I'd never seen Polonia play before. However, this would be the fourth time I had watched Triumph. They were beaten on all three previous occasions, something I didn't mention to their coach when chatting to him before the game. He would have been justified in asking the 'Jonah' to leave the ground. Many thanks to him and the Polonia coach for sharing the team sheets with me.
My previous times watching Triumph came in the 2019 Coventry Telegraph Cup Final at The Ricoh Arena. Athletic went down 3-2 to Coventry Copsewood (Copse No Robbers). I also saw them in a pre-season friendly at Bishops Itchington where the lost 5-2 (Big Skies). Finally, in April 2022, I saw them a Stan Oulds cup game 6-0 at home to a rampant Dunlop side (Dunlop Triumph).
Polonia Coventry play at The Massey Ferguson Sports Ground on the very Western edge of the city of Coventry. It's a multi-sport facility provided by the American agricultural machinery manufacturer. It is also the home of the junior section of Coventry United FC.
There's a reasonable large amount of parking spaces behind the changing rooms/cricket pavilion. The main pitch slopes slightly from the car park end towards the Woodlands View Park. There is no spectator cover or dugouts around the ground.
The complex consists of two full size football pitches, one with floodlights, multiple small-sided pitches and a cricket square, wedged between the two main pitches. Whilst waiting for kick-off I had the pleasure to chew the cud with the club's groundsman who was telling me about the amount of time and effort involved in the upkeep of such a facility. I have to say, looking at the pitch that this evening's game was played on, he is doing a superb job. The pitch was in excellent condition.
This was a Bermuda Cup First Round tie. I must admit to knowing very little about this competition as ide from the fact that the current holders are Stockingford AA Pavilion, who beat Folly Lane BCOB 3-1 in last season's final. Along the way, Folly Lane had also knocked out Polonia by 3-2. Triumph had lost at the same stage, going down 2-1 to Fillongley.
This was to be Triumph's first match of the season. Consequently, there was no way of knowing what kind of form they may be in. Polonia had, however, already played one league game in which they went down 5-1 at home to Whitnash Town. A little pointer to possible outcomes could be taken from last term's league meetings between the teams, when they ended the season as the bottom two. Triumph held sway, drawing 1-1 at home and beating Polonia 2-0 on their own patch.
It was still close to 30 degrees when Triumph, kicking down the slope in their blue and amber change kit (which reminded me of Shrewsbury Town a few season's back), were the first to show in this game. Seven minutes in they went close when Dan Stanton drove down the right before delivering a low cross towards the front post. It was scrambled out for a corner with strikers looking to pounce. Athletic continued on the front foot. Kyle Gorman should possibly have done better when put through after 13 minutes, but credit to Harry Cross who did well to save. However, the keeper was not quite as quick off his line after 16 minutes when a through ball once again split his defence open. This time his timing was slightly out, getting more of the player than the ball. Luckily for Cross, the ball was running away from the goal and he avoided a red card. He did not avoid conceding a penalty. Aaron Francis converted from the spot sending Cross the wrong way. 0-1.
Five minutes later, with the visitors now pressing for more, they had another penalty shout and, from my angle at least, it looked clearer than the first one. However, the referee was unmoved and we went into a drinks break with the score stil at 0-1. Almost immediately after the break, Triumph came close to catching out the home defence again. A quickly taken free-kick put Gorman in behind the back-line once more but this time Walker did just enough to put the striker off. It looked like just a matter of time until Athletic extended their lead but, instead, they were caught by a sucker punch on 34 minutes. The visitors conceded possession in midfield and the ball was quickly fed to Polonia captain Radoslaw Kiper, who had drifted into a hole left by the left-back. Kiper drove into the edge of the box and then fired low past Khane Barlow and in off the far post. 1-1
Wydawało się, że to tylko kwestia czasu, zanim Athletic powiększy prowadzenie, ale zamiast tego w 34. minucie został złapany przez frajerski cios. Goście stracili posiadanie w środku pola, a piłka szybko trafiła do kapitana Polonii Radosława Kipera, który wpadł do dołka pozostawionego przez lewego obrońcę. Kiper wjechał w krawędź pola karnego, a następnie strzelił nisko obok Khane'a Barlowa i trafił w dalszy słupek. 1-1
Triumph shook off the disappointment of conceding and went in search of another goal themselves. With five minutes to go until the break Gorman got in behind the defence again, but this time fired well over. Then, on 43 minutes, Triumph broke down a Polonia foray insode their own half and launched a very quick break down their right side. The ball was squared to Aaron Francis who took a touch to wrong-foot his marker before shooting in off Cross's right-hand post. 1-2
HT Polonia Coventry 1 Triumph Athletic 2. Triumph well worthy of their lead and should really be further ahead. Polonia have the slope in their favour for the second period. Could it be a factor in this heat?
