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Newcastle United (0) 2
Coventry City (0) 0

One away game to go – one win to get.

A simple equation, but finding a solution may be harder for Coventry City boss Gordon Strachan to find.

Coventry’s failure to win a league game away from Highfield Road will have stretched back beyond 400 days when they travel to face Watford on the final day of the season in a fortnight’s time.

Strachan maintains the away run is more of an embarrassment and irritant but it must now be doing real harm internally. After reaching safety comparatively early the main aims have been to finish in the top half of the table and break the hoodoo away from home. The former is all but impossible and second easily attainable.

Strachan wanted a response after the 5-0 drubbing at West Ham and to a degree he got it. Still his side did not create enough chances to realistically hope of victory but they did offer stubborn, if sometimes last ditch, resistance and had reasonable claims for a draw.

The side showed five changes from the team beaten so comprehensively at Upton Park and, as result, it took them time to settle. For the first 10 minutes or so they had to weather heavy pressure.

In the opening seconds, Cedric Roussel gave the ball away to Alan Shearer who in turn fed Diego Gavelin. The young midfielder returned the favour with a cross which the England skipper fired just wide of his goal.

The two combined again just seconds later but on that occasion Magnus Hedman made a superb flying stop.

Once that pressure subsided City began to retain possession and move it forward with greater precision. Youssef Chippo, starting in the centre of midfield for the first time this season, put himself around and allowed McAllister to play a more forward role.

But despite getting their game together they again lacked penetration. The passing was effective only up to a point and they failed to make any impression inside the Newcastle area. A single Moustapha Hadji shot was virtually all City had to show for their first half efforts.

Their work looked to have been undone in the opening moments of the second period when Shearer went down inside the penalty area under pressure from Williams and Shaw, prompting heated appeals from the Newcastle supporters. Fortunately referee Peter Jones was resolute and waved away the claims.

The already calamitous injury list grew by one when Roussel was stretchered off just after the hour with a damaged knee. That caused another reshuffle with John Eustace coming on to the right and Hadji pushing forward.

City must have been setting their sights on a point when, with 12 minutes left, it all went wrong in controversial circumstances. Nikolas Dabizas moved forward to join the attack but when, as City closed ranks, he fired in a shot it struck Noel Whelan on the arm and Jones pointed straight to the spot. Shearer did the rest to secure his 29th strike of the season.

That triggered City forward and it proved their undoing. With six minutes left they were caught short at the back and that allowed Temuri Ketsbaia to square the ball to Gavilan to net a deserved goal.

So City have to head to Watford and hope they manage to summon up some divine intervention at Vicarage Road to ensure that they don't finish the season as the only team in the four divisions not to pick up a league win away from home.

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Given; Barton, Dabizas, Hughes, Pistone; Gavilan (Griffen, 87 mins), Lee (McClen, 87 mins), Speed, Domi (Ketsbaia, 39 mins); Dyer; Shearer
Subs not used: Maric, Harper

Hedman; Shaw, Breen, Williams, Telfer: Whelan (Betts, 87 mins), Chippo, McAllister, Hadji, Keane (Zuniga, 84 mins), Roussel (Eustace, 64 mins)
Subs not used: Ogrizovic, Fowler

Shearer (78 mins, pen), Gavilan (84 mins)

REFEREE: Peter Jones (Loughborough)

Newcastle - none
Coventry - Williams (26 mins foul), McAllister (80 mins, dissent)


COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH: Gary Breen – determined in defence

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 29 Apr 00

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