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Newcastle United 4
Coventry City 1

Coventry City’s exploits on the banks of the Tyne do not make pretty reading – games - seven, goals against - 21, goals for - one, points - nil.

There have been far worse nights at St James Park and Gordon Strachan was upbeat but there is no escaping the fact that Coventry are now in deep trouble and face a fight to the final day of the season once again.

Everton’s win over Middlesbrough pushed City closer to the relegation zone and with games against Manchester United and Aston Villa just around the corner, these are not good times.

City played far better and showed more fight than they had at Everton in the FA Cup tie on Saturday but gave away a position of strength and then collapsed in the second half to allow Newcastle an easy victory.

Strachan made change after the cup defeat. Gary Breen was consigned to the reserves the night before and was replaced by Mo Konjic, making his first start in the Premiership, while Trond Soltvedt won back in place in midfield.

City started brightly and were a match for the home side during an entertaining first half. Newcastle were clearly aware of Darren Huckerby’s pace and their former team mate managed to exploit gaps on several occasions.

Alan Shearer had one early shot saved by Magnus Hedman, while Gary Speed sent one effort over the bar but Newcastle were by no means dominating.

And when City took the lead in the 18th minute it came via the sweetest move. Huckerby held the ball up well shaking off a defender and then fed Whelan on the edge of the area. It was a fierce pass to control but Whelan cushioned the ball with his chest and rapped in a fine left-foot volley.

City were still celebrating their lead when, around 30 seconds later, Shearer fired Newcastle back into the game. Louis Saha pushed a pass between Konjic and David Burrows and once the England man had the goal in his sights there was little doubting the outcome.

There was little to choose between the two sides up until half time and once again Coventry had just cause to feel hard done by at the hands of officialdom. Just two minutes after the goal Huckerby darted in from the left touchline and managed to force his way past French defender Laurent Charvet who appeared to pull the striker down.

Referee Steve Dunn, the man in charge in the controversial game at Wimbledon earlier this season, did not see it that way.

Coventry had no reason to doubt their chances of going on to win the game – but Newcastle blew them away in four second half minutes.

Shearer turned creator in the 54th minute to set up Gary Speed who squeezed his way past Konjic and Burrows before pushing the ball into the net as Hedman came racing off his line.

Four minutes later it was all over when French teenager Louis Saha was able to climb unchallenged at the near post to meet Solano’s corner which he directed in with a downward header.

Coventry were dead and they knew it. Their confidence had drained and they were suddenly being forced to watch Newcastle indulge in some exhibition football.

Shearer rounded off the night 15 minutes from time when he followed in a free kick from Dietmar Hamann and pounced on a handling error by Magnus Hedman.

Strachan then decided to replace Huckerby with John Aloisi and the he clearly did not want to leave the field. He and Strachan had words, long and loud, before the player took his seat in the dug out.

An ugly end to another disappointing day.

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Newcastle United: Given, Charvet, Howey, Dabizas, Domi, Solano, Speed (Barton, 85 mins), Hamman, Glass (Brady, 65 mins) Shearer, Saha (Ketsbaia, 77 mins). Subs: Hughes, Harper.

Coventry City: Hedman, Nilsson, Shaw, Breen, Burrows, Boateng, Soltvedt (Clement, 66 mins), Froggatt, Huckerby (Aloisi, 76 mins), Whelan. Subs: Edworthy, Telfer, Ogrizovic.

Everton – Glass (foul);
Coventry – Burrows (foul), Boateng (foul), Konjic (foul).

Referee: Steve Dunn (Bristol).

Coventry man of the match: Whelan – admirable workrate.

Attendance: 36,352.

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 17 Feb 99

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