Sunday, 7 January 2018

My Forty-First 17/18 Game - Coventry City vs Stoke City

Wow, this is going to be tough to put into words. I had a sneaky suspicion we could set up the apple cart in the days leading up to the Stoke City fixture but the rest of me had dismissed it to natural nerves. However this gave us a nice distraction from the league where we've got a make or break run coming up, facing Premier League opposition is a great way to ourselves into shape ahead of it. Plus, who doesn't love the FA Cup?

Coventry City Starting XI:

O'Brien

Grimmer
Willis
Davies
Stokes

Maguire-Drew
Bayliss
Doyle
Shipley

McNulty
Biamou

Coventry City Substitutes:

Burge
Hyam
Haynes
Maycock
Stevenson
Finn
Ponticelli

Whilst Josh Barrett is apparently a couple of weeks away from full fitness and being ready to play, our other new loan signing Jordan Maguire-Drew replaced Devon Kelly-Evans to make his debut. The rest of the side remained the same to the New Years Day victory over Chesterfield bar one, Liam O'Brien started ahead of Lee Burge in goal. I couldn't get my head around this one, Burge played the first two rounds and has been in outstanding form so why drop him against top flight opponents for someone with little match time who squandered his chance at the start of the season.

First Half

Early on in the stands we were just happy for every 5 minutes we went without conceding, the small hope was dashed when we saw the strength of the visiting Stoke side. We appeared to be coping well however, in fact their first real chance didn't come until 10 minutes in a chipped ball over the top fooled our defence and left Diouf through on goal. His effort beat the outcoming O'Brien but Jordan Willis scampered back to get his boot to it and hoof the danger away off the line.

We weren't allowing them to walk all over us, we were having chances going forward ourselves, but Biamou was struggling to do his usual aerial work against Kurt Zouma. He got a beaten to a brilliant Maguire-Drew cross by that counterpart where the smallest touch could have carried it past Jack Butland. Barely a minute later and the Frenchman was teed up by Marc McNulty, this time he did get a shot away but there was a crucial deflection which took it out for a corner.

The corner was played into the far post, Tom Davies leapt up and nodded back across goal, his defensive partner Jordan Willis was there lurking, he too jumped up to head the ball, but this time, it nestled in the top corner. We were all left in raptures, yes we'd played well, but we certainly didn't deserve to be leading, after all this was our first real chance of the match. Personally I just stood there with my mouth open wide trying to understand what we'd just done, I say stood, everyone was being mobbed by each other celebrating, mainly in the direction of the Stoke fans. In quite a funny exchange, both sets of supporters were singing "Sacked in the morning" in the direction of Mark Hughes.

We weren't even done here, for a Premier League side Stoke were extremely poor defensively, careless passes were allowing us in. One pass out from the back was hit right at the heel of an unsuspecting Charlie Adam and it fell right in the path of Tom Bayliss, he jogged forward unchallenged and weighted a brilliant pass through to McNulty. He took the ball round Butland with his touch, leaving a tight-angled, yet open goal to put the ball away. It was always going against him, but in his form I was a bit surprised to see it trickle along the goal line rather than go into the back of the net.

Less than a minute he got an almost exactly similar chance when Biamou intercepted a shocking Geoff Cameron pass and slid Sparky through once more, this chance was slightly harder and England International Butland did very well to keep it our before it was cleared off the line. The Potters were lucky it didn't fall to Biamou or Shipley whom were running in ready, and they were even more lucky that they were only a goal down at the break at the hands of the completely dominant League Two side, it feels weird saying that...

Half Time - Coventry City 1-0 Stoke City

Second Half

It was always going to be a long and tough 45 minutes, Peter Crouch was introduced almost straight from the off and we looked a bit scared of him for the first 10 minutes. Ramadan had ventured into the box and was proceeding down the left, he looked to be about to put a cross in at the byline when Jordan Willis slid in and brought him down. It was a stone wall penalty, the exact kind they'd show you in referee school, and Charlie Adam sent O'Brien the wrong way to put us back to square one with most of the half still yet to play.

I was expecting that to be it, we'd either cling on for a draw or the top flight side would assert their dominance by snatching a couple more goals to crush our dreams. How wrong I was. Crouch nearly gave Stoke the lead with his snapshot effort but it hit the side netting. We cut Maguire-Drew's debut short to bring on Ben Stevenson in a move I really thought was to aid us playing out for the draw. However just 5 minutes later it all changed.

Jack Grimmer advanced into space, Tom Bayliss ran off down the right, Joe Allen and Kevin Wimmer both assumed the other would go to Grimmer and left him a huge gap. By the time Stephen Ireland could get there he was ready to put a cross in from the edge of the area, or so Butland thought, instead he tried his luck from distance, catching everyone out and finding the bottom corner. I was so shocked, more so than when Willis scored, because we'd barely had any chances since the equaliser, but to then come out and do that was magnificent.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Maxim Chuopo-Moting were brought on for Stoke to try and save Mark Hughes' job whilst we introduced the far superior Ryan Haynes onto the field, taking Jordan Shipley's left-wing place. It really was a backs against the wall final 10 minutes, blocks were flying in every where, it was nearly good night when O'Brien tripped over another City player but Davies saved his skin by blocking off the line.

Bodies were being thrown at the ball, Crouch chested down and forced a magnificent save out of the keeper, and there was a pinball madness not long after where we managed the block 4 shots in 10 seconds. Time was ticking down really slowly, but as we edged closer to the final whistle, the feeling that we could actually do it got greater and greater. Eventually, after a few more headers and poor shots, we were uplifted by that beautiful high pitched sound, sending us through to the Fourth Round of the cup.



Full Time - Coventry City 2-1 Stoke City

I am still in an absolute state of shock a day later, we were magnificent from start to finish, and our reward will be revealed on Monday Night in the Fourth Round Draw, live from the Ricoh Arena. I really don't know what I want, Liverpool away would be great, as would Tottenham, or even Leicester at home. We all know it's going to be a nice four hour trip down to Yeovil for us at the end of the month. Speaking of four hour trips, Exeter away is huge on Saturday, bigger than this as much as we might not want to admit it.

My Man of the Match - Jack Grimmer - You could easily make a case for everyone on the pitch, and it would have almost certainly been Willis had he not made the mistake of giving the penalty away. I've gone for Grimmer because not only did he score a stunning winner, but he also had to cope with the likes of Shaqiri and Ramadan on that flank for a lot of the match. He did it perfectly, he's probably my player of the season so far.

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