Coventry show survival instinct

COVENTRY were reduced to 10 men after 30 minutes and nine after 83, so this result, coming back from 3-1 down, represents a brilliant recovery. Yet the long-term implications for the club are serious.

The city had taken enough rain to attract an investment from Yorkshire Water, but the weather could not be blamed for the gaps in the stands and an attendance of 12,523. Seven goals conceded in the last two home games and three matches lost in the last four indicate not so much a decline as a near collapse.

About this time last year the Coventry board pulled Ron Atkinson out of the hat. What can they do now? Despite the chairman's reassuring noises in midweek, an impartial assessment of Coventry's chances of survival in the Premiership might conclude that three quality players are needed. If available, they would cost pounds 12m-15m.

Wimbledon arrived with an even worse record, having lost eight out of nine and for the first time in my memory they fielded a defence that showed occasional signs of panic. Yet the old tenacity and determination survive, and when the injured return and the money for Dean Holdsworth arrives, another season should pass safely.

Coventry began confidently with a string of corners, from one of which an under-pressure Paul Heald turned the ball into his own net. After 29 minutes, Paul Williams tipped over John Goodman's header, Vinnie Jones equalising with the penalty. Off went Williams and a minute before half- time the Dons took what should have been a decisive lead when Goodman picked up a rebound off a free-kick. After an hour Oyvind Leonhardsen made it 3-1 after Steve Ogrizovic had punched Jones's cross directly to the Norwegian.

Then, with nothing to lose, Coventry found their best form and the faster and deeper they probed, the more Wimbledon's nerves showed. Heald tipped over a point-blank header from Dion Dublin, but was beaten after 68 minutes when Dublin was given a clear chance from Paul Telfer's cross.

Again Coventry seemed doomed when their new purchase from Crystal Palace, the defender Richard Shaw, was sent off for a second caution. One couple immediately in front of me buttoned up their coats and went off home with set faces.

Even with only seven minutes left there was much to come: hardly had Shaw reached the touchline when Coventry were allowed yet another free header, from a free-kick, and David Rennie scored. Ecstatic was the word for the remaining fans. And still more - on the stroke of time Peter Ndlovu grazed a Wimbledon post and Efan Ekoku was almost as close at the other end. Not much for the purists, but phew, what a scorcher.

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