Gordon Strachan emerged grim faced from the Prenton
Park dugout half an hour after the end of one of Coventrys greatest cup
While not lost for words, he had said little that could shed any light on the most
spectacular of second half collapses. Memories of Sutton, Northampton and Scarborough came
flooding back as Coventry threw away a first half lead in the most amazing style.
City were hit by injuries and unavailability but that had little bearing on this
performance. It meant, of course, that the side was under strength and there were three
players making their full debuts but they were not the ones who were really to blame.
Paul Williams made errors which led to two goals and David Burrows, making his comeback
after a sending off, was red carded again for violent conduct and left the ground before
the end of the game.
Burrows could well be for the disciplinary high jump. In truth, City were heading for
defeat at 3-1 when Burrows and Alan Morgan clashed. Morgan seemed to catch Burrows with
his studs but the City man swung his elbow back at the player.
He then had to be physically restrained by Williams who shepherded him off the field.
Still he hadnt finished and ripped off his boots before throwing them on to the
field. By the time the home side had added two more to their total, he was heading home
down the M6.
There was little sign of the rout in the
first half. Gary McSheffrey, Raffaele Nuzzo and John Eustace all started for the first
time. The latter was highly impressive in attack and was one of very few players to emerge
City actually got off to the perfect start when McAllister
put them in front for the second game in the succession. After just eight minutes he
pounced on a loose ball inside the area after a Burrows free kick was headed down and
hooked the ball home with a right foot shot.
Tranmere looked effective on the break, especially down the
flanks, and did threaten at times but City were firmly in control.
The Sky Blues failed to heed the warning signs but their
decline after the interval was dramatic. After just three minutes Alan Mahon knocked a
cross into the area and Steve Yates headed it down allowing the nippy Scott Taylor to
Ten minutes later they went ahead when Williams failed to
deal with a through ball from Morgan. He made a hash of his header back and David Kelly
was able to power the ball in past Nuzzo.
Tranmeres third probably sealed it. Burrows lost
possession on the half way and when sub Andy Thompson played the ball forward Williams
failed to make what looked a straightforward interception and Kelly raced in to net.
Gary McAllister, Coventrys best player of the night,
had a header cleared off the line but if that gave City hope, it was extinguished in the
68th minute when Burrows made his stormy exit.
That was bad enough but there was more misery to follow.
Kelly rounded off his hatrick when Taylor beat Richard Shaw down the left and sent over a
very good cross.
Then, in the final minute, Kelly returned the favour for
his partner to complete the rout.
Achterberg; Allen, Challinor, Yates, Roberts; Parkinson, Henry (Thompson, 45 mins),
Morgan, Mahon; Kelly, Taylor
Subs: Murphy, Black, Jones, Gibson
Nuzzo; Breen (Konjic, 85 mins), Williams, Shaw, Burrows; Edworthy, McAllister, Strachan,
Froggatt; Eustace, McSheffrey (Paul Hall, 64 mins)
Subs: Kirkland, Marcus Hall, Quinn
McAllister (8 mins, hooked shot), Taylor (48 mins, close range finish; 91 mins, set up by
Kelly), Kelly (58 mins, fine volley; 63 mins, made most of slip; 80 mins, converted cross)
REFEREE: Uriah Rennie (Sheffield)
Tranmere Kelly (28 mins, encroaching), Morgan (68 mins, foul)
SENDING-OFF: Burrows (68 mins, violent conduct)
ATTENDANCE: not given
COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH: Gary McAllister let