Even by Coventry City's standards the 2014-15 season was depressing. Home fans saw only six league victories (five if they didn't go to Sixfields) and relegation fears hung over the club from February right through to the last ten minutes in the final game at Crawley. Over 27,000 turned out for the Ricoh return in September but it was a short-lived revival & crowds soon dropped to their lowest level for over 50 years. However the difference between success and failure in this division is quite small. If only half of the drawn games had been won, the club would have finished in the top six and in the play-offs. In an effort to remain positive & provide some hope I will end the season on that note!
Games: Coventry City played 52 competitive games this season, 46 league, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup & 4 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Points: The Sky Blues gathered 55 points during the season. This was six less than in 2013-14 but there were no points deductions this season. Last season's net total of 51 would have been just enough to survive this term but it would have been an even more nail-biting final day.
Home Form: The home record was won 6, drew 9, lost 8. Six wins equals the club's lowest for a 23-home game season, set in 2002-03 but is two more than the club's worst ever season (4 in 1996-97). Nine home draws is one short of the club's highest (10 in 1971-72).
Away Form: Ultimately it was the club's away form (7 wins, 28 points) which kept the club up. Whilst not up to the record-breaking 11 wins & 37 points from two seasons ago, it was still the third highest points total since three points for a win was introduced in 1981. The away record was won 7, drew 7, lost 9.
Biggest win: The biggest win of the season was the 3-1 home JPT victory over Exeter. In the league the biggest were the 2-0 wins at Port Vale & Walsall. At home in the league they failed to beat any team by more than a one-goal margin.
Biggest defeat: The 1-4 defeat at Oldham in October was the biggest defeat and the heaviest home league defeat was a 0-3 loss to Swindon.
Goals for: The goals for total of 49 was the fourth worst in the 14 years since the club left the Premiership and a far cry from the 74 scored in 2013-14. City failed to score in fourteen league games and only scored more than two goals on two occasions in the league.
Goals against: The goals against total of 60 was one of the best in the last 13 years and a big improvement on 2013-14 when 77 were conceded. The team kept fourteen clean sheets in the league, only four short of the club record of 18 set in 1938-39. Ryan Allsop kept eight, Lee Burge five & Jamie Jones one.
Final position: The final position of 17th was one higher than 2013-14. It means that the Sky Blues have finished in the top ten only once in the fourteen seasons since they left the Premiership in 2001. They are the only club, bar long-serving Premiership clubs and recent promotees from the Conference, not to have been promoted or reached the play-offs since the play-offs were introduced in 1987 nor to finish in the top six of a division. The club did slip into the relegation area once, following a draw at Sheffield – Steven Pressley's last game in charge.
Leading scorers: After last season when Callum Wilson scored 21 league goals, the highest by a City player since 1977-78, City found goalscoring difficult. Frank Nouble topped the lists with seven goals (6 league, 1 JPT). Two other players (Jim O'Brien & Dominic Samuel) also scored six league goals. Six league goals in a season equals the lowest in the club's history (in 2000-01 Messrs Hartson, Hadji & Bellamy all scored six goals). Blair Turgott emulated Mathieu Manset from last season by scoring a goal without making a first-team start. Others to have managed this in history include Zavon Hines, Wayne Andrews & Mick Harford.
Doubles: City achieved the double over two sides, Colchester & Peterborough. On the other hand three sides did the double over City (Preston, Doncaster & Crewe).
Appearances: John Fleck & Jim O'Brien made the most appearances for the club. They both started 43 league games & were substitutes on one occasion each. They both started four out of the five cup games. It was the second season running that Fleck has made over 40 league appearances and he was only missing through injury & suspension. Three players failed to start a first team game but made substitute appearances (Turgott, George Thomas & Kyle Spence).
Players used: Thirty-seven players were used in league and cup games -four more than in 2013-14 but one less than in 2012-13. Of the 37, 25 players made their debuts during the season, the most debutants since the club's first Football League season in 1919-20. Twelve loan players were used. In addition to the 37 players used, four more, Ivor Lawton, Jake Richards, Charles Reece-Cook and Dion Kelly-Evans sat on the bench as substitutes but were not used. On the opening day there were eight debutants equalling the club record set in 2003.
