Football: Barnes the striker rolls back the years

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Coventry City 2 Newcastle United 2

On the day Coventry City announced plans for a new pounds 60m 40,000-capacity stadium with a retractable roof and retractable pitch, a terrific atmosphere at old Highfield Road played its part in producing a thoroughly enjoyable Premiership spectacle.

Dion Dublin launched the festivities with the sort of impudence that will give goalkeepers everywhere nightmares for the rest of the season, while Rob Lee rounded things off with a stunning strike from nearly 35 yards that even the excellent Steve Ogrizovic could do nothing about.

In between, John Barnes produced a performance that either of Newcastle's injured centre-forwards, Alan Shearer and Ian Rush, would have been proud of. Revealing a turn of pace that suggested Liverpool may have wasted a couple of years of his career by playing him so deep in midfield, he not only scored Newcastle's first equaliser, tapping in after Ogrizovic had been beaten by Keith Gillespie's wicked low drive across the face of goal, but he also made Richard Shaw look cumbersome by comparison. He also demonstrated the kind of commitment and enthusiasm that inspired Kenny Dalglish's side to keep going even after Dublin had scored again eight minutes from time.

There was no disputing Dublin's seventh goal in the Premiership this season, as he converted the rebound from Paul Williams' shot, but his sixth - stealing up behind the unsuspecting Shay Given to take the ball off the goalkeeper's toes as he was preparing to clear his lines - was in keeping with Coventry's tradition for rule-bending innovation that began with Ernie Hunt's infamous "donkey kick" 25 years ago.

As on that occasion, the goal stood because no one could work out why it should not, but the donkey kick was outlawed thereafter and it will be interesting to see if the legislators crack down on Dublin's initiative in the same way.

"I didn't think you were allowed to leave the field of play and come back and gain an advantage at the same time," Dalglish said. "We need to check that one out. But it was a good thing for Shay to learn from."

"To be fair, it threw us," said the Coventry manager, Gordon Strachan. "The players looked embarrassed to be one up, as though they hadn't done anything to deserve it."

In general, though, both managers were in high good humour, as they were entitled to be after providing such rich entertainment. Of Barnes, Dalglish said: "When you get to 35 you have to enjoy your game as it might be your last, you never know."

Someone then pointed out that Barnes is only 33. Dalglish said: "Is he? Well, he looks 35." With that, and after a quick inquiry as to the score from the Rangers-Celtic match, Dalglish departed, doubtless looking forward to the latest mid-season break and happy that, with games in hand, his depleted squad are somehow still in touch with the Premiership leaders.

Goals: Dublin (4) 1-0; Barnes (31) 1-1; Dublin (82) 2-1; Lee (87) 2-2.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Nilsson, Shaw, Breen, Burrows; Telfer, McAllister, Williams, Hall; Huckerby (Haworth, 73), Dublin. Substitutes not used: Soltvedt, Boland, Johansen, Hedman (gk).

Newcastle United (4-3-3): Given; Watson, Peacock, Albert, Pistone; Lee, Batty (Barton, 30), Beresford; Gillespie, Barnes, Ketsbaia. Substitutes not used: Tomasson, Crawford, Hamilton, Hislop (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland).

Bookings: Newcastle: Albert.

Attendance: 22,679.

Man of the match: Dublin.

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