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Chirewa on Target But U23s Beaten
Monday, 16th Aug 2021 14:59

Town’s U23s were beaten 2-1 by Coventry City in their opening Professional Development League Two South game of the season at Portman Road. The Sky Blues took the lead through Fabio Tavares in the first half, but the Blues dominated most of the second and levelled through Tawanda Chirewa, however, the visitors came back into it late on and won the game via Josh Pask.

Neither Myles Kenlock nor Brett McGavin, the remaining members of the bomb squad, were included for the team coached by Kieron Dyer and Bryan Klug, while striker Ben Morris continued his comeback after the cruciate knee ligament injury which ended his 2020/21 in pre-season, playing his first competitive game since February 2020.

On the bench, Town included schoolboys Daniel Cullum, a keeper, and Emmanuel Okunowo, a midfielder.

Coventry forced Blues keeper Antoni Bort into a save in the sixth minute when first-team striker Matty Godden curled a free-kick which the Town number one pushed out onto one of his defenders and over.

On 10, Matt Ward was sent away wide on the right and crossed low but both Morris and strike partner Zanda Siziba arrived too late to add the final touch as they slid in.

The visitors took the lead in the 20th minute when there was a failure of communication between Bort and Cameron Stewart as a ball was played down the middle and Tavares was able lob the advancing keeper.

The lead should have lasted just over a minute and a half with Town immediately winning a penalty from the kick-off.

Ward beat his man and crossed low for Siziba breaking into the box but the one-time Tottenham youngster was shoved over and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Morris took the kick but smashed straight down the middle but over the bar, continuing Town’s weekend penalty woe.

In the 26th minute, Bort went some way to atoning for his part in the Sky Blues’ goal when he saved brilliantly from Josh Reid.

The Coventry left wing-back had been found in acres of space on the left of the box and hit a well-struck effort which looked destined for the corner of the net until Bort somehow got across and thrust out a strong enough arm to divert it over.

The visitors continued to look the more threatening side and on 29 skipper Jonny Ngandu shot over from just outside the area.

On 33 Tawanda Chirewa scraped a weak effort wide for the Blues as they came more into the game as an attacking force with Ward having moved to the middle of a front three.

Three minutes later, right-back Levi Andoh shot wide from an angle, then in the 38th minute, following a long spell of Blues possession, Cameron Humphreys also hit an effort wide from 25 yards.

Town were now putting the Midlanders under some pressure and in the 40th minute Chirewa took a stride on the edge of the box before unleashing a powerful shot which Joe O’Shaughnessy in the Coventry goal did well to palm away.

On 43, Godden flicked a Coventry free-kick from the left beyond Bort’s left post, then at the other end Chirewa held off his man, cut inside but hit his shot well wide.

Three minutes after the break, the Blues worked a neat move which ended with Morris back-heeling into the path of Ward on the right of the box from where the former Wroxham youngster shot over.

In the 49th minute Chirewa was found on the left of the box but his shot was too close to O’Shaughnessy, who saved. Siziba and a defender collided as they looked to get on to the loose ball. Within a minute both Chirewa and Siziba saw shots blocked.

Town were forced into a change in the 55th minute when Siziba succumbed to his early knock and Harley Curtis took over.

Almost immediately, Bort was forced into action, tipping over a powerful effort from distance. On 57, Town swapped Andoh for Matt Healy with Fraser Alexander moving form central midfield to right-back.

Just after the hour, left-back Bailey Clements played a clever low ball across the box after a free-kick from the edge of the box had been taken quickly to him on the left but keeper O’Shaughnessy claimed ahead of the Town attackers, who had been caught on their heels.

The Blues again weren’t too far away in the 65th minute when Ward, by now playing on the left, sent over a cross and Curtis and the keeper arrived at the ball at the same time before the visitors’ number one gratefully grabbed hold of it.

Two minutes later, the Blues levelled. The ball was half-cleared to Chirewa just outside the area to the right from where he smashed a low shot which flicked off a defender on the way through and found the corner of the net.

Town almost went in front within a minute, the lively Morris hitting a cross-shot which beat O'Shaughnessy, slammed against the bar, hit a defender and bounced straight to the fortunate keeper.

Chirewa, who was presenting an almost constant threat on the Coventry goal, went close to a second in the 72nd minute when he hit an effort from just outside the area which O’Shaughnessy batted away to his left.

Town were by this stage camped in the Coventry half, prodding and probing for an opportunity to go in front.

On 76, with the Blues wholly dominant, Clements cut in from the left and hit a shot which was headed away but in any case looked to be on its way wide.

Three minutes later, Coventry sub Ricardo Dinangia struck a 25-year effort which Bort claimed comfortably. Soon after, Chirewa curled a free-kick over.

As the game moved into its final 10 minutes, a loose Clements pass saw the Sky Blues break into the area and Tavares hit a low shot which Bort saved down to his right.

Coventry were now on top as Town’s U23s, whose pre-season programme was decimated by Covid self-isolation, began to tire. On 83 Harrison Nee headed a cross from the left past Bort but onto the post, the ball striking the keeper then going behind.

From the resultant corner, Bort dropped the ball but the Blues eventually managed to clear.

With five minutes remaining, the visitors scored their second of the game. Following a corner, a low ball was sent in to the box and Josh Pask deftly flicked home from six yards.

On 87 Diningia hit a low shot which deflected wide with Coventry finishing the stronger of the two teams.

In injury time, Town came within an inch or so of equalising. Humphreys sent over a free-kick from the left, skipper Albie Armin rose highest and headed against the post. Again keeper O’Shaughnessy was fortunate that the ball bounced into his arms.

Soon after, the referee’s whistle ended an entertaining game which Town will feel they probably should have had won let alone drawn, despite having gone behind.

They were so dominant for most of the second half that just one goal was scant reward and they were made to pay as Coventry got on top as the game moved into the final 10 minutes. Even then they were unlucky not to claim a point via Armin’s late header.

Town: Bort, Andoh (Healy 57), Clements, Alexander, Stewart, Armin (c), Ward, Humphreys, Morris, Chirewa, Siziba. Subs: Cullum, Healy, Smith, Okunowo, Curtis.

Coventry: O'Shaughnessy, Pask, Godden, Tavares, Drysdale, Howley, Ngandu, Rus, Rowe, Reid, McGrath. Subs: Bell, Dinangia, Burroughs, Nee, Evans-Harriott.

Photo: Matchday Images

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December1963 added 15:22 - Aug 16
No sign of Elkan Baggott?

Wallingford_Boy added 15:56 - Aug 16
Isn't Baggott more of an U18 player?

Linkboy13 added 16:40 - Aug 16
Just got back from this game and the very young u23 side being desperately unlucky not to get at least a point against a physically bigger Coventry team. The players that stood out for me were the tricky Matt Ward, Chirewa, Clements, Siziba and sub Curtis. Ben Morris was a bit of a disappointment he should be outstanding at this level and he looks way off being a first team player . Perhaps another loan would do him no harm.

PhilTWTD added 18:17 - Aug 16

Ben Morris was playing his first competitive game in 18 months after having suffered two cruciate injuries. I should have included that in the report and will add. I thought he had a decent game, even allowing for that!

Marinersnose added 11:20 - Aug 17
Linkboy13 it’s probably the long layoff as he’s usually a very competent performer with great touch and a decent finisher. Lack of football and competitive fitness will take a little time to get back up to speed. KVY is in the same boat imo

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