Football: Kitson provides the cut and thrust

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The Independent Online
Andrew Martin

West Ham United 1 Coventry City 0

After the previous day's diet of turkey the thought of picking through the cold left-overs would have been more appealing than the footballing fare on view at Upton Park yesterday.

After a Paul Kitson goal had provided West Ham with a breakthrough in the 16th minute, a turkey of a match ensued. That Harry Redknapp saw his side achieve an 11th win in 12 games at home will have provided little measure of comfort. Against a 10-man Coventry of little ability and even less ambition, West Ham struggled.

His Coventry counterpart, Gordon Strachan, has cause for greater concern. The dismissal of the midfielder George Boateng after an indisciplined lunge from behind on Frank Lampard earned him a second booking nine minutes into second half means that Coventry have now had four players sent off this season. It was only Boateng's second start since arriving from Feyenoord for pounds 250,000. Three other Coventry players were booked by the referee, Graham Poll.

Lampard, it was, who kept the Hammers ticking after their key creative force in midfield, Eyal Berkovitch, trudged off with an injured knee shortly before the end of the first half. The Israeli is doubtful for tomorrow's game against Wimbledon.

But first Lampard's pass had found Berkovitch, who in typically beguiling manner broke free of a bemused Coventry defender on the edge of the area and found Kitson in the clear. Kitson drilled the ball neatly past Magnus Hedman.

West Ham should have proceeded to press their advantage against an injury- depleted Coventry side. Yet Dion Dublin stood tall and defiant in the centre of their back line, his tackling and marshalling of John Hartson belying the striker's status as makeshift defender.

Strachan denied he is to sell Dublin and he was critical of his young strike pairing of Darren Huckerby and Noel Whelan. He intends looking for reinforcements. "We've scored only three goals away from home this season and quality is putting the ball in the back of the net," Strachan said. "We need to add some quality to the team and we'll try our best to do that."

Stan Lazaridis, back from international duty with Australia, posed an erratic threat but he managed to gallop to the byline and cross a ball that tantalisingly hit the inside of the far post as a wrong-footed Hartson narrowly missed the rebound. Again it was Dublin who cleared.

Two minutes later, Hartson, released by Lampard on the right, cut inside but shot straight into Hedman's midrift.

Later in the match Kitson missed a gift of a chance when put clean through on the keeper from Hartson's pass.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Forrest; Pearce, Ferdinand, Unsworth; Impey, Lomas, Lampard, Berkovitch (Potts, 42), Lazaridis; Kitson, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Abou, Rowland, Paulo Alves, Lama (gk).

Coventry City (3-5-2): Hedman; Shaw, Dublin, Hall; Telfer, O'Neill, Boateng, Nilsson, Shilton; Huckerby, Whelan. Substitutes: Boland, Lightbourne, Haworth, Soltvedt, Ogrizovic (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring)

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