Coventry City 2 Oxford United 1: Checkatrade triumph a welcome day in the sun for long-suffering Sky Blues fans

Telegraph Sport
Coventry's goascoers Gael Bigirimana and George Thomas celebrate with the EFL Checkatrade Trophy - Getty Images Europe

Mark Robins felt Coventry proved they are still “alive and kicking” after their Wembley triumph over Oxford.

Goals from Gaël Bigirimana and George Thomas helped troubled City to lift the Checkatrade Trophy in front of a 74,434 crowd.

Bigirimana’s goal capped a memorable weekend for the 23-year-old after his wife, Natalia, gave birth to their first daughter, Eden, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Coventry’s victory provided a bright spot to a dark season for the Sky Blues, who look certain to be relegated to League Two.

Robins, City’s fourth manager this term, said: “That surpassed everything, the experience was phenomenal. I’ve experienced winning at Wembley as a player and that was one of the best football ­experiences I’ve had.

“It means everything to the supporters, it’s 30 years since they came to Wembley and won and it was really important to show the world that we are alive and kicking.

George Thomas celebrates his goal  Credit: Rex Fetaures

“It gives everyone that reminder that we have that really good fan base. We have to move forward and make sure it is the best we can be.”

Coventry, led out by 1987 FA Cup final-winning goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic, went ahead when Jordan Willis floated in a cross which was met on the volley by Stuart Beavon. Oxford defender Chey Dunkley blocked the shot but Bigirimana fired home the loose ball.

Robins said: “He didn’t travel down with us and joined up with us at about 4pm. It was touch and go whether he would be here.”

Rob Hall stabbed Oxford’s best chance of the first half wide, and 10 minutes after the break Thomas doubled City’s lead, the 20-year-old winger controlling Kyel Reid’s cross with a superb first touch and volleying home with his second.

Coventry's players lift the trophy at Wembley Credit: Rex Features

With 15 minutes left substitute Liam Sercombe fired through a sea of bodies and into the corner to raise hopes of an Oxford comeback.

And in a frantic finish City keeper Lee Burge saved from Josh Ruffels, with Bigirimana clearing Phil Edwards’ follow-up off the line, to clinch the victory.

Oxford boss Michael Appleton conceded the underdogs – 27 points behind them in League One – were deserved winners.

“You can imagine the feeling is a sense of real frustration after working as hard as we did to get here and the teams we beat along the way,” he said.

“It was decided in both boxes, and Coventry had more desire to keep the ball out of the net than we did.

“When you want to win finals that’s the sort of desire you need. They were putting their bodies on the line and were not going to concede a goal easily.”

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