Coventry Citys search for an away win goes on
after a humiliating 5-0 defeat at the hands of West Ham United.
The Upton Park side ran riot against a dismal Sky Blues side who were fortunate to
leave the pitch with the score-line still in single figures.
Manager Gordon Strachan was forced into wholesale changes by the loss of Moroccans
Moustapha Hadji and Youssef Chippo to international duty and the absence of Stephen
Froggatt through injury but still would have expected far more.
Norwegian Runar Normann was handed his first start since the FA Cup fifth round defeat
by Charlton at Highfield Road, Irishman Barry Quinn was recalled after an impressive
display in Citys last away game at Stamford Bridge and veteran David Burrows slotted
in at the back.
The alterations to his line-up certainly had an instant effect but it was not the one
that the fiery Scot would have been looking for.
West Ham swamped them from the opening whistle and within the first fifteen minutes
they had established a two-goal lead as the Sky Blues struggled to make any impression.
The Upton Park sides on-loan Frenchman Frederic Kanoute was the architect of much
of the damage, causing City several palpitations in the opening exchanges.
The home sides domination was rewarded after six minutes when a misunderstanding
between Noel Whelan and Barry Quinn handed possession to Paulo Di Canio who ran fully 50
yards before feeding teenager Michael Carrick.
The youngster, who helped hammer City in last years FA Youth Cup final, looked up
from 25 yards and pulled the trigger leaving Magnus Hedman floundering as the ball flew
into his bottom left hand corner.
On 13 minutes the Hammers had doubled that advantage when a Di Canio corner was met by
Javier Margas who outleapt Irish defender Gary Breen and guided a header into the bottom
corner from 10 yards out.
The Sky Blues barely threatened the home goal in the first period, with veteran skipper
Gary McAllisters long range drive the only serious effort.
Indeed City were left thanking their lucky stars that they made it to the interval only
two goals behind, with Rio Ferdinand, Margas and Wanchope all coming close to adding to
Coventry looked woefully off the pace and seemed unable to find a team-mate with any of
their passes, with Normann and Quinn amongst the worst offenders.
The Norwegian seemed ill at ease with his left wing-back role and failed to make any
impression against England man Trevor Sinclair, which led to him being replaced by Belgian
Cedric Roussel during the break.
The change made little difference to the way the Sky Blues started the period with West
Ham sealing the points just four minutes after the restart.
It was another goal of the month contender from Italian Di Canio who galloped through
the City half unchallenged before unleashing a 30-year drill that cannoned off the upright
and into Hedmans net.
The Sky Blues defensive cause was hit even further just before the hour mark when
braveheart Colin Hendry was stretchered from the field with a nasty head injury.
Former Crystal Palace man Richard Shaw replaced him with the brief of keeping the
score-line down, a task City managed until the 66th minute when a comedy of
errors allowed Di Canio to slot home from close range.
If Gordon Strachan was hoping that goal would signal a West Ham let-up then he was very
Harry Redknapps men began to really enjoy themselves and had Kanoute, who the
Hammers hope to sign for £4 million in the summer, not been so wasteful then things could
have been even worse.
As it was the Frenchman added a fifth goal ten minutes from time after Hedman made a
mess of a Di Canio corner leaving the lanky striker to head in from just yards out.
It was a great day for captain Di Canio, who scored two and created the other three of
West Hams strikes, but one that every City player will be desperate to forget.
In search of their first away win of the campaign the Sky Blues did not manage one shot
on target, and if they continue to play like this on their travels then Gordon Strachan
will have to wait another 400 days to collect three points away from Highfield Road.