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Watford (1) 1  Coventry City (0) 0

Coventry City’s 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 season’s 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 Helguson’s head, who, unfortunately for Graham Taylor’s men, failed to convert from 10 yards.

Watford’s 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 linesman’s 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 tough time.

Gordon Strachan’s men were consistently failing to find the final pass and only Republic of Ireland star Robbie Keane seemed a real threat to Watford’s end of season party.

On 33 minutes the teenager controlled the ball beautifully before wriggling past Watford’s 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 Coventry’s 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 game.

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 side’s horrendous travel sickness.

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WATFORD (4-4-2):
Day, Page, Palmer, Robinson, Mooney, Smith, Ward, Bonnot, Perpetuini, Cox (Gibbs, 51 mins), Helguson
Subs not used: Chamberlain, Easton, Gudmundsson, Foley

Hedman, Breen, Telfer, Shaw, Williams (Gustafsson, 45mins), McAllister, Chippo, Hadji, Whelan, Keane, Zuniga (Normann, 34 mins), Normann (Quinn, 78 mins)
Subs not used: Kirkland, Eustace

Watford - Helguson (43 mins)

REFEREE: Uriah Rennie (Sheffield)

Watford - Perpetuini (63 mins)
Coventry - Paul Telfer (58 mins), Chippo (61 mins)


COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH: Magnus Hedman - fine saves

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 14 May 00

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