Oxford United 1 Coventry City 2
Coventry City lifted the Checkatrade Trophy at Wembley this afternoon with a 2-1 win over Oxford United. Goals from Gael Bigiramana and George Thomas saw Mark Robins' side lift the trophy despite a Liam Sercombe goal setting up a grandstand finish in front of almost 75,000 fans.
Wembley finals almost demand brilliant sunshine and on a scorching afternoon with over 70,000 people inside the yellow and sky-blue bowl, the ground looked a picture. It took a while, understandably, for the two League 1 sides to settle and get the ball down but the early pace was frenetic and after just 11 minutes we had a game on as Coventry stole an early lead. Stuart Beavon hooked a volley at goal that struck Curtis Nelson and fell kindly for Bigirimana who reacted quickly to shuffle the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to make it 1-0.
With the Coventry fans in full voice United faced a big test but responded well and started to build real pressure to dominate the rest of the first half. A Chey Dunkley header was flicked by Lundstram but trickled wide off a grateful Coventry body and both Phil Edwards and Marvin Johnson started to find space on the flanks as they gamely joined the attack from full back. There should have been a penalty when Hemmings was shoulder barged in the back on 31 minutes and some of the approach play was outstanding as United switched the play all over the lush green pitch. All that was missing was a genuine chance to test Lee Burge in the Coventry goal, who didn't have a real save to make in the first half, Rob Hall clipping a 42nd minute wide with the last half chance. Burge made up for that after the break...
Patience has been a key part of United's success under Michael Appleton; they often come on strong in the final quarter of games as their fitness starts to shine through. Given the heat and the occasion there was no need to panic but a second goal ten minutes into the second half left them with a sky-blue mountain to climb. Thomas threatened that on 50 as he tore clear but was thwarted by Dunkley, while a similar break at the other end was thwarted by an accidental back heel from Kane Hemmings as he tried to tee up a shot.
However, when a Kyel Reid cross on 55 picked out Thomas he showed how to finish as he twisted to create a yard of space then fired low and true past the despairing dive of Eastwood to make it 2-0.
Suddenly United needed an added urgency. Hall finally made Burge save at his near post with a powerful effort on the hour mark and the tempo started to rise as they did their best to give their superb 30,000 fans something to cheer. Understandably, Coventry chased and harried every single touch while also taking time out of the game at every opportunity. Maguire forced Burge into a good save with a 73rd-minute free kick, Dunkley nodded a header over on 72 and a goal was on the cards.
It came on 75 when Sercombe, always such a goal threat from midfield, let fly from the edge of the box after a Maguire corner. The ball flew through the legs of Hemmings to give Burge no chance as it flashed into the bottom left corner. Could the U's still claw their way back?
Without the ineligible Conor McAleny and Toni Martinez they had few attacking options on the bench but they poured forward and tension grew by the second. Sercombe almost wriggled clear again on 84 but Coventry were happy to camp inside their own half and try and see it through. Five tortuous minutes of added time couldn't produce an equaliser, despite an almighty scramble that saw Burge make a terrific save from sub Josh Ruffels and then Maguire and Eastwood (yes, Eastwood) unable to force the rebound home. For the second year the U's were the bridesmaids rather than the Trophy brides.
It has been a great adventure. Losing at Wembley will hurt this young United squad but they had given their all and will learn, grow and go again. Be part of the journey...
Report by Chris Williams
Pics by Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
See highlights and reaction in Yellow Player HD