Home-grown players: The team that finished the game at Wycombe in the JPT in September included nine players who came through the Academy. The club record for the most was set in 1981-82 when Dave Sexton fielded ten on a number of occasions.
Records: John Fleck took his total appearances to 139 & is now 92nd on the club's all-time appearance chart, one behind Ian Wallace & four behind Jordan Clarke who reached 143 before his move in the autumn. Only one other player, Conor Thomas, has reached the 100 appearance milestone – he has now played 112 games.
Substitutes: Simeon Jackson made the most substitute appearances (16 league & cup) – whilst Jim O'Brien was the most substituted player. Jim was ‘pulled’ on 17 occasions in 43 league starts and in one cup game. Six substitutes came off the bench and scored: Jackson (Yeovil h), Miller (Bristol City h), Turgott (Peterborough a), Odelusi (Port Vale h & Chesterfield a), Maddison (Crawley a) . Three substitutes were 'subbed' after coming on – Miller (Swindon a), Webster (Leyton O a) & Phillips (Notts County h). In the home game with Chesterfield, City did not use a substitute for the first time in almost three years.
Average attendance: Home 9,332 (2013-14 2,364), up 294% & the seventh highest in League One. Away 7,397 (2013-14 8,651), down 14%. The average since the return to the Ricoh was 9,999 but if the unusually high gate for the Gillingham gate is stripped out the average is 9,134. The club will be hoping that this average will rise next season.
Highest home attendance: The biggest league crowd was 27,306 for the first game back at the Ricoh against Gillingham in September. This was the highest City crowd for four years, since 2010 when over 28,000 watched Leeds play. It was also the biggest night crowd to watch City since 1978. The next highest gate of the season was the 13,983 that attended the final home game against Crewe.
Lowest home attendance: The lowest crowd of the season was 2,279 for the Sixfields game v Sheffield United in August. After the initial euphoria of returning to the Ricoh, attendances slid lower and the lowest league crowd was 6,885 for a midweek game versus Scunthorpe in February – the club's lowest crowd in the city since April 1962. Although with season ticket holders included whether they were present or not, it seemed that there were around 5,000 in the ground that night. The lowest Saturday home crowd at the Ricoh was for the visit of Rochdale in January when 7,606 were present. The crowd of 1,352 for the League Cup game v Cardiff at Sixfields was the club's lowest since the competition started in 1960.
Away followings: For league games City’s away following averaged 1,002 – a decrease of 37% – but still the sixth highest in the division. Away followings were higher in 2013-14 because many fans boycotted home games & would only watch the team away from home. The best following of the season was 3,601 at Milton Keynes, where the team remained unbeaten for the third season running. However, two months later at Oldham there were only 223 City fans, the smallest away following since 2012. Champions Bristol City brought 3,794 fans to the Ricoh in October, the largest away following since March 2012 when Birmingham visited. At the other extreme, Fleetwood brought only 121 fans in December, the lowest following since the Ricoh opened in 2005.
Highest away attendance: The biggest away league crowd was at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane (20,314). Sadly there was no gates to match the 59,451 who watched City at the Emirates the previous season.
Lowest away attendance: The smallest away crowd was at Scunthorpe in September when 2,866, the smallest away league crowd for 12 years watched City slip to defeat. The Fleetwood midweek game in March attracted only 3,017. At Wycombe in the JPT there were only 1,685 present and 520 of them came from Coventry. It was the lowest crowd to watch the Sky Blues in that competition.
Won from behind: (2) City came from behind to win on two occasions versus Peterborough (h) (for the second season running) and in the final game of the season at Crawley. In the Peterborough game the side came from two goals down to win – the first time they have done that since a 3-2 League Cup victory over Tottenham, and 29 years since the last league two goal comeback. On four occasions the team came from behind to get a draw, three of them at home.
Lost from in front: (4) City lost four games from a leading position. In away games at Scunthorpe & Gillingham and at home to Port Vale & Doncaster. In a further four games City took the lead only to be pegged back for draws. At Bramall Lane, in Steven Pressley's final game in charge the team let a two-goal lead slip. 26 points were lost from leading positions which was an improvement on last season's 33 lost points.
Best run: The Sky Blues went unbeaten in six league games in August & September. Ultimately it was the excellent away form under Tony Mowbray that kept the team up – they were unbeaten in the last six away games, with four wins & four clean sheets in a row (the best run of away shut-outs in the club's history).
