The Sky Blues were held to a 0-0 draw with Stoke City, in a closely fought festive fixture at St. Andrew’s.
Both sides produced plenty of opportunities in an end-to end game, but City could not quite seal the victory, as they made it seven home games unbeaten.
Meeting Stoke on Boxing Day, City were handed a late Christmas present as Matty Godden returned to the team for the first time since November, with Gus Hamer also coming back from suspension.
The Sky Blues thought they were in line for another festive gift, less than 10 minutes into the game, as Godden calmly stroked the ball past Stoke ‘keeper Josef Bursik but was ruled offside. Minutes earlier, Jamie Allen had driven from the halfway line to link up with Callum O’Hare on the edge of the box, though his defence-splitting return pass was intercepted by Bursik.
On 15 minutes, the Sky Blues looked to be the side in a generous mood as Ben Wilson was closed down and tackled by Steven Fletcher, following a pass back from Dom Hyam, but the loose ball rolled wide of the right post.
Godden was once again at the centre of the game as he controlled a looping cross from the right, before laying the ball to Jamie Allen, 20 yards from goal. Playing a sharp return ball to find the striker in space, Godden’s snapshot was gratefully collected by the relieved Bursik.
It was another pass-back that caused chaos in the defensive line on 24 minutes, but this time it was Stoke who had to hold their nerve. A Tommy Smith pass was intercepted by O’Hare, who momentarily looked to be through on goal, but the determined the Stoke ‘keeper sprinted off his line to smother the promising attack.
In a game that had been driven by defensive errors, Ben Wilson provided a moment of genuine quality with a stunning one-handed save from Jacob Brown’s volley on 34 minutes. Jordan Thompson’s free-kick from the right was pitched towards the far side, falling to Brown who unleashed a rasping half-volley, but was denied by an instinctive save at Wilson’s near post.
City ended the first-half with somewhat of an attacking flourish. First Fankaty Dabo rounded his marker, sprinting from inside his own, eventually leading to a Gus Hamer shot from 20 yards. Hamer then turned creator as his menacing corner was flicked on by Kyle McFadzean, with Leo Ostigard just inches away from scoring his second goal for the Sky Blues.
HALF-TIME: SKY BLUES 0-0 STOKE CITY
The game resumed at a fast pace after the interval, with end-to-end attacks to begin the half. Stoke had the best chance of the game so far on 51 minutes, following Jacob Brown tidily making his way to the byline, cutting back to find Thompson in space but his effort looped off the crossbar.
City responded almost instantly through a quick free-kick from Hamer, finding O’Hare whose shot was deflected wide for a corner. O’Hare didn’t have to wait long for his next chance either, as he was sharply played in again behind the Stoke defence but couldn’t properly connect with the bouncing ball to lob Bursik from inside the box.
Continuing to stream forward, looking to break the deadlock, Jamie Allen was given another chance from outside the box. Confidently marching beyond the halfway line, Leo Ostigard whipped in a curling cross from deep towards Godden, but the ball fell to Allen. Stretching to connect with the ball on the volley, the midfielder’s effort was deflected wide for a corner.
Stoke were keen to remind City of their attacking threat on 65 minutes as Steven Fletcher went close, once more. A Tommy Smith free-kick was played towards Nathan Collins, heading the ball back towards Fletcher in the centre of goal, but his misdirected header flew over the crossbar from six yards out.
The momentum began to swing the Potters’ way in the final 20 minutes, with the away side enjoying the majority of possession. James McClean was the man to provide Nick Powell with a headed chance on 75 minutes. His pinpoint cross found the attacking midfielder at the far post, but he was marshalled away from goal by Allen to help send his header wide.
The end-to-end nature of the two side’s chances was encapsulated on 78 minutes as Harry Souttar gifted the ball to Ostigard in the Stoke area, though the defender recovered to block his volley at goal. Sending the ball immediately into the Sky Blues half, the long clearance fell to Fletcher, who saw his effort deflected away for a corner.
A constant thorn in the Sky Blues’ side, Fletcher proved to be an aerial threat time and again as Stoke reverted to crosses into the box, late on. A hopeful ball from the flanks, delivered by Smith was met by the striker, who managed to create a half-chance header that floated wide of the post.
FULL-TIME: SKY BLUES 0-0 STOKE CITY
Yellows: Jordan Thompson
Sky Blues XI: Ben Wilson (GK), Fankaty Dabo, Leo Ostigard, Kyle McFadzean (C), Dom Hyam, Sam McCallum, Gus Hamer, Ben Sheaf (Biamou, 74’), Jamie Allen, Callum O’Hare (Shipley, 88’), Matty Godden (Bakayoko, 74’)
Unused Subs: Lee Camp (GK), Julien Dacosta, Josh Pask, Ryan Giles, Marcel Hilssner, Will Bapaga
Stoke City XI: Josef Bursik (GK), Nathan Collins, Harry Souttar, James Chester (C), Tommy Smith, Jordan Cousins, Jordan Thompson (Allen, 63’), James McCLean, Nick Powell, Jacob Brown, Steven Fletcher
Unused Subs: Andy Lonergan (GK), Danny Batth, Ryan Shawcross, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, Thibaud Verlinden, Josh Tymon, Tom Ince, Sam Vokes