Butts Park Arena is the home of Coventry Rugby Club who won the National League title last season and now play in the second tier of English Rugby. The local Rugby League side, Coventry Bears, also play at the arena, playing in the third tier of the league. It is also, of course, now home to Coventry United Football Club. There is parking available adjacent to the ground with a small charge of £2. Entrance to the ground is via the ticket office, in the shadow of the main stand, and then via a turnstile. The ground has one large stand, which houses 3,000 of the total 4,000 capacity.
United are blessed with one of the most enthusiastic stadium announcers that I have come across, who also seems to have a very good taste in music. Not only did he keep the crowd informed about happenings on the pitch, he also kept us up to date with the Coventry United Ladies game, a crunch top of the table battle with Loughborough Foxes, being played at the same time, and did his utmost to fire up the crowd (largely to no avail, it has to be said). They also have one of the most unusual programmes I have come across. printed in A6 format (yes, I know I tweeted A5, but I was put straight), it's full colour, got plenty of up to date content and, most importantly, fits perfectly into your pocket without folding or creasing. It certainly gets a big thumbs-up from me.
Coming into the game, United were sitting in eighth spot on 13 points. They held a three point lead on their visitors, who were currently placed 12th in the league. Interestingly, both sides had a goal difference of 0, United having scored and conceded 11 goals while Romulus had scored and conceded one more in both column. With Romulus being relegated from Step 4 last season, this was going to be the first meeting between the sides.
After 15 minutes, we had an extended stoppage for an injury to Coventry defender Chris Cox. The break in play seemed to affect Romulus more than United and, two minutes after the stoppage Coventry created their first clear effort with McDonald shooting just over the bar.
It turned out to be a warning shot that Romulus did not heed as, on 20 minutes, the home side took the lead. A deep cross was swung over from the left and met by the head of Shaquille McDonald, he directed his header back across goal for Jake Holt to crash the ball home. 1-0.
The goal immediately seemed to pump up the United players. There was a noticeable increase in their pace and they were starting to win the 50-50 challenges that they were losing in the first 10 minutes.
Holt was almost on target again just before the half-hour mark but this time Belford got down well to his left and turned the striker's low drive around the post.
The game was certainly starting to heat up as the half progressed, the temperature being further increased by some interesting refereeing decisions which seemed to be frustrating the players and officials.
Just before the end of the half, McDonald came close to increasing the lead, seeing his low, angled drive fly past Belford's right-hand post.
HT Coventry United 1 Romulus 0. The home side took a while to get going but, on the whole, just about deserve to be in front at the break.
The stadium announcer excelled again over the half-time period with a fine selection of Rolling Stones tracks. As I tweeted at the time, it's almost worth coming to Butts Park just for the music.
The first fifteen minutes of the second-half were very even. Both sides showing no lack of effort and Romulus definitely trying to find a way back into the game. Tempers were noticeably starting to fray just a little bit more as the game wore on, possibly because, in such a tight game, there was a lot of midfield action and plenty of opportunity for challenges.
Bunn got down well to his left, turning away a Richards shot and then getting up quickly to block the rebound from a narrow angle. Then, after 65 minutes, Romulus spurned their best opportunity of the game. A free-kick found Piggon clean through but he couldn't get the ball out of his feet and when it was half-cleared Richards' follow-up shot was blocked well by Bunn. Luke Richards then turned sharply in the box but fired just over, as Romulus continued to press for an equaliser.
Coventry were starting to drop deeper and deeper but, to be fair, still looked pretty comfortable at the back despite increased Romulus pressure and United still looked dangerous when they did manage to break. A case in point being a very good stop from Belford to prevent United captain Jamal Clarke from heading in a second goal.
Into added time and with Romulus pushing hard the referee made what looked like a very strange decision, awarding a corner to The Roms when he was a good fifteen yards away and the linesman didn't flag at all. I was almost in line with it and I can honestly say that the ball did not cross the line. Strange decision. As it happens, the corner was cleared but that wasn't the end of the action. Romulus had another sight of goal but still couldn't put a chance away.
Then, in the 95th minute of a game that had not had too many stoppages, a tussle developed between a Romulus player, trying to retrieve the ball, and the United bench. Suddenly all hell let loose with all players and both benches involved in what can only be described as an outbreak of handbags. At least one Romulus player was pushed over, I didn't see any punches thrown but there was plenty of pushing and shoving before the referee got it all under control. After consulting with his assistant, United Manager Terry Anderson was shown a red card and there were yellows for at least one player on each side. Shortly after the restart the referee blew the final whistle and, after looking like it was about to kick-off again, the players shook hands and the game was over.
FT Coventry United 1 Romulus 0. A workmanlike performance from United. Romulus pushed the quite hard in the second-half, but they stood firm and, over the 90 minutes, just about deserved the three points. The result leaves United in fifth on 16 points, behind city rivals Sphinx (who have played one game fewer) on goal difference. Romulus sit in twelfth with 10 points from their eight games.
United Ladies made it a double for the night by winning 4-0 against Loughborough Foxes too.
A sad side note to this game. During the game I was alerted to the fact that Bicester Town had resigned from the Hellenic League. I don't know any further details at this point, but it is always sad to see a team go under and even more so when it is your local side. Bicester is far too big a town to not have a senior level football team representing it.
Coventry United: Bunn, Barnett, Vallance, Mussa, Cox, Clarke (c), Carey, Holt, Palmer, McDonald, Downes. Suns: Hendricks, Caswell, Nicholson, Hammond, Ellis
Romulus: Belford, Cross, Hirst, Rowe, Taylor, Cooper, Halil, Williams, Dunkley, Piggon, Richards. Subs:
Ground Number: 163