I didn't really know a lot about the Coventry Telegraph Cup before this evening but was very pleased to find a nice piece on the history of the competiton in the match day programme. The first Coventry Challenge Cup Final was won by Leamington Town in 1893. Both of the sides in this evening's final, current holders Coventry Copsewood and Triumph Athletic, have won the cup twice under their current guises. However, once again thanks to the match day programme, it appears that Copsewood can claim 8 trophies over the years, under various names, whilst Triumph can lay claim to nine cup wins again under different names.
In this season's competition both sides began with a bye in the First Round. Coventry Copsewood then travelled to Stratford in Round Two, coming back with a resounding 5-1 victory. Triump took on another Coventry side, Alvis, beating them 1-0 at home. In Round Three Coventry Copsewood were at home to Chelmsley Town, beating them 2-1 whislt Triumph gave Whitnash a 5-1 lesson in Leamington.
In the Semi-Finals Coventry Copsewood went through with a 3-0 scoreline against Christ The King. Triumph were up against, somewhat confusingly, Copsewood (Coventry) a fellow Coventry Alliance League side. After a 1-1 draw Athletic progressed to the final with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory.
Entrance to the West Stand at the Ricoh Stadium is certainly one of the more unusual approaches to a ground. Entering the main entrance to the complex from the car park, you find yourself in an atrium not dissimilar to a US style office block. A hotel and casino are off to the right hand side but, on this evening, an attendant pointed the football crowd off to the left where a table was set up to take the entrance fee and sell the programmes. From there, you walked through a door into the concessions area behind the west Stand.
The game kicked off in old-fashioned football style with both sides getting in some crunching 'let them know you're here' tackles, much to the satisfaction of the assembled crowd in the West Stand of the Ricoh.
Triumph, defying the fact that they play their league games at a step lower than their opponents, made the brighter start of the two sides, certainly for the opening two or three minutes. Having said that, they were almost caught out after 5 minutes when Copsewood's lively striker, Daniel Kavanagh shot wide. The effort seemed to wake Copsewood up and they began to get a foothold on the game. Indeed, after 8 minutes, they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box which produced an effort no too far off target.
The pace of Kavanagh and the quick feet and trickery of Jak Redhead were causing a few problems for the Triumph defence but, on the other hand, Athletic also looked like they could pose plenty of problems at the the other end, especially with the long throw-ins from Kyle Walker, who seemed to be able to reach the penalty are from pretty much anywhere inside the Copsewood half.
Just over halfway through the first-half Copsewood were awarded another free-kick on the edge of the box. The attempt at goal was absolutely hammered and would have given the keeper no chance if it had been a foot or so lower.
Then, as the half was drawing to a close the breakthrough finally came, not for Copsewood as the balance of play would have suggested, but for Triumph. Luke Comasky chased a ball into the Copsewood penalty area and was brought down by keeper Dale O'Donnell. Nick Walker stepped up and calmly stroked home the spot-kick to give Athletic the lead. 0-1.
The response from Copsewood was almost immediate. They surged forward with some urgency, creating some havoc in the Triumph penalty area. Kavanagh was first to react to a loose ball, turning it into the net only to see the assistant's flag up for offside after the referee had already blown for the goal. Some consultation followed before the referee took the assistant's advice and cancelled out the goal. I have to say that from my position, which wasn't quite in line but wasn't too far off, Kavanagh looked to be easily onside and it looked to be a very harsh decision on Copsewood.
HT Coventry Copsewood 0 Triumph Athletic 1. A great start from Triumph countered well by Copsewood who then had the better of the half. However, Triumph took their chance and lead slightly against the run of play.
Just past the hour mark Copsewood were awarded another free-kick also just outside the penalty but this time a few yards right of centre. Captain Daniel Fraser stood over it before curling in a beautiful effort which went in off the far post giving Bryce no chance whatsoever. 2-1
Triumph didn't let their heads drop after going behind but Copsewood were looking a lot more composed now. They were the current cup holders and they were clearly not going to let the trophy go easily.
With there minutes left on the clock and with Triumph pushing people forward in search of an equaliser, Kavanagh was again able to use his pace to get in behind the defence. Once again his finish was clinical, making it 3-1 and seemingly sealing the victory.
Again, great credit to Athletic though, they dusted themselves down and even with just a few minutes to go did not throw in the towel. On the 90 minute mark they got some rewards for their persistence when Owen Wassall was sent through by a delightful, clipped ball. He, in turn, applied a deft finish to make it 3-2.
As it turned out, there was not enough time for Triumph to get back on level terms despite pushing almost everyone up front for a frantic minute or so.
FT Coventry Copsewood 3 Triumph Athletic 2. Athletic played their part in an entertainign Cup Final but on the balance of the entire game Copsewood gained a thoroughly deserved victory and retained the Challenge Cup.
Coventry Copsewood: O'Donnell, Bartram, Fraser(c), Fesel, Rooney, Stringer, Dodds, Welland, Piper, Kavanagh, Redhead. Subs: Whitelaw, Rawlings, Brandish, Davies, Osborne
Triumph Athletic: Bryce, T.Atkins, Suddick, K.Walker, R.Atkins(c), Chamberlain, N.Walker, Normoyle, Comasky, Freeman, Cooper. Subs: Wassall, Barlow, Irwin, Budd, Fletcher
Ground Number: 200