Worst run: The season contained two disastrous runs of seven league games without victory. From mid-September to the end of October the team won only one point out of 21 & slumped from 5th to 20th in the table. The second poor run, in January & February, saw four out of 21 points gained & culminated in the departure of Pressley.
Hat-tricks: (0) No City player scored a hat-trick but there were 4 braces from Reda Johnson (on his debut), Jim O'Brien, Dominic Samuel & Aaron Phillips. Johnson became the first City defender to score two goals on his debut.
Opposing hat-tricks: (0) No opposing player scored a hat-trick. Several managed two including Bradford's James Hansen, Oldham's Jonathan Forte, Swindon's Andy Williams & Worcester's Sean Geddes. Former City loanee Danny Philliskirk scored in both home and away games against Oldham.
Own goals: For City: (2) Bob Harris (Sheffield U) & Anthony Grant (Crewe).
Own goals: By City: (2) Andy Webster (Fleetwood) & Ryan Haynes (Cardiff LC).
Penalties: For City: (1) City scored just one penalty from five attempts – the worst record in the club's history. Gary Madine was the only successful taker (at Gillingham). The misses came from Tudgay (Walsall a), Madine (Yeovil a), Johnson (Worcester h) & Proschwitz (Crawley a).
Penalties: Against City: (6) Six opposition players netted from the spot. Sheehan (Bradford a), Henderson (Rochdale a), Garner (Preston h), Williams (Swindon h), McDonald (Gillingham a) & Geddes (Worcester h). No opponent missed a penalty.
Fastest Goal scored: 4 minutes: Three players scored in the fourth minute. McQuoid (Barnsley h), O'Brien (Port Vale) & Samuel (Doncaster h).
Fastest Goal conceded: 2 minutes: Doncaster's Andy Butler scored after two minutes in the Christmas away game.
Red cards: Coventry: (5): Johnson (Scunthorpe a), Finch (Crewe a), Barton & Maddison (Doncaster a) & Burge (Worcester h). This is the highest number since 2010-11 but short of the record seven set in 2001-02 & 2002-03. The double sending off at Doncaster was the first since Doyle & Suffo saw red at Preston in 2003-04 & only the fifth time that two City men have been sent off in a game.
Red cards: Opponents: (1) Sheffield United's Jose Baxter was the only opponent sent off, in the game at Bramall Lane.
FA Cup: The embarrassing FA Cup 1st round exit to Worcester City was the first home defeat to a non-league side since Kings Lynn won 2-1 at Highfield Road in 1961.
Bookings: Most yellow cards award went to John Fleck (9) for the second season running, followed by O'Brien (7), Johnson (6) & Conor Thomas (6).
Television: The Sky Blues appeared live on television on three occasions, once at Sixfields against Cardiff in the League Cup, and twice at the Ricoh, against Gillingham & Swindon.
New Grounds: City played at two grounds for the first time, both within four days in March, and won both. They had never visited Chesterfield's new ground, the Proact Stadium, before. The last time City played in the town was in 1960 when Chesterfield played at Saltergate. Four days later City visited Fleetwood's Highbury Stadium for the first time.
Man of the Match: Jim O'Brien won the most of Andy Turner's Man of the Match awards. He won the accolade on seven occasions, John Fleck was second on six, with Aaron Phillips third, with five. Although he started 20 games, Reda Johnson won only one Man of the Match award. His record was amazing- the side only lost three of those 20 games, and we leading in one of those until he was sent off! The team's record in those games was won 8, drew 9, lost 3.
Immutable Law of the Ex: This expression was used many years ago by football writer Brian Glanville to describe the tendency of players to score against their former clubs. This season six former City players have netted against the Sky Blues – which is probably a record. Danny Philliskirk scored in both games for Oldham whilst Jonson Clarke-Harris scored for the second successive season & Michael Doyle, Mark Marshal, Gary McSheffrey & Cody McDonald all hit the mark. The large number of ex-players scoring is symptomatic of the modern game at this level with large percentages of playing squads changing every season increasing the number of ex-City players appearing against the club. Having said that no City players scored against a former club but the club had a large contingent of home-grown players who don't have a former club.
With many thanks to Paul O’Connor.