BY ADAM DENT
Perhaps the memories of last year loomed too large, perhaps recent good
form and Evertons problems in front of goal made everyone think this would be a
stroll in Stanley Park.
Whatever the reason and Gordon Strachan has not discovered it Coventry
failed to rise to the sense of occasion that surrounds any fifth round FA Cup tie and
didnt come near to repeating their recent good form.
They were unsure at the back, outplayed in midfield and failed to make any real
impression up front against a rock-solid Everton back line.
They did manage to get back in the hunt in the dying moments when Gary McAllister
curled a free kick past Thomas Myhre but even then City never really looked capable of
pulling the game out of the fire.
Strachan made four changes from the side that drew at Spurs last Saturday and, in many
peoples eyes, was able to name his strongest side. But personnel and tactics were
not the problem at Goodison Park, it was more down to approach, form and personal
As Strachan identified, Everton started stronger and looked more geared up for a cup
They created a chance in the opening few minutes when Francis Jeffers was sprung clear
of the defence but shot to Magnus Hedman.
Jeffers and his partner Don Hutchison gave Gary Breen and Richard Shaw a tough
afternoon. Hutchison, now back to his best form, was the most effective player on display
and whenever he had the ball Coventry looked troubled.
Darren Huckerby, who managed just one effort on target all afternoon, did have a sniff
at goal when he raced into a high pass from McAllister in the 18th minute but
Mitch Ward had spotted the danger and managed to hack the ball away.
But it was Everton who had settled first and when Jeffers scored in the 20th
minute, it was a deserved lead. Dave Watson hoisted the ball back into the City area and
the teenager flicked the ball clear of his marker and then shot in past Magnus Hedman who
managed to get a hand to the ball.
City could have conceded another just two minutes later when a mix-up between Hedman
and Roland Nilsson allowed Nick Barmby to dart to the touchline and send in a near post
cross which Breen managed to head behind.
McAllisters blood was clearly boiling at the way the game was developing and
after Jeffers and Hutchison were allowed shots on goal with precious little resistance, he
vented his fury in no uncertain terms.
Unfortunately it had little effect. Citys best effort came just before the
interval when Huckerby, who had claims for two penalties turned down, hammered a loose
ball from just inside the Everton area but Myhre tipped his effort just over.
Strachan must have expected some reaction after his, presumably tough, words at half
time, but he will have been disappointed. Philippe Clement continued to run around to
little effect in midfield and the flow of service to the front pair was again missing.
Jeffers forced Hedman into an impressive stop when Olivier Dacourt put him through and
again Breen was on hand to tidy up. Strachan took off the anonymous Boateng for Paul
Telfer and Trond Soltvedt replaced Clement but still it failed to alter the flow of the
John Oster looked to have settled the tie and ruined Wembley hopes for yet another year
when, with 12 minutes left, he swerved a shot past David Burrows and Hedman and into the
far corner of the net.
late consolation raised hopes but not, despite pouring men forward, the performance level
and they could have no complaints when Uriah Rennie called it all to a halt.
The cup is over, but Newcastle, Manchester United and Aston Villa now await in the
Myhre; Ward (OKane 30 mins), Watson, Dunne, Ball; Oster (Bakayoko, 90 mins), Grant,
Bacourt, Barmby; Hutchison, Jeffers (Cadamateri, 89 mins)
Subs not used: Jevons, Simonsen
Hedman; Nilsson, Shaw, Breen, Burrows; Boateng (Telfer, 69 mins), Clement (Soltvedt, 71
mins), McAllister, Froggatt (Aloisi, 79 mins); Huckerby, Whelan
Subs not used: Ogrizovic, Konjic
GOALS: Jeffers (20 mins), Oster (78 mins), McAllister (84 mins)