Coton's injury casts shadow

Southampton 3 Sunderland 0
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The Independent Online
It was an innocent clash, the sort from which goalkeepers and strikers earn their wages. The curling, teasing cross arrived at the far post and both players fell down under the mutual weight of the challenge. Nobody was too worried when the compulsory stretcher arrived and it was suggested that it might serve its normal purpose of persuading them to get up and resume the contest.

But Tony Coton, the Sunderland goalkeeper, did not get up. He was helped on to the stretcher and carried off, sitting up but clearly in pain. He had broken both tibia and fibia in his right leg, an injury which will certainly end his season and, at 35, may curtail his career.

It happens to professional footballers all the time but that did nothing to lift the mood afterwards. "The result comes second to what's happened to Tony," said his team-mate, Paul Stewart. "From where I was it all looked innocuous."

It was important to emphasise that no blame could be attached to Southampton's Norwegian forward, Egil Ostenstad, one of three new foreign players making noteworthy contributions.

The goalkeeper has been this way before. Only two seasons ago, when he was with Manchester City and generally adjudged to be among the best in England, he was out for five months and never regained his place.

The departure was hardly responsible for the result. Coton, as his manager Peter Reid said, is influential but would have been powerless, even had he returned with a bionic leg, to stop any of the goals. The first was a 35 yard volley from Jason Dodd which screeched home via the inside of a post.

The second came from a Le Tissier penalty, which followed his overhead clearance at the other end to relieve insistent Sunderland pressure. The third was a formality for Neil Shipperley, but any celebrations were muted by Coton's double fracture.

Goal: Dodd (38) 0-1; Le Tissier (pen, 53) 0-2; Shipperley (89) 0-3.

Southampton (3-5-2): Beasant; Van Gobbel (Magilton, 68), Dodd, Dryden; Slater, Lundekvam, Berkovitch, Neilson, Charlton; Le Tissier (Shipperley, 60); Ostenstad (Watson, 68). Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Maddison.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Coton (Perez, 26); Hall, Melville, Ord, Scott; Kelly (Rae, 79), Bracewell, Ball, Gray; Stewart, Russell (Bridges, 68). Substitutes not used: Howey, Kubicki.

Bookings: Southampton: Le Tissier, Berkovitch, Lundevkam.

Man of the match: Berkovitch.

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Attendance: 15,225.

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