Football: Boateng gives Saints that sinking feeling

Coventry City 1 Southampton 0
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The Independent Online
COVENTRY'S RELEGATION worries eased significantly thanks to George Boateng's 64th-minute goal that sealed a second win in three days for Gordon Strachan's men, who are now six points clear of the last relegation place. South-ampton, however, are staring the drop in the face.

Not that Coventry ever had the easy ride it should have been against a Southampton side who have collected only six points and six goals in away games all season. They came close to adding to that meagre goal tally but never quite close enough.

After a fractious game, Strachan refused to admit his side were safe. "Last Friday I would have been happy with four points from these two games, but I believed we would get something," he added.

The breakthrough came when Coventry caught South-ampton undermanned in defence and distracted by their striker James Beattie lying flat out. Paul Telfer found Gary Breen on the right and his quick cross forced Trond Soltvedt into a diving header that goalkeeper Neil Moss could only scoop out to Boateng, who gleefully drove in from two yards. The Southampton manager, Dave Jones, felt his team had gifted the goal, saying: "We were distracted and switched off and left some double doors open for them at the back. It was always going to be a mistake that settled it."

Yet Coventry should have ended all debate five minutes later when Breen hit the side-netting after Darren Huckerby's cross had evaded the Southampton defence.

Coventry had the best of a poor first half as both sides looked jaded. It took 14 minutes before the first goal chance arrived, with Boateng the recipient of a poor clearance by Ken Monkou. Coventry's Dutch midfielder hit his sidefooted shot well from 20 yards but saw it go just wide.

Moss was in action with eight minutes of the first half remaining, this time to pull off a save from one of his teammates. It was the Boateng- Monkou combination again, this time the former floating in a long throw- in that Monkou sent arcing backwards and the goalkeeper did well to push the ball over his crossbar. A minute later Moss was left stranded by a Gary McAllister corner, but Breen's header was cleared off the goalline by Scott Hiley.

Jones made two changes to the Southampton line-up but resisted the temptation to recall Matt Le Tissier and Hassan Kachloul, who both missed Saturday's goalless draw with Arsenal through suspension.

Jones did call on Le Tissier after the half-time break and it almost brought an instant reward. After just three minutes on the pitch Le Tissier swung in a cross that Beattie headed down firmly only for the Coventry goalkeeper, Magnus Hedman, to palm around the post. Le Tissier then went close himself as he headed just over the crossbar from Hiley's cross.

Southampton are now one off the bottom of the table but Jones refuses to give up hope. "We can still get out of trouble, we just can't get the away win and three points we need," he said. "I haven't set any points targets but we're going for the maximum from our remaining games."

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Burrows, Williams, Shaw, Breen; Soltvedt, McAllister, Boateng, Telfer; Huckerby (Gioacchini, 86), Whelan. Substitutes not used: Kirkland (gk), Konjic, Edworthy, Shilton.

Southampton: (4-4-2): Moss; Colleter, Monkou, Lundekvam, Hiley; Bridge (Le Tissier, h-t), Dodd, Marsden, D Hughes (Kachloul, 75); Beattie (Pahars, 69), M Hughes. Substitutes not used: Stensgaard (gk), Benali.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).