Football: Euell's deft touch

Wimbledon 2 Euell 71, 84 Coventry City 1 McAllister pen 54 Half- time: 0-0 Attendance:11,717
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The Independent Online
A TRYING afternoon for the Coventry manager Gordon Strachan - which saw him witness his side concede two late goals before his right-back, Roland Nilsson, was taken off on a stretcher with concussion - finished with him trying his hardest to restrain himself from launching a full- scale verbal attack on the referee, Steve Dunn, afterwards.

Strachan, who has not stinted in criticising other match officials in his brief time in management, simply dressed his criticism of the Bristol official with sarcasm, saying ultimately: "It was a truly unique performance by the referee. It will live in the memory of anyone who saw it." And Strachan admitted that his chairman, Bryan Richardson, had also been to see Dunn but Strachan, when pressed for Richardson's comments, merely said they were unprintable.

What Dunn did to invoke such anger was fail to give penalties to Coventry in the second half, most notably when, with the scores level, Strachan felt his striker Darren Huckerby was pushed over in the box, and later he thought a Wimbledon defender had handballed. Neither offence was clear- cut, certainly not as obvious as the 54th-minute incident when Chris Perry brought down Huckerby and Gary McAllister calmly slotted the penalty to Neil Sullivan's left.

Yet Strachan's rage was surely also levelled at his players, who had the bulk of possession before and immediately after that penalty, yet frittered it away around the box and finally paid the price for slack defending.

Wimbledon were lucky to go into the second half with the match goalless as they had survived a scare as early as the sixth minute. Huckerby's shot was brilliantly parried by Sullivan and McAllister's follow-up shot was tapped in by Steve Froggatt, who was flagged offside.

Strachan's fury took some gloss off Wimbledon's win and half-time was to prove one of Joe Kinnear's finest 15 minutes as he rearranged his side by taking off Marcus Gayle and moving Jason Euell from midfield into attack. It did not seem the master stroke it eventually was as Coventry took the lead but that prompted Wimbledon, and Euell in particular, into action.

Euell had looked the most likely to make an impression as he forced a save from Magnus Hedman in the first half, and with 19 minutes left he converted Ben Thatcher's pass into the area. But the striker, whom the Wimbledon chairman Sam Hammam once dubbed "better than Pele", was not finished there and with six minutes left he controlled Michael Hughes' pass, beat Paul Williams and slotted home.

Just before Euell's second, Coventry saw their penalty appeals turned down. Things went from bad to worse as Nilsson went down in a clash with team-mate George Boateng just before full-time. The Swedish left-back stayed down for 10 minutes and had a neck brace put on, but after observation in hospital he travelled home with the squad. Dunn went back to Bristol with his ears ringing. Sent to Coventry indeed.

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