11th Dec, 2016

Chris Stokes bags a rare goal but Sky Blues are held at home by M6 rivals Walsall

Steve Carpenter 13th Jan, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

DEFENDER Chris Stokes is celebrating a rare goal but it was not enough for the Sky Blues after they were held at home to fellow promotion hopefuls Walsall.

Stokes headed Tony Mowbray’s side in front at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday night in front of a bumper crowd of more than 15,00, but Tom Bradshaw rescued a point for the visitors nine minutes from time.

A point leaves the Sky Blues sitting fourth in League One, one point behind Midland rivals Walsall in third and two points of second placed Gillingham.

“I’m delighted to score my first goal of the season as it’s important everyone is contributing to the team and making a difference,” said Stokes.

“I’m going up for set-pieces now so as one of the taller, bigger players in the side, I’ve got to use those opportunities well and I’m happy I did.

“It was a frustrating one as I thought we defended really well throughout the night, restricting them to only a few chances.

“They’ve scored with their first shot on target but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We had some good chances at the other end so it’s a difficult one to take.”

The wet conditions made it difficult for both sides to make their mark in a first half that saw Joe Cole enjoy plenty of possession in his favoured number ten role.

The former England star came inches away from getting onto the end of a dangerous cross from the right by Jim O’Brien, while at the other end Reice Charles-Cook was quick off his line to deny Sam Mantom although the offside flag had been raised.

The breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Cole’s free kick from the left was flicked on by Adam Armstrong and Stokes was able to glance the ball home for his first goal of the season.

Bradshaw struck the post for the visitors shortly before half-time but after the break it was the hosts who liked more likely to score again.

In-form striker Armstrong forced Neil Etheridge into smart stop and Jim O’Brien fired narrowly wide of goal after some great play down the left by Jacob Murphy.

James O’Connor somehow failed to get a touch to a cross at the far post as Walsall began to enjoy more possession but the Sky Blues always looked a threat going forward.

Maddison forced Etheridge into a smart save from a trademark free kick on the edge of the box and the Walsall goalkeeper did brilliantly to push Armstrong’s close range effort away from goal.

As the clock ticked away the home support became nervous and with nine minutes remaining Bradshaw rescued a point for Sean O’Driscoll’s side by volleying Rico Henry’s cross past Charles-Cook.

Mowbray introduced Marc Antoine-Fortune late on in a bid to find a winner but neither goalkeeper was really tested ahead of the full-time whistle.

“It seemed the team pressing for the goals was us and we had several chances to put the game to bed,” said Mowbray. “If they go in, we take the points I’m sure.

“Give credit to Walsall though as they’re a good side who play football really well with the goal and they’ve showed why they’re at the top end of the league.

“We’re left very frustrated even though you could say they controlled the last 20 minutes or so but we get another chance to put it right against Burton on Saturday.”