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.