Once again it was Triumph who took the early initiative. Four minutes in, Arron Francis was given a free run at goal, looking odds on to claim his hat-trick. However, the striker blazed his effort well over and the home side were temporarily reprieved. As it happened,, the relief lasted less than five minutes before Triumph did go further ahead. This time it was a corner from the left that did the damage. Some clever movement from defender James Bryson left him with an unchallenged header, which he duly placed beyond Cross. 1-3
The game was rapidly slipping away from Polonia and their plight was not helped on 57 minutes when a rush of blood to defender Bogdan State's head, ended with them reduced to 10 players. The centre-half lunged in on Francis on the edge of the box. My first instinct was that it was a red card. The tackle was out of control and wild. However, the referee took stock of the situation, and conferred with the assistant (Polonia's substitute) before sending off State. The correct decision based on the tackle but, if he did it on the grounds that it prevented a clear goal-scoring opportunity, in my opinion, the dismissal was for the wrong reason. From my position, Francis looked to still have a lot to do before getting a shot away. Having said that, I'm not a referee, and I would never want to do what is a very difficult job.
Two goals adrift and a man light, it would not have been a surprise if Polonia had folded at this point. However, a change in formation with Ivan Tsipan dropping into central defence, seemed to stabilise them somewhat. Triumph still had more of the ball and, just past the hour mark generated a big chance for Kyle Gorman who beat the keeper but then, trying to avoid a defender on the line, put his shot wide of the post. With twenty minutes left, Ross Irwin was the next Triumph layer to break the defensive line but, under pressure from a covering defender, he too put his shot wide of the mark.
That attempt was followed closely by a rare Polonia attack that saw Alex Kiselovs fire off a decent shot which whistled wide of Barlow's post.
Despite looking more organised, Polonia couldn't hold out forever against the extra player. On 74 minutes a cross from the right was smashed home by Dan Stanton, making it 1-4. Then ten minutes later, Ross Irwin's cross from the right was perfect for Aaron Francis to run onto. His first touch, trying to control the dropping pass, was slightly off but it didn't matter as it took still diverted the ball past Cross into the net. 1-5 and, finally, the hat-trick for Francis.
FT Polonia Coventry 1 Triumph Athletic 5. Overall a comfortable progression for Triumph who always looked as if they just had too much for Polonia. Maybe now I may even be welcomed to a Triumph match in the future now that the monkey is off my back. Polonia showed plenty of fight and, to be fair to them, played well enough after they went down to 10 men. They also have, by far (in my opinion), the best kit you'll see at this level of the game. Not just their playing kit but the training kit I saw some players wearing when they arrived. Great detail. I especially liked Polonia FC written vertically down the back of the training tops.
Both sides are back in action this weekend. Polonia travel to AFC Coventry at Cauldon Castle Sports Centre. AFC also lost their first league game, 6-3 at Fillongley. Triumph are also on the road as they visit Folly Lane BCOB Reserves, another team who lost their opener to Fillongley, 4-2.
Polonia Coventry: Cross, Drabik, Kiper(c), Kiselovs, Malko, Alecu, Ziolkowski, State, Manea, Tsipan, Metcharo. Subs: Salatioan, Karaluns, Clenciu
Triumph Athletic: Barlow, E.Haymes, Govier, Bryson, Hume, Lamb, c.Haymes(c), Irwin, Stanton, Francis, Gorman. Subs: R.Atkins, T.Atkins, Hartnett
Ground Number: 377