Coventry stay alive

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TWO goals down against Everton after 25 minutes at Goodison Park, Ron Atkinson's Coventry City looked buried but showed unexpected grit and fight to keep the Blues at bay thereafter, score twice themselves and grab a precious point in their attempt to avoid exile to the Endsleigh. In doing so, they dented the Uefa Cup pretensions of Joe Royle's side.

The forecast looked cloudy for the Sky Blues as Scottish international striker Duncan Ferguson bossed Coventry's defence. After 17 minutes, a hard, precise Andy Hinchcliffe cross to the far post was met with a decisive header by the tall forward to give Steve Ogrizovic no chance.

Eight minutes later, Graham Stuart flicked on Neville Southall's clearance and Ferguson held off a challenge by Liam Daish to score his seventh goal in 10 games. Daish pulled a goal back before half-time, heading in John Salako's corner, and Coventry continued to threaten on the break until substitute Paul Williams equalised five minutes from the end.

Meanwhile, Middlesbrough's free-fall goes on, accelerated by a 2-0 defeat by West Ham at Upton Park. Boro started with their two Brazilians, Branco and Juninho, among the substitutes. Ilie Dumitrescu, clutching his freshened work permit after a protracted transfer from Spurs, watched from the Hammers' substitutes bench.

Middlesbrough got off to the worst posible start, conceding a sloppy goal after 40 seconds. Neil Cox rolled a back pass to goalkeeper Gary Walsh and the hapless custodian bungled his attempt to flick the ball up, bouncing it instead off the in-rushing West Ham striker Tony Cottee and across the goal. Iain Dowie ran in for his seventh, and easiest, goal of the season.

Cottee, who missed several chances, was replaced by Dumitrescu after 56 minutes and three minutes later the unfortnuate Cox was involved in the goal which finished off Boro. The ball bounced up, hit his arm, referee Mike Reed pointed to the penalty spot and Julian Dicks's left boot did the rest. Boro have now lost 11 and drawn one of their last 12 matches, failing to score in nine of them.

Better news for the North-east from a sold-out Roker Park where the noise, excitement and tension of the big match in the Endsleigh First Division reached cup tie proportions. By the end, second-placed Sunderland had beaten leaders Derby County 3-0 moving to within four points with two games in hand.

Unbeaten in 20 previous League matches, The Rams were behind after only eight minutes. Paul Stewart, signed on a free transfer from Liverpool last week, beat Igor Stimac in the air. The ball ran out to Steve Agnew who crossed low for Craig Russell to steer the ball in and send the decibel count soaring.

Further pandemonium greeted Agnew's fourth goal of the season after 32 minutes and Russell's second of the game sealed the win with just 13 minutes remaining.