League One preview: Coventry City vs. Millwall

SHAUN Hutchinson could be back for Millwall for their Sky Bet League One fixture at Coventry City this weekend.

Centre-back Hutchinson has missed the Lions’ last three games after suffering a small tear in his calf in the 0-0 draw with Charlton.

Millwall haven’t lost on the road since going down 3-0 to Scunthorpe on December 17.

Whatever about team selections Coventry’s issues go much deeper and they find themselves in a dire situation facing the prospect of playing in the fourth tier next season for the first time since 1959.

They defeated Millwall twice last season in the league – with Shaun Williams sent off in the corresponding fixture in 2015-16 (above) – and missed out on the play-offs by five points, but they are in freefall.

Sky Blues fans have been in dispute with owners, hedge fund company Sisu, whom they say have grossly mis-managed the club and this season has been more notable for protests than results on the pitch.

Their second-round win over Crawley in the Checkatrade Trophy in December was watched by just 1,338, a record-low crowd for a first-team game at the 32,609-cpaacity Ricoh Arena. Their average attendance at the venue has fallen from 21,302 in 2005-06 when they were in the Championship to this season’s 9,162.

Coventry supporters joined Charlton Athletic fans in a ‘pigs might fly’ protest against both clubs’ owners during a League One fixture at the Valley in October.

And last weekend, nine fans were arrested after a pitch invasion and the use of flares during their 3-0 defeat at Northampton which leaves them bottom of League One on 21 points, eight points adrift of safety.

Adam Howells, Dean Thomas and Paul Sulley were three of those involved and now face lifetime bans from the club.

Their statement this week should resonate with Lions fans in light of the threat that has hung over Millwall with the property developer Renewal coveting land around The Den.

In an interview with Coventry Telegraph they said: “All these corporations and rich owners need to remember this is a sport and these teams are the heart of communities. They are not toys and cannot be re-named and moved for fun.

“This is obviously about our personal fight but the problem is so much bigger.

“Football is nothing without fans.”

Coventry may not have a stadium to play in next season and – again Millwall fans will sympathise – the midlands club’s academy is at risk.

Meanwhile a Coventry supporters group called the Sky Blue Trust issued a statement after last Saturday’s disturbances at Sixfields saying they did “not condone anti-social and illegal acts such as the throwing of smoke bombs and multiple pitch invasions.

They added: “We do understand, however, that it was entirely the result of frustration and desperation and that many supporters are simply at the end of their tether, feeling powerless and ignored.

“While peaceful protests and petitions have attracted national attention and sympathy they have seemingly been ignored by Sisu…and this once great club is in now in total disarray and turmoil. To many supporters it appears that nobody is listening and nobody cares.

“The club's owners and management along with the impotent football authorities have apparently shown complete disinterest in the plight of the club and its supporters and this led to the disgraceful scenes in Northampton. It cannot excuse them but does explain them.

“The scenes were ugly but borne of desperation and passion. The Trust urges all fans to keep any protests lawful and ensure these scenes are not repeated.”

It remains to be seen whether Sky Blues fans take heed of that message this weekend.

Millwall record against Coventry:

Played: 72

Won 29 Drawn 14 Lost 29

Form guide:

Coventry: WLLDL

Millwall: WDDWD

Probable Millwall team:

4-4-2: Archer; Cummings, Webster, Cooper, Craig; Onyedinma, Thompson, Williams, O’Brien; Gregory, Morison.

Match odds:

Coventry 9/4 Draw 23/10 Millwall 6/5

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly