Football: Dons hint at revisions to Olsen system

Wimbledon 1 Coventry City 1
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The Independent Online
IN NORWAY Egil Olsen holds a grip over the national psyche in much the same way that David Beckham and Victoria Adams seem to do in England. How else to explain VG, Norway's biggest selling newspaper, devoting two pages to an Olsen shopping trip to Ikea last week.

The English media remain equally fascinated with the Wimbledon manager, though in a slightly more patronising way. Olsen's Marxist political affiliations, so the argument goes, are as outdated as is his belief in a direct penetrative style of play.

Wimbledon's draw with Coventry on Saturday - in truth a rather tame affair played out in front of a paltry 10,000 odd crowd - told a different story. True Carl Cort's second-half goal came courtesy of a Neil Sullivan punt and a Jason Euell flick-on, but there were tentative signs that Olsen is constructing a Wimbledon side that relies on more than just a nuts and bolts long ball game.

The leggy debutant Trond Andersen - a pounds 2.5m buy from Molde - looks a useful acquisition to the midfield, though his inclusion came at the expense of the creative Michael Hughes. Equally impressive were Marcus Gayle and Cort, who provided deadly menace down the flanks.

"We should have won when we took the lead," said Olsen. "Coventry were a difficult team to play against because they got a lot of players behind the ball."

Gary McAllister's stoppage-time penalty, which enabled Coventry to record their first goal and therefore first point of the season, gives Gordon Strachan a foundation on which to build upon.

The Coventry manager argued afterwards that the capture of Moustapha Hadji and his compatriot Youssef Chippo has meant that the technical level of his side has "got better."

Chippo and Hadji, who scored that wonderful solo goal for Morocco against Olsen's Norway in last year's World Cup, are no dilettantes. Hadji got up without complaint after a bone-juddering challenge from Ben Thatcher in the first half, while Chippo covered so much ground you wondered whether a magic carpet was transporting him.

"It's scary that we picked Chippo up for pounds 800,000," said Strachan. "He loves the game and he plays it from the heart."

The Coventry manager admitted that if the Moroccans' endeavours are to be rewarded, his team will need more firepower up front. "We're closer to the finished article, but you're still miles away if you haven't got anyone to put the ball in the back of the net."

Noel Whelan and John Aloisi worked hard all afternoon, but neither looks capable of scoring a brimful of goals, though the Australian did win the penalty after he was hauled over by Tore Pedersen.

"The two boys up front were trying their best," said the Coventry manager. "Sometimes it's just not their time. We may have to get someone to give them a breather so they can feel more relaxed. They tend to get uptight and someone else might take the pressure off them."

Goals: Cort (67) 1-0; McAllister (pen 90) 1-1.

Wimbledon: (4-3-3) Sullivan; Cunningham, Roberts (M Hughes, 70), Blackwell, Thatcher; Cort, Earle (Euell, 59), Hartson, Gayle (Ardley, 79); Pedersen, Andersen. Substitutes not used: Davis, Kimble.

Coventry City: (4-4-2) Hedman; Burrows, Williams, Shaw, Whelan; Aloisi, McAllister, Hadji (Froggatt 75), Telfer; Breen, Chippo. Substitutes not used: Edworthy, Konjic, Strachan, Nuzzo.

Referee: H R Halsey (Welwyn Garden City).

Bookings: Wimbledon: Andersen, Hartson, Pedersen. Coventry: Chippo, Aloisi.

Man of the match: Cort

Attendance: 10,635.

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