Football: Coventry angered by officials' line

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The Independent Online
Coventry City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

FIVE days earlier, the Tottenham crowd went home wondering how Mark Bosnich had saved two penalties. At Highfield Road yesterday, where Tony Daley's first goal of the season took Aston Villa to fifth place in the Premiership, Coventry's supporters left seething over the two spot-kicks the agile Australian did not have to face.

With 16 minutes of a hitherto uneventful derby remaining, Villa were moving with relative ease towards their first League away win of the year. Suddenly, John Williams sent Peter Ndlovu clear on Bosnich. Neil Cox, who had conceded both awards at White Hart Lane, challenged the Zimbabwean, who crashed to the ground in the area. Keith Hackett waved play on.

Three minutes later Mick Quinn hooked the ball goalward only for Shaun Teale, his arms raised, to stop it with a hand. The appeal rang out around the stadium - 'handball]' - but once again Mr Hackett was unmoved.

Ron Atkinson, the Villa manager, had his tongue firmly in cheek afterwards when he said: 'Referees are the most maligned people in the game. It was a very sensible bit of refereeing and saved a lot of time-wasting, because he knew full well that Bosnich would have saved both penalties.'

Joking aside, Atkinson conceded that he 'would not have argued' had both incidents resulted in penalties. However, he added that the Sky summariser, Andy Gray, his former assistant at Villa, had told him that replays showed Ndlovu stumbling rather than being tripped, and he suggested, not unreasonably, that Villa should have been 'out of sight' by then.

His opposite number, Phil Neal, was not inclined to see the funny side of things. More than once lately - at West Ham and Southampton - Coventry have suffered similarly, costing them precious points and possible prize-money. Neal had been in to see the referee, but reserved his public wrath for the linesman concerned.

'I was unsighted for the first one,' he admitted, 'but I felt I had to ask the linesman how he saw the Teale incident. He said 'Ball to hand'. Yet he was looking straight down the barrel at it. . . That shook me rigid.'

The Coventry manager plans to enlist the help of Steve Coppell, chief executive of the League Managers' Association, to introduce cricket-style instant TV replays. When he sits down to watch the video of the whole game, however, Neal might have to admit that Villa just about deserved to end a run of five successive defeats on their Midland rivals' ground.

The goal came after 20 minutes. Daley, receiving from Andy Townsend on the left, swept a pass into the box, where Townsend dummied to Dean Saunders before taking a return pass and slipping the ball to Daley. The winger had by now arrived on the angle of the six- yard area, and beat Steve Ogrizovic with a cross-shot.

Garry Parker and Cox spurned simple chances before Coventry, spurred on by a sense of injustice, came belatedly to life. Daley and Parker cleared off the line in quick succession from David Rennie and Sean Flynn respectively. Bosnich, predictably, had the final word, making a brilliant save to deny Ndlovu in the last minute.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Borrows, Atherton, Babb, Morgan; Flynn, Darby, Rennie, Ndlovu; J Williams, Quinn. Substitutes not used: Boland, Jenkinson, Gould (gk).

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Cox, Ehiogu, Teale, Barrett; Parker, Richardson, Townsend, Daley; Saunders, Fenton. Substitutes not used: Small, Yorke, Spink (gk).

Referee: K Hackett (Sheffield).