Tony Mowbray’s Coventry City face the short trip to Vale Park on Sunday as they face Port Vale in a League One clash. With the January transfer window now firmly shut, both sides will be hoping that their current crop of players can mount a charge during the remainder of the season.
The two sides last met on Boxing Day at the Ricoh Arena and it was The Sky Blues that came reigned supreme. A James Maddison strike proved the difference on that occasion, but Vale will be hoping to gain revenge on their own soil. Victory would be welcomed by both sets of supporters, but Coventry’s away following will be desperate to halt a run of three defeats.
Port Vale have been in fairly mixed form of late, although they did claim a 1-0 win at home to Swindon Town on Tuesday night. In their last five fixtures, Rob Page’s outfit have won 2, drew 1 and lost 2. Their recent victory made it 10 games unbeaten at home in League One, and they now sit in 8th place with 43 points.
One thing that has been difficult for The Valiants is scoring goals, with them only finding the net 34 times. Defensively, they have been relatively consistent and they have conceded 35 goals, giving them a goal difference of -1. They’ll be hoping for three points this weekend as success could lift them into the play-off places.
The Sky Blues are enduring a difficult spell at the moment and they have now lost three consecutive games. Overall, during the past five outings they have recorded 1 win, 1 draw and 3 losses to hand them 4 points from a possible 15. Despite a brilliant start to 2016 winning 5-0 away to Crewe Alexandra, Coventry have now dropped to 5th position.
Opposition teams have started nullifying the likes of Adam Armstrong and City have only scored once in their last three games as a result. Conceding has also posed a real problem and 7 goals have have gone against the side in the same length of time.
The Valiants will be without Enoch Andoh for Sunday’s clash as he has been ruled out until the end of the season. The winger was attracting interest from Tottenham Hotspur prior to the injury that he suffered in Vale’s away fixture with Colchester United. Ryan McGiven will be available after serving a one-match suspension, however, Ryan Inniss could continue in the heart of defence after impressing during the win over Swindon in midweek.
Former Coventry man Chris Birchall is sidelined with a knee problem but Michael O’Connor is back in edging towards a return after missing the last two ties. Other than that, there isn’t a lot of news regarding Vale’s squad and Rob Page could name the same eleven whom started last time out. A 4-4-2 formation has been the preference this season and it has proved successful thus far.
Coventry City welcomed two new additions to their playing squad on transfer deadline day and they were both brought in to strengthen a leaky defence. Baily Cargill joined on loan from AFC Bournemouth whilst Jack Stephens made the temporary switch from Southampton. Both players will be vying for a starting berth, but the likelihood is that only one of them will begin the match.
John Fleck also returns from suspension to the delight of supporters, and James Maddison will be in contention after his new club Norwich City have agreed a deal to keep the youngster on loan at the Ricoh Arena until the end of the season. Darius Henderson could also make his debut after the experienced forward signed for the club on Friday. Absentees for The Sky Blues are Reda Johnson, Aaron Martin, Jordan Willis, Conor Thomas and Ivor Lawton as they are all recovering from injuries. Romain Vincelot will also be unavailable after being sent off versus Scunthorpe.
Three To Watch:
The 22-year old shot stopper began his career at Newcastle United, progressing through the youth system with The Magpies. During his younger days he also represented England at both under-17 and under-18 level, gaining a reputation as a promising up and coming goalkeeper.
After signing a professional deal at St. James’ Park in the summer of 2008, Alnwick found it difficult to break into the first team. A loan deal was agreed during the 2011-12 season and he joined non-league Gateshead United where he went on to make 6 league and 3 FA Cup appearances. A temporary spell at Bradford City was also had in March 2015 but it was unsuccessful.
Newcastle then released him in the summer of the same year after he had only registered 6 appearances for the Premier League side. Port Vale subsequently took a chance on him and snapped him up on a free transfer. He has proved to be a brilliant signing as he has cemented a starting position and Coventry will have to be in fine form to breach his goal.
Anthony Grant is another product of a Premier League academy as he rose through the ranks at Chelsea. He made his debut for the club in 2005 but it proved to be the only time that he’d wear the famous blue shirt. A brief loan spell at Oldham Athletic soon came about but he was then sent to gain experience at Wycombe Wanderers where he chalked up 40 appearances during the 2006-07 season.
