Coventry City will have to wait at least another
week to learn if they have secured a 33rd successive season in the top flight
of England football.
A draw at Derby next Saturday will secure salvation but this victory, which put an end
to three successive defeats, has dramatically improved their chances of survival.
Once again they made their followers suffer with a nervous second half and they could
quite easily have blown a well-deserved lead but, as they have done on many occasions,
managed to hang on.
Manager Gordon Strachan made four changes bringing in Gary McAllister, Noel
Whelan, Marc Edworthy and Trond Soltvedt and was rewarded as all put on encouraging
performances. Edworthy, in particular, impressed in his best showing for the club since
his move from Crystal Palace.
Coventry dominated the first half and could easily have had the game settled by the
interval. They started well and, vitally, made an early breakthrough when Darren Huckerby
finally ended his 15-game barren run.
He finished well, just beating keeper Neil Sullivan to the ball in the 16th
minute and rolling it in from the edge of the area, but it was a goal created from nothing
by George Boateng.
The Dutchman, who has complained at being played out of position, showed that without a
doubt he is just as suited to a wide role. His 45-yard diagonal pass split the defence and
just allowed Huckerby to reach the ball first.
Whelan, playing up alongside Huckerby, could have got himself on the scoresheet just
moments later when, once again, Boateng delivered a testing pass.
It was vital that City increased their advantage before a lacklustre Wimbledon got a
toehold on the game and, through Whelan, they did just that 14 minutes later.
Once again Boateng was the provider. His angled cross from the right allowed Whelan to
emerge from a line of Wimbledon defenders and volley the ball in past Sullivan.
He should have secured the points just before the interval but couldnt make the
most of a cross from strike partner Huckerby.
At the other end the defence, with Gary Breen back alongside Richard Shaw, were
standing firm and reduced Wimbledon to long-range efforts.
Wimbledon had to offer more after half time and the introduction of striker Carl
Leaburn, giving them three up front, began to stretch Coventry. Suddenly the veneer of
total confidence started to crack. City became hesitant where before they had been
positive, and they tended to drop too deep for comfort.
John Hartson, who had been in a running battle with Shaw throughout the game, pulled
the goal back 15 minutes from time, firing in a cross from Duncan Jupp.
Magnus Hedman had to push aside a shot from Jason Euell and Robbie Earle headed just
over from close range as Wimbledon went all out in a bid to land a second.
In the end it was City who went closest to increasing their tally when Huckerby, who
looked to be returning to something near his best form after his poor spell, tricked his
way past two players and crossed in for McAllister who somehow, managed to put the chance
over the bar.
So City should manage to escape a final day of tension as, once again, other results
went largely their way. It would, however, be more comfortable for everyone of a Sky Blue
hue if they managed to make certain at Pride Park.
Then again, City have never liked to do things the comfortable way.
Hedman; Edworthy, Shaw, Breen, Burrows (Hall, 45 mins); Boateng, Soltvedt, McAllister,
Telfer; Whelan, Huckerby
Subs: Kirkland, Clement, Aloisi, Quinn
Sullivan; Jupp, Cunningham, Blackwell, Thatcher; Kennedy, Euell, Earle, Hughes (Leaburn,
55 mins); Hartson, Gayle
Subs: Kimble, Heald, Castledine, Francis
GOALS: Huckerby (16 mins), Whelan (29 mins), Hartson (75 mins)
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Tring)
Coventry Whelan (foul, 20 mins)
Wimbledon Thatcher (foul, 20 mins), Jupp (80 mins, foul)
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Darren Huckerby a constant thorn in Wimbledons side