Football: Dublin's capital double

Coventry City 2 Dublin 38, 45 Derby County 0 Attendance: 22,864
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The Independent Online
THEY had a 2-0 lead overturned when the sides met in the fifth round of the FA Cup last season, but Coventry never seemed likely to suffer the same fate yesterday after Dion Dublin had set aside the uncertainty over his future to provide them with a decisive advantage.

Dublin's double strike propelled City into the last 16 at the expense of a Derby side who were never able to reproduce the dynamic forward play that has lifted them into Uefa Cup contention.

Dublin, who has turned down a pounds 17,000-a-week offer to sign a new deal with Coventry but rejected a move to Middlesbrough, maintained his place as the club's leading scorer with two goals late in the first half, rewarding an industrious display by the home side, who may be regarded as useful dark horses for Wembley glory if today's draw is kind to them.

It was their unstinting hard work that most impressed their manager, Gordon Strachan, who chose to remain in the directors' box yesterday afternoon after his recent well-publicised outbursts against referees.

"It was raw football today, not necessarily the prettiest to watch," he said, "but my players were committed to winning every ball, every header. There were some terrific performances."

Strachan singled out Dublin, who spared him the need to send on the record signing Lionel Moldovan until the closing minutes, as a player "in a zone where he can do no wrong" but enthused equally about George Boateng, the Dutch Under-21 captain snapped up for a bargain pounds 250,000 from Feyenoord, who has made a startling impact in just half a dozen appearances in midfield. "I knew he had plenty of potential but he has settled in really quickly," Strachan remarked.

Dublin's gifts seem also to include an unshakeable popularity which, despite having taken a stance that would have brought many a player into disfavour with supporters, remains seemingly undented. If Coventry fans are at all dismayed at the scale of his wage demands, there were few signs of dissent yesterday.

Then again, goalscorers have always enjoyed special privileges and after Dublin had rewarded Coventry's first-half dominance with two goals in eight minutes, he was hardly likely to find himself booed by the beneficiaries.

Both goals stemmed from corners on the right, swung across by Paul Telfer, giving Jim Smith plenty to rant about. The first was cleared by Deon Burton but only as far as Boateng, whose lob into the penalty area prompted Derby's defenders to advance in line only to leave Dublin in the clear to head past Mart Poom.

Then, faced with a similar situation, Derby left both Dublin and Noel Whelan to threaten their far post when Gary Breen flicked on Telfer's next kick, Dublin applying the important touch. Derby, who missed the pace of Dean Sturridge up front, seemed to suffer a collective off-day.

The talents of their Italian duo, Stefano Eranio and Francesco Baiano, were subdued by Coventry's tenacious marking, while the threat from Burton and the Costa Rican Paolo Wanchope was in effect negligible as the Coventry goalkeeper Marcus Hedman enjoyed a relatively quiet afternoon.