|[19 FEB 00] COVENTRY CITY MATCH REPORT - PREMIERSHIP
Middlesbrough (2) 2
Coventry City (0) 0
BY ADAM DENT
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 Robsons 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 Mondays 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 sides 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. Zieges 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.
Schwarzer, Fleming, Festa, Pallister, Cooper, Ziege; Juninho (Maddison, 88 mins), Ince,
Summerbell; Ricard, Campbell
Subs: Beresford, Moore, Armstrong, Stockdale
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)
COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Williams