A sobering dash of reality has pierced the growing
bubble of security that has been growing in Coventry since the Sky Blues won both their
Gordon Strachans side may not have been as bad as they were at Goodison Park in
the FA Cup earlier this season, but they still managed to turn in a poor performance that
could leave them little room for complaint.
That is not strictly true. They did well enough in the second half but had already been
undone by a quite dreadful showing in the opening 45 minutes.
They did, to be fair, pick up their game considerably after the interval but were
always chasing the game and were eventually undone by their own ambition.
Kevin Campbell netted both goals, his first for the club he joined on loan on transfer
deadline, and the Sky Blues must be sick of the sight of him. Two years ago, while on the
books of Nottingham, he rifled a hat-trick on the opening day of the season.
Strachan opted for the side that had beaten Southampton on Monday but had to introduce
John Aloisi after 14 minutes when Paul Telfer was carried off with a knee injury.
He had already missed Coventrys only real opening of the half when Gary Breen had
a shot deflected just wide after 55 seconds.
Everton dominated their first half because they held a fearsome grip in midfield. Scott
Gemmill and Frenchman Olivier Dacourt dominated the department, out playing and out
hustling Gary McAllister and Trond Soltvedt.
City should really have gone behind in the 23rd minute when Francis Jeffers,
who had scored in the cup tie, broke away down the right hand side. There was a hint of
offside but, as the City defence looked for a flag, he crossed in for Nick Barmby who was
free inside the area. The England striker seemed almost certain to score but Magnus
Hedman, linked with a £5 million move to Manchester United in the mornings press,
produced a fine save to divert the shot past the post.
Coventry had conceded a succession of free kicks on the fringes of their area and had
been fortunate to survive but they managed to reach the interval without further
Strachan must have spelled out just what he thought of the first half, and there seemed
an added zest about their play after the interval.
Darren Huckerby, an almost anonymous figure in the first half, began to resdiscover his
confidence with a couple of searing runs, while the midfield started to impose themselves.
Huckerby almost put Aloisi through inside the area in the 52 minutes, Everton keeper
Thomas Myhre had to snatch the ball away from Paul Williams and only a superb hook away
stopped Aloisi from snatching an equaliser.
While all this was going on, referee Rob Harris was reaping havoc. He was over zealous
with his card but it was his total misreading of a string of incidents which angered both
sets of fans.
He should have sent off Dacourt who piled into Huckerby having already been booked, but
was left with little alternative when Marco Materazzi lunged in at Huckerby after picking
up an earlier yellow card. Everton claim he never touched the City man but his intent was
Strachan threw Whelan up front to make it a three pronged attack but, despite
considerable pressure, it failed to make the intended difference. Then, with just three
minutes left, sub Tony Grant exchanged passes with Barmby and Campbell pushed the ball
EVERTON: Myhre, Short, Watson, Materazzi, Weir, Dacourt, Gemmill, Barmby, Ball,
Campbell, Jeffers (Grant, 85 mins). Subs: Ward, Degn, Cadamarteri, Simonsen.
COVENTRY: Hedman, Breen, Shaw, Williams, Burrows, Telfer (Aloisi, 14 mins), Soltvedt,
McAllister, Boateng, Whelan, Huckerby. Subs: Edworthy, Konjic, Shilton, Kirkland.
GOALS: Campbell (28, 87).
REFEREE: Rob Harris (Oxford).
Everton Gemmill (dissent, 15 mins), Myhre (dissent, 38 mins), Dacourt (foul, 51
mins), Materazzi (foul, 66 mins)), Barmby (foul, 66 mins);
Coventry Boateng (foul, 32 mins), Huckerby (ungentlemanly conduct, 58 mins).
SENDING OFF: Materazzi (foul, 84 mins).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gary Breen.