Coventry City's breakneck slide into deep trouble accelerated further last night when they managed to do what only Blackburn Rovers have achieved in the League this season: lose to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Mark Bright got the winner 19 minutes from time to further imperil a Coventry side who have not won since August and have taken just one point from their last 11 matches.
The fact that the visitors had been ahead three times underlined the sense of loss. If the Coventry defence is so frail it cannot protect a Dion Dublin hat-trick, when will it be strong enough? Certainly the bottom- placed club are unlikely to meet as accommodating a back four again this season as Wednesday's.
The first hint that this was not going to be an archetypal dour battle of fellow strugglers came to light in the 18th minute when Dublin, whose air of supremacy was that of jets against biplanes, struck the first of his hat-trick. John Salako took a corner on the right and although Lee Briscoe hooked the header clear the referee ruled it had crossed the line.
Wednesday were level seven minutes later when Guy Whittingham turned and shot from Briscoe's cross and equalised again on the 38th minute when Hirst followed up a volley from Bright to score from a narrow angle. In between Dublin had got his second, side-footing in from six yards after Salako, a constant threat for Coventry, had shot from the corner of the penalty area and Kevin Pressman had spilled the save.
Four goals. The first half had been frantic, the second scarcely less so, the defensive mayhem being launched by Coventry's Richard Shaw heading against his own crossbar after 47 minutes. That was an escape that appeared to have a gilt edge when Dublin completed his hat-trick with his ninth goal of the season, heading Paul Williams' flick-on from Kevin Richardson's left-wing corner. But again the lead was short-lived and, this time, it was Wednesday who edged ahead for the first and decisive time.
First Marc Degryse followed up Bright's 61st-minute header after Steve Ogrizovic had saved to make it 3-3 and then Bright struck after 71 minutes, getting a touch at the near post after Ian Nolan had crossed from the by-line on the right.
Sheffield Wednesday (5-3-2) Pressman; Nolan, Atherton, Nicol, Walker, Briscoe; Degryse, Waddle (Hyde, 84), Whittingham; Wright, Hirst. Substitutes not used: Sinton, Watts.
Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Pickering, Shaw, Rennie (Strachan, 72), Hall; Telfer, Richardson, Williams, Salako; Ndlovu, Dublin. Substitutes not used: Isaias, Filan (gk).
Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).