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Middlesbrough (2) 2
Coventry City (0) 0

Coventry City spurned an excellent chance to finally move into the top 10 for the first time this season as they turned in one of their worst performances of the campaign.

It was Middlesbrough who were supposed to be at rock bottom after only one win in 14 games but they started the stronger and effectively had the game tied up inside 20 minutes as the City defence crumbled and gifted Bryan Robson’s side two goals.

Middlesbrough had been humbled by Aston Villa in midweek and, with reflection, that may have done Coventry no favours. Robson had, according to reports, locked his side in the dressing room for an hour and half after Monday’s thrashing and said in his programme notes that the words had been said and it was now the time for action.

He got just that from his side, but the return of Christian Ziege and Hamilton Ricard had more to do with the victory than any rallying call.

Gordon Strachan described his side’s performance as the worst of the year. It was hard to gather if he was talking about 2000 or the last 12 months.

He had to make changes with David Burrows coming in for his first game in almost three months to take the place of Steve Froggatt who was still suffering with the ankle injury he picked up against Sunderland.

Paul Williams was also able to return at the expense of the unfortunate Gary Breen, while Carlton Palmer was fit to resume his midfield role.

This should have been the perfect opportunity for Coventry to win their first away game of the season but from the off Middlesbrough were the sharper more menacing team.

Crucially they scored early. Ziege’s seventh minute corner was knocked back into the Coventry area but Carlton Palmer, covering back inside his six yard area, appeared to have time to cope with the danger. In truth he probably had too much time and changed his mind, opting to try and kick the ball clear rather than use his head. In the end he just knocked the ball to Gianluca Festa who swept home a close range shot.

In that instant, Boro shed their anxiety and began to knock the ball about with increased confidence. Andy Campbell shot just wide as Magnus Hedman appeared to let the ball go through his body and Paul Williams had to produce an excellent tackle to stop Ricard in his tracks.

That was beyond anyone in the 20th minute when the ball was knocked to Ricard by Juninho and the leading scorer rattled in a 22 yard shot.

Coventry struggled to find any kind of gear. Gary McAllister and Carlton Palmer worked hard in midfield but were out numbered, while Cedric Roussel won nothing in the air against Gary Pallister.

In fact City's only meaningful efforts of the first half came from Moustapha Hadji and Robbie Keane but City were largely restricted to long range efforts.

The second half was little better. Again Middlesbrough threatened – Juninho fired just wide in the 55th minute after excellent work from Campbell, while Ziege flashed a free kick just past the far post.

Strachan attempted to liven things up by switching to a wing-back system when Eustace and Breen came on but that plan was hampered after less than 10 minutes when Roussel was carried off with concussion.

So City blew their hopes of making strides and moving further away from the bottom group. This defeat in itself does not automatically mean they will be looking over their shoulders until May, but it just could.

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Schwarzer, Fleming, Festa, Pallister, Cooper, Ziege; Juninho (Maddison, 88 mins), Ince, Summerbell; Ricard, Campbell
Subs: Beresford, Moore, Armstrong, Stockdale

COVENTRY (4-4-2):
Hedman; Gustafsson (Breen, 67 mins), Shaw, Williams, Burrows (Eustace, 67 mins); Chippo, Palmer, McAllister, Hadji; Keane, Roussel (Quinn, 76 mins)
Subs: Hyldgaard, Gavin Strachan

GOALS: Festa (7 mins), Ricard (20 mins)

REFEREE: Graham Barber (Surrey)

Coventry – Shaw (47mins, foul), Palmer (52 mins, foul), Hadji (90 mins, foul)



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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 19 Feb 00

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