The English Checkatrade Trophy gets very serious this week when the first semi-final between crisis club Coventry and Wycombe takes place at the former’s Ricoh Arena.
Coventry is bottom of English League One when it began the 21st century in the English Premier League. Recently, well known Coventry supporter Richard Keys tweeted that the Sky Blues are without hope because of what is happening on and off the pitch and it is impossible to disagree with the television presenter. Coventry is a shambles from top to bottom and oblivion is infinitely more probable than a return to the English Premier League in the future.
Russell Slade, who has been Coventry boss since just before Christmas, has had the gloss knocked off his resume since he quit Leyton Orient in 2014, performing below expectations at Cardiff and Charlton. Slade is urging Coventry fans to get behind their team but he is on record as saying that the English Checkatrade Trophy is of secondary importance to English League One. Coventry is eight points adrift of English League One safety and its next divisional game is away to fellow relegation candidate Oldham on Saturday. With such a big English League One match on the horizon, will Slade elect to rest players for Wycombe’s Tuesday visit?
Surely that is a strong possibility, not that Slade has a heap of talent from which to choose. Coventry is 0-2-11 in its last 13 English League One games since it posted a 2-0 home win over second-bottom Chesterfield in early November. Excluding the English Checkatrade Trophy, a competition that many sides have not taken seriously, Coventry has won just one of its last 16 matches, including exiting the English FA Cup 0-4 at English National League team Cambridge.
A trip to Wembley Stadium is up for grabs and, such is the mess in which Coventry finds itself, one cannot countenance backing the Sky Blues at favourite odds. Wycombe is trading at +122 with Marathonbet to reach the English Checkatrade Trophy and the same bookmaker is listing odds of +232 about the Chairboys qualifying by virtue of a normal-time win. One is picking Wycombe to take care of business in 90 minutes.
Wycombe is sixth on the English League Two ladder and, after losing 2-4 at home to Coventry in the English Checkatrade Trophy group stage – one is not concerned about it because both sides, particularly the Chairboys, fielded reverse teams – Gareth Ainsworth’s men strung together 16 unbeaten games before going oh so close to eliminating Tottenham from the English FA Cup. Wycombe led Tottenham 3-2 with 89 minutes on the clock only to lose 3-4 at White Hart Lane because Spurs scored a couple of late, late goals.
Buzzing following its 1-0 English League Two home defeat of promotion rival Portsmouth on Saturday, Wycombe is more likely to field its strongest possible line-up than its host. And, after almost taking the scalp of Tottenham two weeks ago, Wycombe may be more focused on a potential Wembley Stadium appearance than its troubled opponent.
For the record, Wycombe made eight changes to its previous starting side when it entertained Coventry in the English Checkatrade Trophy preliminaries, whereas the Sky Blues – then under the stewardship of Mark Venus – made six switches. Wycombe led 1-0 at half time and it should have been further in front having hit the woodwork and missed an open goal. Coventry made three changes at the interval and, although the Sky Blues fell 0-2 behind in the 51st minute, they rallied to win 4-2, helped by three goals in nine minutes as Wycombe’s second stringers ran out of gas.
Wycombe to beat Coventry
Tuesday 7th February, 19:30 GMT