Monday, 18 January 2016

My Twenty-Fourth 15/16 Game - Crewe Alexandra vs Coventry City

 I wasn't meant to be at this game, I was meant to be at Upton Park to see West Ham play Liverpool, only because I haven't been to Upton Park so this season is the last chance to go, but tickets weren't available, and where else to go than support the Sky Blues away at Crewe, we were in desperate need of a win and Crewe were perfect opposition to try and get ourselves back on track for a chance at automatic promotion.

 Charles-Cook started in goal, with Phillips, Ricketts, Stokes and Haynes in defence, the normal holding midfielder partnership of Fleck and Vincelot began the match. In what could have been his last game, Joe Cole started as one of the CAMs alongside Murphy and Maddison with Adam Armstrong as the lone striker. It could also have been Gael Bigirimana's last game as his loan ran out on January 3rd as well as Cole's.

 Less than a minute into the match and Cole had a chance through on goal which he spooned over the bar. The deadlock however was broken on 10 minutes when Jacob Murphy thread through Adam Armstrong who smashed home to put the Sky Blues 1-0 up, a great goal early on, the perfect start to the game. 15 minutes later Jacob Murphy found himself on the right wing with Fleck screaming for the ball, Murphy ignored him, cut in and side footed in to the top corner to make it 2-0.

 Romain Vincelot of all people was running down the right side just 2 minutes later only to be 'brought down' by Marcus Haber in the area, and I say brought down in that way because to me it looked like  tiny little bit of a dive, but hey, it worked, Armstrong and Maddison almost fought for the spot kick but ultimately it was Arma who smashed past the keeper to make it 3-0 after just 30 minutes.

 We weren't even done here, Armstrong chased down and managed to steal the ball off of the Crewe right back, he ran down the line and slotted home to not only make it 4-0, but complete his hat trick. This wasn't even the first time we were 4 goals up at half time this season, Gillingham at home being the other occasion. The perfect first half performance from the Sky Blues.

 Armstrong could have got his fourth early on in the second half but missed a sitter from 5 yards. Let's ignore that and focus on the hat-trick he's been promising all season and has finally delivered. Interesting fact - before Murphy's hat-trick against Gillingham, the last 3 goals that were scored by one player for the Sky Blues was Freddy Eastwood in 2009, and now we have 2 in 45 days.

 Ryan Kent came on as a substitute for what would be his last appearance before being recalled by Liverpool. Hat-trick hero Armstrong's future still hung in the balance, no one knew what his fete would be but this sort of performance as well as Newcastle's poor form can't help our chances. With 5 minutes remaining Jacob Murphy made it five with a brilliant strike to the far post to round off an amazing performance, possibly my favourite of the season.

 Everyone played incredibly, what a game. The 25th 'A View From The Stands' is something sifferent to usual, you may already be able to guess what it is that's coming, but afterwards I will resume schedule with the Walsall home game, a huge one to say the least.

My Man Of The Match - Adam Armstrong - Let's hope and pray we keep this man until the end of the season, he is vital. He's the top scorer and this is his fourth award, putting him in the lead by one, ahead of Ruben Lameires.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My Twenty-Third 15/16 Game - Chesterfield vs Coventry City

 So I'm still behind by miles and for which I apologise to all none of you that actually read this, but just 2 days after our late winner at home to Port Vale, we carried on in the busy Christmas period to face Chesterfield in the first reverse fixture of the season, this meant it was the halfway point in the season, and whilst there is still a lot of football left to play, we are very much looking good for promotion.

 Now due to the 2nd fixture in 3 days, we understandably had to rotate the squad quite a lot, Charles-Cook still began in goal, Phillips, Ricketts, Stokes and Haynes were the unusual back four, Fleck returned to the starting eleven alongside his trusted partner Vincelot, thinking Joe Cole could play 2 games 2 days apart will make you a madman so we played the attacking front 3 of Kent, Maddison got his first start since the injury and O'Brien also started. Marc-Antoine Fortune was the loan striker while the higher scoring and lets face it better striker Adam Armstrong was on the bench.

 As we pretty much annihilated Chesterfield in the return fixture but only managing to win 1-0, I fully expected us to put in a repeat performance, on that occasion Ryan Kent picked up the MOTM award from me as he as put in a phenomenal performance. Early on into the game Ian Evatt picked up an injury and was subbed off for Lee Novak.

 A silly handball was given away in a dangerous area by Chris Stokes, Jay O'Shea whipped the ball in and it was the substitute Novak who got the faintest touch to take the ball past Charles-Cook and in to the top corner, no saving it, and we were 1-0 down to a team who hadn't scored in 8 hours of football. Late on in the half John Fleck tested the keeper twice, forcing 2 good saves. Which took the game into half time.

