Coventry not out of jail: Football

Coventry City 0 Leicester City 0
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The Independent Online
Pitch invasions can never be condoned, but the one-man incursion in the second half of a drab derby drew a sympathetic cheer from many Coventry supporters.

After materialising on the wing during a hold-up in play, the interloper appeared to be making for Leicester's Kasey Keller. Instead he sprinted towards the West Stand, hurdled the wall and ran up the steps between the seats. Spectators applauded when he initially evaded police and stewards, like prisoners admiring an audacious break for freedom.

Coventry, whose 30 years in the top division often seem to have been inspired by The Great Escape, are again in danger of failing to clear the metaphorical barbed wire. They have only eight games left, compared with 11 for each of the bottom three, and have won just once all year.

Ominously, the Sky Blues lacked the fighting spirit expected in their predicament. Leicester, who might have been excused for keeping something in reserve for tomorrow's Coca-Cola Cup semi-final second leg at Wimbledon, showed far more passion. But for a dearth of strikers, they would surely have gained the fourth consecutive win that would have virtually ensured their own survival.

Yet on paper Gordon Strachan is blessed with better players than Martin O'Neill. His line-up contained nine pounds 1m-plus players against one for Leicester, and seven internationals compared with the visitors' two. O'Neill, however, has bought hungry players, men from the lower divisions desperate to prove themselves and willing to be moulded.

One such, the former Oxford defender Matt Elliott, gave another hugely authoritative display. Neil Lennon and Muzzy Izzet, rescued from Crewe and Chelsea reserves respectively, were the most influential midfielders on view. Only the home back three competed with similar assurance.

Coventry's cause is not being aided by Strachan's inexperience as a manager. A week earlier he had withdrawn Alex Yevtushok half an hour into his debut, a tacit admission that he had selected the wrong team (at Old Trafford, of all places). Here he hauled off John Salako 25 minutes after sending him on, explaining later that the winger was "not ready, physically or mentally".

In the latter respect, Leicester look in good shape as they prepare to resume the goalless tie at Selhurst Park, but O'Neill has injury doubts over Emile Heskey, Steve Claridge and Mark Robins - his three principal strikers - while Elliott, Ian Marshall and Steve Guppy are all ineligible.

Guppy, newly signed from Port Vale and with a touch of the Chris Waddle about him, set up the best chance for Scott Taylor. His wasted header seemed to typify the fare, though one pundit saw the solo invader as more symptomatic. "Even the streaker was wearing clothes," she complained.

Coventry City (3-5-2): Ogrizovic; Dublin, Breen, Yevtushok; Telfer (Salako, h-t; Ndlovu, 70), McAllister, Richardson, Jess (Borrows, 85), Shaw; Whelan, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Boland, Filan (gk).

Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Watts, Elliott, Walsh; Grayson, Lennon, Parker, Izzet, Guppy; Heskey (Taylor, 52), Robins (Lawrence, 61). Substitutes not used: Campbell, Claridge, Poole (gk).

Bookings: Leicester: Izzet, Lennon.

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill, Surrey).

Man of the match: Elliott.

Attendance: 19,220.

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