2nd in the league and entering a top of the table clash, we needed to all pull together to try and get a good result against the league leaders. Since Colchester we have made two forays into the transfer market, bringing back 2 former city players and fan favourites Ben Turner and Gael Bigirimana on loan until January 3rd. We had also extended the loan deal of Joe Cole until the same day, giving him more time to gain fitness and hopefully play more games and contribute to the team more.
Since we now have 6 loan players, and only 5 can be in the match squad at any one time, it was Joe Cole that drew the short straw and missed out. I never thought I'd see the day that Joe Cole would struggle to get in to a Coventry City side, but in all seriousness, we had fielded a very strong side for such a huge game. Charles-Cook started in net, with Ricketts and Stokes at the full back positions. Ben Turner made his debut for his second spell at the Sky Blues partnered with Aaron Martin. Bigirimana didn't mange to break into the first team upon his comeback so Fleck and Vincelot played once more.
Ryan Kent returned from international duty to play along side Jim O'Brien and the in form Jacob Murphy shadowing Adam Armstrong who also came back from representing England Under 19s. Returning to the Ricoh were ex-city strikers Dominic Samuel and Cody McDonald but this time were playing for Gillingham. So, many returns in what promised to be a cracker of a match, and it did not disappoint to say the last.
The game began with the Sky Blues on top in my opinion. But we couldn't make the final ball into the box to get the upper hand, the game really kicked off on the 30th minute when Armstrong bolted down the left wing and crossed the ball in for Jacob Murphy who had an easy tap in chance but somehow managed to put it wide. I was afraid that this may lower his confidence and we might live to rue this miss, and it looked as if this would be the case when Cody McDonald won a header from a Gillingham corner and it was flying into the top corner but the captain Ricketts managed to head it away.
From the same corner, we managed to break and after a defensive mistake Jacob Murphy found himself running through on goal with Armstrong to his right but he wasn't needed, Murphy rounded the keeper and even though it wasn't the cleanest of finishes, they all count and we were 1-0 up on 34 minutes. This was the point in which the floodgates really opened and less than 2 and a half minutes later Ryan Kent won a corner which he himself floated in the box for Reda Johnson's replacement Ben Turner to head home to give us a more comfortable lead on his Ricoh return.
We carried on pressing and another 4 minutes later Jim O'Brien split open the Gillingham defence with a killer pass through to Murphy whom, in almost identical fashion to his first, rounded the keeper and scored on his left peg, this time a lot smoother and from slightly further out. We still weren't finished even now, just before half time Chris Stokes found some pace from somewhere and crossed it to the edge of the 6-yard box where Jacob Murphy was waiting, ready to smash past the keeper for his hat trick.
As half time came around, somehow, in 10 minutes, we had scored 4 goals and Jacob Murphy had a hat trick in as many minutes. It was an incredible first half, I assumed we would take our foot off the gas given our comfortable lead, but not let them get any early goals back, keep a clean sheet if possible. Into the 2nd half and we almost made it 5 when Armstrong was played through by Kent but could only manage to hit the outside of the right post.
After the miss we got caught out, Bradley Dack found the ball on the edge of the box and with a slight deflection, Gills had themselves a consolation. We made a couple of substitutions after this to tighten up perhaps, Ben Turner made way for Phillips, I'm sure he didn't expect this kind of debut. Also, Bigirimana made his second debut in the Sky Blue shirt when he replaced Hat trick scoring stand out player Jacob Murphy. A brilliant effort from him and the rest of the team had secured us the win as we played out the remaining minutes without any huge talking points.
A massive win in such a massive fixture took us top of the pile by 3 points. The result was all the more sweet as Burton were defeated and Walsall drew at home to Sheffield United, giving us breathing space at the top. The 18th 'A View From The Stands' will be our home game against Doncaster as I'm not able to make our mid week trip to Bradford.
My Man Of The Match - Jacob Murphy - Funnily enough, his hat trick is enough to warrant him his 2nd award in 2 weeks. I wasn't his biggest fan to begin with but he has definitely got back into my good books... This puts him in the now group of 3 players on 2 awards, all chasing Adam Armstrong on 3.