Coventry happy to make a point

Football
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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest 0 Coventry City 0

Although Coventry's bold quest for victory ultimately failed, a point at the City Ground last night may prove to have secured their Premiership lifeline, taking them out of the bottom three on goal difference above Manchester City.

In 29 seasons in the top flight, Coventry have honed escapology into a fine art, eight times defying the drop on the very last day of the season. After this they have to travel to Wimbledon a week on Saturday and finish at home to Leeds, which is not the worst run-in among the relegation candidates. Manchester City, by comparison, must play Aston Villa away and Liverpool at home.

The Coventry manager, Ron Atkinson, prowled the touchline anxiously for much of last night's match but finished urging his troops forward in search of the goal that would have taken them ahead of Southampton as well.

In a rousing finale that might have produced goals at each end, Coventry went close to forcing the issue in their favour as many as five times, twice through Eoin Jess, scorer of last Saturday's precious, decisive goal against Queen's Park Rangers, and again through John Salako and Dion Dublin. Each time, Mark Crossley was equal to their efforts, although the Forest goalkeeper was beaten by a chip from Noel Whelan that clipped the outside of a post.

All this came after a first half in which they had threatened little and, after losing the inspiration of Gordon Strachan, injured after half an hour, they owed a debt to their other veteran, 38- year-old goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic, who kept out headers from Jason Lee and Ian Woan with the agility of a much younger man.

Not until Peter Ndlovu squandered a chance provided by Whelan's cross in the last minute of the first half did Coventry look to have ambitions beyond maintaining recent improvements in defence but they looked a much more positive force in the second period, which began with Ndlovu forcing Crossley into two saves.

Indeed, far from defending into a grim stalemate the match opened up pleasingly and as much as Crossley emerged as Forest's salvation so, too, did Ogrizovic earn his pay. "It's a big result which gives us a chance of staying up," a relieved Atkinson said.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Haaland, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Gemmill (Phillips, 89) Bart-Williams, Woan; Campbell (Howe,h/t) Lee. Substitutes not used: Lyttle.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Pickering, Williams, Daish, Hall; Strachan (Salako, 30), Jess, Richardson, Ndlovu; Dublin, Whelan. Substitutes not used: Shaw, Filan (gk).

Referee: M Reid (Birmingham).

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