In the second of a festive series, we look back at some memorable games over the Christmas period...
Where and when?
City 2-1 Stoke
Maine Road, 28 December 1998
City: Weaver, Crooks, Edghill, Vaughan, Wiekens, Horlock, Brown, Pollock (Goater 46), Bishop, G Taylor, Dickov
City came into this clash in seventh spot having won 1-0 at Wrexham on Boxing Day two days before.
Prior to that, Joe Royle’s side had endured a difficult campaign adjusting to life in the third tier of English football and were floundering in the mid-table following a series of demoralising results.
Stoke were coping with relegation better and sat in third spot with the chance of reaching the summit if they could head back down the M6 with three points.
In front of a capacity 30,487 fans, it was the Potters who started better and when Larus Sigurdsson put the visitors ahead, it was no real surprise.
Stoke went into the break 1-0 up, but Royle’s half-time rocket worked wonders and arguably turned the Blues’ season around.
City came out fired up and determined to get back into the game with tackles flying in and every lost cause chased down.
Sub, Shaun Goater chased a 50/50 ball which was spilled by the Potters’ keeper and Kevin Horlock played the loose ball towards Paul Dickov who made no mistake from close range.
Buoyed on by a partisan home crowd, Gareth Taylor then leapt like a salmon to nod City ahead not long after and the Blues held firm, deservedly running out 2-1 winners.
What it meant
The Blues remained seventh in Division Two, 13 points adrift of leaders, Fulham but back in the hunt for play-off spot.
It was the second game of a run that saw just one defeat in 21 matches and a run all the way to the play-off final where an epic encounter with Gillingham awaited…
Reaction: Paul Dickov
Paul Dickov: “We went in one down at the break and I just remember Joe (Royle) saying to us that he believed we could go on a run and still win promotion so in many ways, we were facing one of the most important second halves of the season. We’d struggled before Christmas and been beaten at York, but we managed to get a narrow win at Wrexham on Boxing Day so we needed to beat Stoke.
“Goat had been on the bench that day but he came on at half-time as we went three up top and it made all the difference. It was a massive game for us and maybe a pivotal point in our season and I think it was then we started to believe we could still go up and the fans started to believe and it brought us all closer together.
“For my part I just said that we can all talk a good game at half-time, but we actually had to go out there and do it. Talk is cheap but doing is everything and on that day, we did back it up and we went out and gave Stoke a real battle and won 2-1. Even today, this is a game that really stands out for me in that it was so important for the Club and maybe the start of better times, looking back.”
Image of the game