Not long in to the second period and James Maddison got brought down on the edge of the box and then was involved in a clash with defender Sam Morsy, he dealt with it calmly but both players still managed to pick up bookings. From the resulting free kick it was Maddison who struck into the wall, a wasted opportunity from such a distance.

 As time ticked down the 2,600 supporting city fans became increasingly frustrated when Tony Mowbray held off bringing on top goal scorer Adam Armstrong until the 65th minute when he replaced Fortune, Ryan Kent also made way for Jacob Murphy, he adds some flare to the game but can be accused of laziness at times.

 In one last attacking roll of the dice Marcus Tudgay came on for Aaron Phillips with 10 minutes remaining, we carried on pressing, in almost a repeat of the earlier incident James Maddison got brought down on the edge of the box, he had another chance at a free kick in the 89th minute. He struck the ball so sweetly, it flew in to the top corner, 1-1. Around 100 fans entered the pitch I  the excitement, one of them was involved in an altercation with the keeper.

 All fans were ushered off, one arrested, and we were pressing on trying to get the winner, Armstrong and Tudgay both had chances but the goals never game. A draw is a poor result against this type of team, realistically we have to win these games if we want automatic promotion, but this game takes us into the second half of the season, and wraps up 2015, the first 'A View From The Stands' of 2016 is our away trip to Crewe, a huge game in which we were in need of 3 points desperately.

My Man Of The Match - James Maddison - he may have scouts sniffing around him, but he certainly didn't buckle under pressure, the free kick capped of a great performance, he could have had many awards by now but his injury means that this is his first of hopefully many.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

My Twenty-Second 15/16 Game - Coventry City vs Port Vale

The famous Boxing Day fixture had once more come around and the Sky Blues faced Port Vale at home, and in the week leading up to the game there had been a few big events in the Sky Blue world. The first was the confirmation that Ben Turner would be sent back to Cardiff as Ankle surgery was needed. The second was the signing of Seattle Sounders midfielder Andy Rose whom joins on January 2nd, he will provide good back up for Fleck and Vincelot, he may even push for a starting place.

 The third and in my opinion most important is the extension of our stay at the Ricoh Arena until the end of the 17/18 season, if, and it's a big if, by then we establish ourselves as a good Championship side then Wasps may want to sell us half the stadium, but hopefully that will be the case. As James Maddison was back from injury, rumours had been going around that big dogs such as Arsenal or Liverpool were keeping tabs on him.

 Maddison himself began on the bench as he was still easing back into full fitness, Charles-Cook began in goal, in front of him were the solid back four of Phillips, Martin, Ricketts and Stokes. John Fleck missed out again so Vincelot played alongside Bigirimana as the holding midfielders, out of the many attacking midfielders we have on this occasion we chose Lameires, Cole and Murphy to begin the match.

 Now to be completely honest, the first half wasn't the most eventful thing in the world, the one major chance came for he visitors when after a poor backward pass Leitch-Smith found himself through on goal but Charles-Cook got his fingertips to the drilled shot to take it on to the post. Wonderful save from Cookie Monster who in recent weeks has been slated. Other than that there weren't many other clear cut chances for either side to break the deadlock.

 We were neither playing good nor entertaining football and we really needed to get the goal as this game was vital to our season, as most are recently. Mowbray needed words at halftime to give us the second half drive for the win, and to make a couple of subs maybe. Either way, we came out for the second half unchanged but looked to have picked up the tempo.

 It took 72 minutes for our first and second substitutions, Joe Cole was replaced by Jim O'Brien while Maddison took over the number 10 role from Lameires. This was Maddison's home return and he was definitely putting in a good performance to please the largest attendance of the season, 17,779 fans on the day with just over 1,200 Port Vale fans following.

 The hard work finally paid off when with 10 minutes remaining James Maddison left 2 defenders for dead and smashed home into the bottom far corner from a good 25 yards. He was so happy he didn't know what to do but eventually ran to Tony Mowbray and celebrated with him, closely followed by his jubilant team mates. This goal set off a few sparks between fans and Port Vale fans had to be stopped by police and stewards from starting fights.

 A nervy last few minutes of the game where the visitors were denied a couple of penalty shouts but in the end we didn't make the same mistake as the previous week and prevailed as 1-0 winners.  A very hard fought win which on other days we wouldn't have got the momentum to grab that all important goal.

 A great way to mark the halfway point of the season, if we can get out of this little blip we've been having then I could see us making the automatic promotion spots. The 23rd 'A View From The Stands' is our away trip to Chesterfield, another huge game, but as I've said, from here on in they are all massive.

My Man Of The Match - Reice Charles-Cook - Put it this way, if he hadn't have made that save early on then I don't think we would have got anything out of the game, but he still managed the clean sheet despite all that was being thrown at him toward the end of the match.