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It was the day the Irish came to town. There were hundreds in Highfield Road Stadium to roar their delight as new boy Robbie Keane’s two goals pushed the Sky Blues to their first victory of the season.

Irish loyalties will be divided on Wednesday night however when Roy Keane, no relation, arrives with mighty Manchester United.

But there was no denying the Dublin teenager’s dream debut after his 6 million transfer just 48 hours earlier from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

There were some who thought it was too much money, Sir Alex Ferguson among them, for a First Division player with everything to prove at the top level.

The 19-year-old showed no signs that such a big transfer fee was any burden.

He was pulled out of the action with six minutes remaining, to conserve his energies, and the Coventry fans rose from their seats in their thousands to honour him with a standing ovation. He had another when he trudged slowly along the running track to the changing rooms.

It was heady stuff for the teenager, but he gave a nerveless display, and it is certain he will be going flat out on Wednesday to repay Ferguson for his calculated insult.

United’s manager was quoted as saying he would have paid 500,000 for Keane and then played him in the reserves for a few years. The player said it did not bother him but it clearly rankled with Coventry manager Gordon Strachan who made an oblique reference to it in his after match comments.

Strachan said scathingly:

"Robbie was rated among the top four young players in the country last week. He joined us and everyone immediately began questioning his worth, whether it was 500,000 and so on. All I can say I count myself very lucky to have him here."

And Aston Villa boss John Gregory must have felt like kicking the cat. Villa would not pay the extra one million to take Keane to Villa Park and he chose their big rivals Coventry. Gregory knows he would have been a sensation alongside Dion Dublin and now that chance has gone.

It was unfortunate that Keane’s debut had to be such a poor match, but he did not mind that.

His first goal was scored in the ‘killer period’ just before half-time. There were two minutes to go to the interval when Moustapha Hadji sent him flying down the right wing. The Irishman cut into the penalty box, slipped past Jacob Lauren with dazzling footwork, and fired in from the narrowest of angles, the ball nestling just behind the far upright.

Derby’s manager Jim Smith called it ‘a lucky goal’ but Steve Froggatt, a team mate of Keane’s at Wolves said:

"I have seen him score those a hundred times in training."

Keane’s second in the 69th minute was made for him by Froggatt, who went on as a second-half substitute.

The winger ran the ball at the defence which retreated before him, Keane made a little diagonal run into the box and Froggatt slipped him the ball. The rest looked easy. Keane ran around goalkeeper Martin Poom and coolly slotted the ball into the empty net with the inside of his right foot.

It was game over and the excited youngster said:

"I am really looking forward to playing against United. Coventry are a great team and Gordon Strachan is a great manager."

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Hedman, Edworthy, Shaw, Williams, Burrows, Telfer (Froggatt, 59 mins), McAllister, Hadji (Aloisi, 85 mins), Chippo, Whelan, Keane (Gavin Strachan, 84 mins)
Subs: Nuzzo (gk), Breen

Poom, Carbonari, Prior, Eranio (Bohinen, 68 mins), Laursen, Delap, Borbokis, Johnson, Powell, Burton (Beck, 29 mins), Sturridge (Harper, 76 mins)
Subs: Hoult (gk), Schnoor

GOALS: Keane (43 mins, 69 mins)

REFEREE: Jeff Winter (Stockton-on-Tees)

Coventry – Chippo (10 mins, handball), Williams (85 mins, foul)
Derby - Burton (4 mins, encroachment at a free-kick), Sturridge (4 mins, encroachment at a free kick), Johnson (60 mins, foul), Laursen (76 mins, foul), Harper (85 mins, foul)


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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 21 Aug 99

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM