Sunday 27 August 1995
IT WAS fast, it was furious and if only someone had been able to calm the furies raging around Highfield Road in the Coventry and Arsenal colours, it might not have been goalless. Coventry, at least, could always blame David Seaman for if there was a hero it was the man in the Arsenal goal.
Thrice Seaman thwarted Peter Ndlovu when the odds were in the attacker's favour, and then, in a boiling last 10 minutes, the striker was denied again - this time by a blatant push in the back from Tony Adams as Dion Dublin's hooped cross floated tantalisingly before him. No penalty, said the referee, and Arsenal might call it quits as they had a similar appeal turned down in the 10th minute when Paul Williams clattered into Ray Parlour.
Williams's reckless defending brought him a yellow card just before half- time for a foul on Lee Dixon which cost the visitors his services for the rest of the game. John Jensen replaced Dixon, with Martin Keown moving from midfield to full-back.
Whatever fresh blueprint the manager Bruce Rioch is to impose on Arsenal, it was their traditional qualities of depth and dourness in defence that saved the point - and the splendid Seaman who ended the game with his head bandaged after a gash inflicted during some late heroics to thwart Dublin.
The visitors' big-money men were buffeted aside for most of the action, though Dennis Bergkamp showed moments of delightful skill, notably a first- half manoeuvre in which he baffled his marker and lofted a perfect ball on to Ian Wright's forehead beyond two Coventry defenders.
Whatever David Platt adds to Arsenal's resources, their lack of a perceptive passer is still distressingly obvious. Paul Merson, who often assumed the role in the past, here flitted wide on the left and then the right to make way for Glenn Helder, who replaced Parlour in the second half.
A rejuvenated John Salako plagued the Arsenal defence with crosses, but fortunately for Arsenal the likes of Adams and Steve Bould thrive on defending such balls. The winger's lack of accuracy with his final ball didn't help Coventry's cause either. There were, however, still enough signs of a new dawn breaking at Highfield Road - one which will have cost a lot less than that now awaited at Highbury.
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