With both sides struggling at the wrong end of the table in early April, this had relegation-dogfight-sixpointer writ in bold, italicised and highlighted in large font very clearly for all to see. An evening fixture brought out a sizeable away following to Highfield Road as we believed that a win would drag the Sky Blues into the perilous situation that we were experiencing.
In retrospect, we were up against it from the start. Hugely ineffectual back post header specialist Gareth Taylor somehow ended up with the captain’s armband and as he led the team out, he went to the fans to acknowledge and applaud their support: a worthy gesture. However, it might well have counted for more if he had directed this towards the Forest fans, as opposed to the Sky Blue fans. It was only a brief moment, perhaps missed by most but on realising his error, he laughed at his own muppetry and told a teammate. Oh how we laughed long with him stood in the cramped Highfield Road stand.
The tone was set. The damage was done.
Gary McSheffrey slotted home a deserved penalty and Dele Adebloa waltzed past Chris Doig and Andy Melville as if they weren’t there (in many ways, they weren’t) to double the advantage. And all this before half time.
The game was up. We offered nothing. Once again, the towel had been thrown in. There was no coming back from such a demoralising defeat and although relegation wasn’t confirmed until the penultimate game against QPR, in many ways, this was the game that sealed our fate and meant that Gary Megson would have the dubious honour of being the first manager to take the twice European champions outside of the top two domestic leagues.
Some achievement that.
How the Coventry fans must long for a repeat of such evenings. Whatever constitutes that most elusive of things - a ‘proper football man’ – Highfield Road had it in spades and although it was the setting for this particularly gruesome scene, it is a place that I miss. It was also the scene of a formative away day experience at a tender age, which saw us canter to a comfortable 3-0 win back in 1987 while we stood in the rain in a corner. The most ordinarily and unfootballernamed Terry Wilson scored a goal.
Happier times for all concerned.