Football: City stresses relieved by calm McAllister

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Coventry City 2
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The Independent Online
COMETH THE hour, cometh the man, and as the hour of Coventry's annual bid to stave off relegation comes round again, the man most likely to lead them into a 32nd consecutive season in the top flight is back to his impressive best.

Although the Coventry manager, Gordon Strachan, sportingly put the difference between these underachieving sides down to two lapses of concentration by Wednesday, he was overlooking the contribution of his captain, Gary McAllister, who provided the Sky Blues with the inspiration their opponents so conspicuously lacked.

Wednesday, who are now well on the way to performing their own annual trick of snatching danger from the jaws of safety with this fifth consecutive defeat, might themselves have established a comfortable lead before McAllister steadied the Coventry ship. He coolly converted a penalty after Emerson Thome had given the ball away to Darren Huckerby and the goalkeeper, Pavel Srnicek, brought him down.

It was McAllister's cue to reprise the masterly midfield display with which he and Strachan helped Leeds to the championship. Always in space to receive the ball, his incisive passes and perfectly struck corners created enough chances to put the game beyond Wednesday's reach by the interval.

"He had the mental strength to score from the penalty at a crucial time and he was on the ball more than any other player in my side," Strachan said.

Wednesday might now be contemplating a stress-free run-in to the season if they have the same sort of creative and steadying influence in their side. Instead, they rely for their inspiration on their Italian striker, Benito Carbone, whose full potential will only be realised when Danny Wilson finds the right partner to play alongside him.

He gave Richard Cresswell, bought on deadline-day from York for pounds 1m, his debut, but although he worked hard, held the ball up well and got himself into scoring positions, the killer instinct Wednesday have been missing all season was still not in evidence.

He did enough to impress his manager, however. Wilson said: "Richard was a threat to them. He put himself about. I was very pleased with his debut."

But it was a midfielder, Petter Rudi, who put Wednesday back on terms, bundling the ball in after Carbone set him up with a typically flamboyant scissors kick early in the second half.

Wednesday had taken the initiative again when their defence failed to pick up Huckerby on the right and were even more noticeable by their absence when Noel Whelan found himself in yards of space to tap in the soft winner which will relieve some of the pressure on Coventry when they face Southampton today.

Goals: McAllister (pen 18) 0-1, Rudi (50) 1-1, Whelan (83) 1-2.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-3-1-2): Srnicek; Atherton, Thome, Walker (Sonner, h-t), Briscoe; Alexandersson, Jonk (Scott, 90), Rudi; Carbone; Humphreys, Cresswell. Substitutes not used: Pressman (gk), Newsome, Agogo.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Edworthy, Williams, Shaw, Breen; Boateng, McAllister (Clement, 90), Telfer, Froggatt; Huckerby, Whelan. Substitutes not used: Kirkland (gk), Konjic, Gioacchini, Soltvedt.

Referee: Mr K Burge (Tonypandy). Bookings: Wednesday: Srnicek, Sonner. Coventry: Telfer, Whelan.

Man of the match: McAllister.

Attendance: 28,136.