Following the 1-0 defeat to MK Dons, Mark Robins made five changes to the starting lineup and it paid off as the Sky Blues prevailed over Port Vale at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday night. The performance was vastly improved compared to recent weeks and a Kyel Reid stunner from 30 yards inspired City to their first triumph since Robins’ return. Kwame Thomas then doubled the lead in the first half and that proved decisive. Vale did pull one back on 74 minutes courtesy of Nathan Smith, but it didn’t affect the result as the hosts ran out 2-1 victors.
I went to watch Port Vale on Friday night as they edged past relegation rivals Shrewsbury and I saw enough from them to suggest they would beat City. However, you could tell it was a contest between two poor sides in the opening 30 minutes. Michael Brown’s team have the second worst away record in the division behind ourselves and they looked negative from the first whistle. The Sky Blues’ defence had little to do and Lee Burge wasn’t required to make a meaningful save.
Coventry didn’t create much up the other end either, but they enjoyed more possession. Gael Bigirimana did have a low strike easily saved early on and George Thomas volleyed wide from range on 19 minutes, but it was poor as a spectacle. Kyel Reid was handed a rare start and he provided an attacking threat down the left flank. His final ball is often criticised and rightly so, but he produced a piece of magic to give City the lead on 37 minutes. The audacity to flick the ball over a defender before lashing one over Deniz Mehmet was something special.
After taking the lead, we remained on the front foot and that was a pleasant surprise – we have a tendency to rest on our laurels. Just three minutes after scoring our first, Kwame Thomas reacted first to a loose ball in the away box before back-heeling past the keeper. The home support looked stunned as they celebrated and I was in disbelief that we were two goals up in a game of football. Was it us playing well or Vale failing to produce? Probably a mixture of both, but I don’t think anybody could care at that point.
The second period was then a more nervy one as the visitors attempted to find a route back into the game, but we restricted them well. Burge was forced into his first save of the evening with over an hour played. However, as the Sky Blues naturally dropped deeper to keep Vale at bay, Nathan Smith capitalised. Ryan Taylor hurled a free-kick towards Burge’s goal and the keeper hesitated, resulting in him being beaten to the ball. That goal gave Brown’s men some confidence going into the final quarter of an hour, but Coventry’s back line coped well.
It feels quite surreal to sit here having watched City win a game, but it is a small glimmer of hope. With the personnel at his disposal, Robins is trying to stamp his mark on the way we play and we were far more positive tonight. Vale were extremely poor and there is no denying that, but we certainly secured the three points through our own merit. Callum Reilly was wasteful at times with his passing, but every player produced.
All our supporters want to see from now until the end of the season is displays like that. It has been a disastrous year for the club but some pride needs restoring. Hopefully we can claim another win on Saturday and go into the Checkatrade Trophy final in high spirits. The Ricoh felt a much better place to watch football tonight and that was fantastic. Considering the trials and tribulations that we face, our support is superb.
Lee Burge – 6
Jordan Willis – 6
Nathan Clarke – 7
Farrend Rawson – 7
Ryan Haynes – 7
Callum Reilly – 5
Gael Bigirimana – 7
George Thomas – 6
Kyel Reid – 9
Stuart Beavon – 7
Kwame Thomas – 8
Jodi Jones – N/A
Chris Stokes – N/A
Coventry City: Burge, Willis (C), Clarke, Rawson, Haynes, Reilly, Bigirimana, G. Thomas, Reid (Stokes 85), Beavon (Jones 81), K. Thomas.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Turnbull, Di. Kelly-Evans, Stevenson, Lameiras.
Port Vale: Mehmet, Purkiss (Tavares 79), Smith, Streete, Kiko, Foley, Reeves (Kelly 45), Eagles (Turner 61), Taylor, Cicilia, Shodipo.
Unused Substitutes: Fasan, Bikey, Tanser.
Attendance: 7,695 (516 away)