Coventry Citys last ditch attempt to save face and secure a
solitary Premiership away win for the campaign failed against Watford at Vicarage Road.
Unlike the majority of this seasons away trips manager Gordon Strachan was able
to name a very similar side to the one that demolished Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.
Only veteran Steve Ogrizovic, who hung up his gloves after a glorious swan song, was
absent from the previous starting line-up - with Magnus Hedman returning.
It was a game where something had to give, the team with the worst home record in the
Premiership playing host to a side who had failed to collect an away victory all campaign.
The clash could not have been more open, largely thanks to misdirected passes by both
sides which allowed the play to swing from end to end.
Both teams had early chances but Watford should have taken the lead in the 10th
minute when Paul Williams dreadful clearance fell to Heidar Helguson.
He fed live-wire striker Tommy Smith on the right flank who pulled the ball back for
Neil Cox to plant a centre perfectly on Helgusons head, who, unfortunately for
Graham Taylors men, failed to convert from 10 yards.
Watfords desperation to finish their season on a high note was leaving gaps at
the back and Robbie Keane showed what he is capable of with a superb twisting run and
centre, which fell just behind Peruvian Ysrael Zuniga.
After 15 minutes it seemed the visitors would take the lead when Zuniga broke from a
Watford corner and combined superbly with Keane to race clear.
With only Robert Page left in front of keeper Chris Day the 23-year-old fed Noel
Whelan, but the former Leeds man had failed to beat the linesmans flag.
As the half wore on Watford began to enjoy themselves and dominate proceedings, with
youngster Smith combining with veteran Mooney to give Richard Shaw and Paul Williams a
Gordon Strachans men were consistently failing to find the final pass and only
Republic of Ireland star Robbie Keane seemed a real threat to Watfords end of season
On 33 minutes the teenager controlled the ball beautifully before wriggling past
Watfords player of the season Robert Page but his 20 yard shot did not test Day.
Just two minutes later City were forced into a reshuffle when Zuniga failed to run off
a knock to his right ankle, allowing Whelan to move up front and Norwegian Runar Normann
to take his place on the left flank.
That may have seem likely to shake up Coventrys strike force but it was Watford
who sprung into action and three minutes before half-time they took the lead.
Paul Williams failed to deal with a deep corner and Mooney was allowed to turn the ball
back into the danger zone where Helguson was waiting to spectacularly overhead kick past
the despairing Magnus Hedman.
Whatever Strachan said to his troops at the break it failed to inspire them and if
anything, Watford increased their stranglehold on the game in the second period.
Smith was dogging the City defence at every opportunity and only a combination of top
class saves from Hedman and baffling decisions by referee Rennie kept the Sky Blues in the
On the hour the striker ran clear and was denied by the big Swede, but two minutes
later he seemed to have won his side a penalty when he latched onto a through ball only to
be pulled down by the Coventry keeper.
Much to the dismay of Taylor and the Watford faithful Rennie waved aside all protests
and signalled that the game should continue.
There were City raids on the home goal but they were few and far between, Moustapha
Hadji coming the closest with a well flighted 30-yard free kick which forced Day to tip
over the bar.
Transfer listed Noel Whelan was showing good industry for Coventry up front but there
was very little service from the flanks, a fact highlighted when Strachan replaced Normann
who he had introduced as a substitute.
Although a win looked beyond them City nearly grabbed a last gasp equaliser when Gary
Breen tried his luck from 35 yards, only to see his shot turned round by Day.
The result makes little difference to either side except to leave Scot Strachan
scratching his head all summer over his sides horrendous travel sickness.