Coventry City can enjoy the all-too-rare luxury of a
relaxing final day of the season after securing a 33rd campaign in the
The 90 minutes at Pride Park may not have been laid back but City, by hook or by crook,
managed to maintain a clean sheet and inch their way to salvation.
Now it is left to Charlton, Blackburn and Southampton to bite their footballing nails
as City have done so many times down the years on the final day of the season.
Gordon Strachan said after the game that he will be planning the new season after a
short break determined to make sure the next campaign is less fraught. He needs to.
Nerves have not, however, been an over-riding factor in the last two games. City did
put their followers through the mill in the final 15 minutes against Wimbledon and they
did have to rely on Magnus Hedmans agility before making certain at Pride Park.
But other teams poor results of late have made the final weeks easier than they
could, or perhaps should, have been.
Strachan was forced into just one change, replacing the injured David Burrows with
Marcus Hall, who put on a steady performance, but the manager resisted what must have been
a strong temptation to play Roland Nilsson on his return to the club.
Coventry could have buried by the interval as Derby, pushing for a top six place, came
out in impressively open form. City were pushed back and, as Derby held a grip on
midfield, there were few attacking outlets to relieve the pressure.
Youngster Rory Delap set the tone when he had a shot deflected wide off Marcus Hall
after five minutes and for next 20 it was largely one-way traffic. Magnus Hedman made a
fine save from Darryl Powell, Richard Shaw had to clear a threatening cross from Mikkel
Beck and then Hedman had to tip over a back header from Paul Telfer.
Eventually City began to find their feet and bring Darren Huckerby and Noel Whelan into
play. The latter almost profited as the former took a quick corner but Whelan failed to
bring the ball under control when George Boateng put him through in the 25th
The second half lacked the urgency of the first but Derby, with young Adam Murray and
little Italian Francesco Baiano on as subs, moved the ball slickly in midfield and still
offered a potent threat.
Citys most promising moment also came at the end of a fine passing movement
involving Hall, who had come close to giving away a first half penalty, and Whelan, but
Huckerby just failed to reach a cross from the young full back at the far post.
But the end of the game was the most dramatic. Dean Sturridge just failed to reach a
cross from Kevin Harper when he would have scored and the whistle sounded amid the most
frantic scramble inside the City area.
Strachan knows full well that this has been a vastly disappointing season, particularly
coming after last years promise, but at least he can put it right in the top flight.
Poom, Carbonari, Laursen, Prior, Schnoor, Powell, Delap (Harper, 78 mins), Eranio (Murray,
45 mins),Wanchope, Sturridge, Beck (Baiano, 58 mins)
Subs: Hoult, Jackson
Hedman, Edworthy, Shaw, Breen, Hall, Boateng, Soltvedt, McAllister, Telfer, Huckerby
(Alosi, 87 mins), Whelan
Subs: Kirkland, Clement, Williams, Nilsson
REFEREE: Paul Alcock (Kent)
Derby Powell (foul, 32 mins)
Coventry Edworthy (diving, 73 mins)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Magnus Hedman vital saves