One final loan move occurred in 2008 as he hooked up with Southend United, after making a handful of outings he then made the deal permanent in the summer. A further 4 years were spent at the club and he made 184 appearances before opting to move to Stevenage in July 2012. One season was then spent with the then League One side before he transferred again, this time to Crewe Alexandra.
Most people will know the midfielder from his spell at Gresty Road, and he soon became a favourite for The Railwaymen. Despite Crewe’s failures, he was a standout player and a couple of impressive seasons were had before he joined his current club prior to this season getting underway. The 28-year old’s physicality and technical ability make him a handful for opposition defences.
Leitch-Smith is a striker that is familiar with life in League One after he developed via Crewe Alexandra’s academy setup. He signed his first professional contract with the club in March 2009 after impressing during loan stints at Halifax Town and Newcastle Town. Soon after, however, he went out on loan again making 18 appearances for Icelandic side IBV before being recalled due to injury problems at Gresty Road.
Despite the decision to bring him back to Crewe, he only made a single appearance during the 2009-10 season and this warranted another temporary move to Curzon Ashton. He scored 7 goals in only 10 outings for the Northern Premier League club and he was rewarded with a fresh contract by Alexandra.
He then remained at Crewe until 2014 until leaving to join Yeovil after clocking up over a century of games with The Railwaymen. His time at Huish park was frustrating though and after being played out of position, he only managed to score twice in the 2014-15 season and was released as a result. Port Vale were then the side to acquire his services and he is currently the top scorer at the club. His natural athleticism and work rate allows him to torment defenders and he’ll be looking to add to his goal tally on Sunday.
The Sky Blues’ Camp – Tony Mowbray:
“I’m looking forward to this weekend, playing against a team who have only lost once at home this season.”
“Maybe we have to have a change in personnel, maybe a big centre-forward to give us a physical presence in the box and we’re going to address that.”
“Port Vale will defend well and don’t worry too much about dominating the ball. They’ll be similar to Southend I would say. If they saw that game I am sure their eyes would have lit up.”
View From The Opposition – Ryan Inniss:
“We go into all games with confidence but at home, there’s something special that hopefully we’re building there.”
“We’ve got great form at home, it must be one of the best in the division off the top of my head but we take it game by game.”
“Coventry will be a good test for us but we’ve beat many a team at home so with the fans behind us we can go and get another good result.”
With Walsall securing another three points during the midweek fixtures, the gap between us and 2nd place now stands at 8 points and it’s compulsory that we start winning again if we want to challenge. We’ve suffered three defeats in a row and this has disheartened some supporters, as has the sale of James Maddison to Norwich City.
The gloomy outlook is fairly understandable, but we’ve got to realise how good the season has been so far. Who would have expected us to be in the promotion race after last season’s tribulations? Granted, the recent form is not good enough and we need to snap out of it promptly, but there are still 51 points to play for.
This fixture poses another challenge and beating a side who have a fantastic home record will not be a simple task. Vale aren’t a bad side at all and this is reflected through their league position. Rob Page will be telling his players that we are there for the taking as a win will pull the home side closer to the top six. However, we’ll be equally as determined to return to winning ways so it has the makings of an entertaining encounter.
Defensively, the two fresh faces will hopefully provide some solidity that has been lacking recently for The Sky Blues. We’ve been rolling over for teams and it has to stop. The return of John Fleck could also make a massive difference in the midfield area as we’ve certainly missed his creativity. With him in the starting eleven we look much more likely to score, and with a bit of luck he’ll be able to provide Adam Armstrong with the service he’s been deprived of over the last couple of fixtures.
Another decent turnout is expected from Coventry’s supporters and I’m hopeful that we can all get behind the lads and spur them on to victory. We’ve had a magnificent season up to this point, we can’t ruin it with negativity. I understand that we are all frustrated with performances lately but booing will not solve anything. If we stick together as a club I’m confident that the players can respond on the pitch.
In terms of how this game will go, it’s tough to call. Port Vale’s confidence will obviously be higher than ours but we have enough quality to beat anybody on our day. Tony Mowbray is too good of a manager to let our ambitions slip away also, and I expect him to change our fortunes. Realistically, a draw wouldn’t be the worst result for us but I’m optimistic that we can grind out a result.
Port Vale 1-2 Coventry City