the car park and the main pitch there is a clubhouse building which also incorporates the players and officials areas. There are no covered spectator areas as yet but there are a couple of rather smart dugouts complete with club logo and Home and Away signs. There are club logos around the club house too. This is a small thing but shows that the club is cared for and well run in my opinion. Speaking of which, having already seen Coventrians play away twice (vs Coventry Rangers - Home On The Rangers and at Central Ajax - Ajax Show Their Vim). I had already had Twitter conversations with the social media admin. It turned out that the gent on car park duty was John Connolly husband of Coventrians Secretary and Twitter Admin Jane. John also runs the Ladies team at the club and both him and Jane are fellow long-suffering West Brom supporters. Both John and Jane are very friendly faces of the club, as was the other steward I met at the entrance to the ground. Jane even hand wrote the team sheet for me while John put the kettle on for a cuppa. Another fantastic example of the volunteers who help to make grassroots and non-league what it is. Any hoppers out there who haven't been to this club, get yourself along. It's well worth the visit.
Coventrians were formed in 2007 and AFC Solihull 5 years later. Both teams joined the Midland league Division 3 at the start of the 2015-16 season. In the four completed seasons since than both have managed to finish in the top half ore than once with AFC Solihull just edging the league standings with a third place finish in 2018-19. However, in head to head games, it is Coventrians who hold sway, winning five of the nine previous meetings. Solihull have won two and there have been two draws. The game earlier this season ended in a 4-0 away win for Coventrians with goals from Aaron Donaldson, Jacob Dumbleton, Ally Hassan and Abel Osei Tutu. Over the past six matches, which includes that 4-0 win, Coventrians have won four and drawn one with last Saturday's game for both clubs being postponed. Over the same period, Solihull have won three and lost two. The upshot of that is that, at the start of play, Coventrians hold the aces in the league, sitting third on 47 points from their 21 games. Solihull sit one place behind on 45 points from 22 games. Both are chasing down second placed Sutton United (49 from 21) and leaders AFC Coventry Rangers (55 from 21).
Solihull were kicking towards the clubhouse end in the first half and had the wind in their favour. The visitors started the game with high intensity, making the most of the conditions and pushing Coventrians backwards from the off. The home side, maybe taken aback by the initial pressure, seemed ill at ease, frequently giving the ball away in midfield and doing little to trouble the Solihull defence.
Just before we hit the 20 minute mark Solihull struck with the first of a quickfire double. Star Mayemba latched onto a through ball, burst past his marker and fired in a low shot past James Connolly's dive. 0-1. With the home side reeling from the goal, Solihull took complete advantage and hit their opponents with a second goal just two minutes later. This time it was a free-kick, awarded for a foul from home captain Liam Connolly some 25 yards out and in a fairly central location. Ross Kaar hit a low, left-footed drive that beat the defensive wall and, once again, beat the keeper to his left. 0-2.
Two goals down and it seemed as if Coventrians didn't have an answer to the problems posed by their opponents and the wind. Shortly after the half-hour mark it probably should have been three for the visitors but Dane Reid couldn't quite get onto the end of a teasing cross from the right. Maybe that was the point that the home side awoke from their slumbers or maybe they finally got to grips with the conditions. It could even be that Solihull couldn't keep up the pace and intensity of the first 30 minutes. Whatever the case, the home side gradually managed to get to grips with the game and finally started to get some meaningful possession in their opponent's half of the pitch. Five minutes from the end of the half there was a big shout from the home players when, following a scramble from a left-wing corner, they claimed that the ball had crossed the line. The assitant, however, was unmoved.
HT Coventrians 0 AFC Solihull 2. Credit to Solihull for the way they started the game at such a high tempo and made full use of the wind being in their favour. Their tactics seemed to completely catch Coventrians on the hop for the first half hour. The home side did manage to show that they might still be capable of turning the game around in the second half when the conditions would be in their favour.
I had fully expected the home side to come out all guns blazing in the second period but, as it happened, it was Solihull who almost scored immediately after the restart when Dane Reid had a superb chance but put his shot over the bar.
From this point onwards, however, Coventrians did start to exert plenty of pressure on the visitors but they found the Solihull defence, marshalled by captain Matt Powell, resolute. The home side were also unfortunate that the wind that had been in their faces in the first half seemed to have dropped a little later in the game.
The second half had not kicked off until well after 4pm due to added time at the end of the first half and it was becoming increasingly clear that the second half would draw on even longer. There were a number of stoppages for injuries and one or two cases of handbags that had all three officials on the pitch on a couple of occasions. With less than 20 minutes remaining Coventrians task got that much harder when Reid Kearns was given a second yellow for a foul in midfield but eight minutes later they were given a great chance to make it a tense finish for the visitors when they were awarded a penalty. Up stepped top-scorer Nathan McGarrity to fire home. 1-2
A grandstand finish was on the cards but credit to Solihull who used every trick in the book to break the game up and not allow the home side to build up a head of steam. One incident, when a long ball set McGarrity in a race with the oncoming keeper Bradley Preece, ended with the keeper in a heap. It happened right in front of where I was standing and I can say that there was a coming together but no doubt in my mind that the keeper stayed down for as long as he could, getting treatment and running the clock down as much as possible. It's a frustrating tactic for the team chasing the game but, to be fair, they would have probably done the same themselves in a similar situation.
Unfortunately for Coventrians the Solihull tactic worked well. The possibility of a full on siege for the last 10 minutes, plus a lot of added time, was averted and they held on for a very valuable three points. The referee eventually blew up for full-time at five past five after nine minutes of added time.
FT Coventrians 1 AFC Solihull 2. Not the result the home side were looking for but, from a neutral's perspective, another great game thrown up by this division. Certainly no lack of entertainment or incident. The result sees Solihull climb above Coventrians into third spot and with a second consecutive defeat for the leaders at AFC Birmingham, the top of the table is looking far tighter than it was 2 weeks ago. Rangers still lead the way but now only have a two point advantage over Sutton United who won 5-3 at Central Ajax. All of the top five, down to AFC Birmingham still have a chance of the title. Next weekend Coventrians are at home again, taking on AFC Birmingham in another crunch battle where you could assume the losers would be out of contention. Solihull travel to bottom side Bartley Reds hoping to keep the pressure on the top two.
Let's not mention that Coventrians are yet to win when I have seen them play.
Coventrians: J.Connolly, Allen, Hassan, Hume, Kennedy, O'Neill, L.Connolly(c), Kearns, McGarrity, Cadby, Dumbleton. Subs: Gibbs, Brandish, Murphy, Agholor, Donaldson
AFC Solihull: Preece, Sey, Kaar, Atlay, Lucas, Powell(c), Hobbs, Andrews, Mayemba, Reid, Kalugin. Subs: Torres, Parsons, Kindala, Mogg, Edmede
Ground Number: 309