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HomeNewsMiddlesbrough 0-1 Coventry City (0-1 agg): Sky Blues reach Championship play-off final

Middlesbrough 0-1 Coventry City (0-1 agg): Sky Blues reach Championship play-off final


Coventry City players celebrate reaching the play-off final
Coventry will end a 22-year absence from England’s top flight if they beat Luton at Wembley on 27 May

Coventry City found a way past Middlesbrough in an attritional semi-final second leg to reach the Championship play-off final and keep alive the Sky Blues’ hopes of a Premier League return.

They will face Luton Town in the showpiece decider at Wembley on Saturday, 27 May.

After 147 goalless minutes across both games in a tension-gripped tie low on moments of genuine quality, playmaker Gustavo Hamer delivered an outstanding finish to ultimately settle the contest.

After Boro gave possession away on halfway, Viktor Gyokeres toed the ball into space beyond goalkeeper Zack Steffen on the edge of the box and Hamer took control to arc his shot into the roof of the net with precision.

He almost conjured up a second with a blistering free-kick which smacked the angle of post and bar with Steffen beaten.

That chance, and the subsequent desperation seemed to rally Boro, who saw Riley McGree’s shot blocked in the box as they chased an equaliser, while McGree cut back for Cameron Archer but he could not bring the ball down and get a clean shot away.

Substitute Matt Crooks had the ball in the net, and Boro fans on their feet, with two minutes to go but an offside flag brought their celebrations to a halt.

Eight minutes of added time again prompted the Boro roar, and goalkeeper Ben Wilson had to be alert to tip Isaiah Jones’ searching centre over, while Archer was offside when he hit the bar with a late effort.

Somehow the Sky Blues clung on, keeping their discipline, shape and a clean sheet to book their Wembley spot.

Gustavo Hamer
Gustavo Hamer’s curling shot was measured perfectly beyond a desperate Boro rearguard

Reward for Sky Blues’ faith

In a season of comeback stories within the Championship, such as the revival of fellow finalists Luton and Sunderland’s first campaign back in the second tier, Mark Robins’ Coventry have caught the imagination for their achievement in first reaching the play-offs and now heading to the final.

Robins, who masterminded their rise from League Two to the second tier and signed a new four-year contract on the eve of the second leg, has now put the team within 90 minutes of a first season at Premier League level since 2000-01.

He has done it within a maelstrom of off-field issues – including uncertainty over their CBS Arena home and takeover delays, both now settled – with a team built through shrewd recruitment.

Top scorer Viktor Gyokeres has been a quiet figure over the two legs but his goals were key to driving City to their top-six finish, while match-winner Hamer cost about £1.5m but has been a focal point for Robins’ side with his trickery and passing ability – and a priceless goal.

Stalwarts such as Liam Kelly, a survivor of their League Two promotion campaign in 2017-18, have remained key components, while veteran centre-half Kyle McFadzean’s experience proved vital amid the tension.

Like so many Championship sides, Coventry have turned to top-flight loanees such as Callum Doyle, Brooke Norton-Cuffy and Josh Wilson-Esbrand, and they will have one further game to showcase their talents before returning to their parent clubs.

Carrick’s run ends with Teesside pride

Given both Middlesbrough and Coventry were in the bottom three in October, the fact that both made it to this stage of the season shows the remarkable job done by Michael Carrick on Teesside as well as by Robins in the Midlands.

Unlike Coventry’s show of faith, Boro’s achievement was down to a timely change as Carrick replaced Chris Wilder in October, after they had won only two of their opening 11 games.

Despite being a relative novice as a manager, Carrick’s impact was immediate, winning 16 of his first 23 games in charge to lift the Teessiders up the league table.

Chuba Akpom finished as the Championship’s top scorer with 28 goals, while the loan signings of Cameron Archer and Aaron Ramsey from Aston Villa added a different dimension to the attack and further goals to lighten the load.

However, despite a fantastic home record which only saw three defeats at the Riverside all season, they were unable to avoid that fate against the Sky Blues.

Carrick’s future looks bright with young talent such as Hayden Hackney and Riley McGree in his squad, but whether he can re-sign key loanees such as Ryan Giles, Archer and goalkeeper Steffen could have a say on how they respond next season.

Mark Robins applauds Coventry fans
Mark Robins led Coventry to promotion from League Two in 2018 and from League One two years later

Line-ups

Middlesbrough

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Steffen
  • 14SmithBooked at 16minsSubstituted forDijksteelat 67′minutes
  • 17McNairBooked at 41minsSubstituted forCrooksat 88′minutes
  • 26LenihanBooked at 69mins
  • 3Giles
  • 30Hackney
  • 4MowattSubstituted forBarlaserat 66′minutes
  • 21ForssSubstituted forJonesat 66′minutesBooked at 83mins
  • 29Akpom
  • 8McGree
  • 10Archer

Substitutes

  • 2Jones
  • 6Fry
  • 7Barlaser
  • 15Dijksteel
  • 23Roberts
  • 25Crooks
  • 27Bola

Coventry

Formation 3-5-1-1

  • 13WilsonBooked at 86mins
  • 16McNallyBooked at 73mins
  • 5McFadzeanBooked at 61minsSubstituted forPanzoat 85′minutes
  • 3DoyleBooked at 34mins
  • 7Norton-CuffySubstituted forDaboat 79′minutes
  • 38HamerBooked at 45mins
  • 6Kelly
  • 14SheafSubstituted forEcclesat 70′minutes
  • 27Bidwell
  • 8AllenSubstituted forGoddenat 80′minutes
  • 17GyökeresBooked at 77mins

Substitutes

  • 1Moore
  • 2Panzo
  • 11Wilson-Esbrand
  • 18Maguire
  • 23Dabo
  • 24Godden
  • 28Eccles

Referee:
David Coote

Attendance:
32,154

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