Football: Dublin runs dry

Coventry City 0 Everton 0 Attendance: 14,497
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The Independent Online
In the end honours were even, but a draw has done little for either Everton's European qualification ambitions or Coventry's annual flirtation with relegation.

With a third of the season still to play, both teams showed a startling lack of ambition in a first half which disintegrated into a tepid, error- strewn stalemate. Cultured football was always going to be difficult in a swirling wind and with formations which put space in midfield at a premium. But there was little excuse for both sides' indiscriminate passing, poor control, hopeful punts forward and woeful crossing.

Both managers, Joe Royle and Gordon Strachan, could offer few excuses for the lack of entertainment, describing the match as "uninspirational" and "never a classic" respectively.

Dion Dublin, returning after a seven-match suspension, formed a striking partnership for Coventry with Darren Huckerby, leaving new signing Gary Breen to marshall Everton's Duncan Ferguson - a task he performed with some poise.

Huckerby's pace was a constant worry for the Everton defence who went about their task in numbers to snuff out the threat. Huckerby drove into the side netting from a narrow angle in the first half, ran 70 yards before shooting wildly midway through the second half and was spoiled only by an excellently timed tackle from Craig Short when a perfectly judged run had put him clear after 56 minutes.

Everton's best chance also fell to Short, whom Royle wryly described as "not being noted for his finishing". After 20 minutes, Nicky Barmby floated a free kick into the area for Ferguson to head down, whereupon Short conspired to toe-poke the ball feebly against the post and back into Steve Ogrizovic's welcoming arms.

Thereafter, apart from a couple of unthreatening efforts from Ferguson, Everton's challenge faded, leaving Coventry to camp in their half after the interval. Peter Ndlovu worked hard down the left flank without ever delivering a telling final ball and Dublin ran tirelessly but suffered from a lack of meaningful service. It was symptomatic of Coventry's lack of thrust that Dublin managed to flick on long throws from the near post three times in the second half, only for Everton to clear easily with no attacking player in sight.