Football: Butler's silver service

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The Independent Online
West Ham United. .3

Breacker 11, Butler 40, Morley (pen) 59

Coventry City. . .2

Darby 41, 77

Attendance: 17,243

WEST HAM UNITED'S rehabilitation continued in style yesterday, prompted by Peter Butler, their unsung midfielder who spent the early part of this season in his sick-bed.

Butler's hernia operation was forgotten against Coventry as he inspired the Hammers to a thrilling display of Academy football. Yet despite dominating the game, Butler's boys found themselves desperately hanging on for three points.

Phil Neal, the Coventry manager, thought they should have ended with only one. With 11 minutes to go, John Williams sprinted through and was brought down by Tony Gale in the box, but Keith Cooper, the referee, waved play on.

A penalty would have capped an impressive Coventry fight-back, two goals already having been well taken by Julian Darby, Neal's recent purchase from his old club, Bolton Wanderers.

West Ham had started more impressively and went ahead after 11 minutes. Butler stopped a high ball dead on the bridge of his foot and the crowd was still applauding when he burst forward, exchanged passes with Mike Marsh, and teed up Tim Breacker, who tucked the ball under Steve Ogrizovic.

It was almost half an hour until the next goal, but it was worth waiting for. Started and finished by Butler, it was a masterpiece of one-touch construction, Butler exchanging passes with Marsh and then Trevor Morley before sprinting into the box to score.

West Ham had hardly finished patting each other on the back when Darby got his first for Coventry after a flick through by Roy Wegerle.

West Ham, however, kept the upper hand and in the 59th minute they were rewarded with a penalty when Peter Ndlovu leant rather too heavily into his challenge on Marsh. Morley did the honours, but thereafter the home side's controlling interest dissolved.

Darby headed in his second with 13 minutes remaining - Peter Atherton providing the cross - and as Coventry poured forward, all West Ham's good work looked likely to come to nothing. Had the referee decided differently on Gale's tackle, it would have done.