Football: Gordon exploits keeper calamity

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The Independent Online
Coventry City 1

McAllister 72

Middlesbrough 2

Kinder 64, Gordon 82

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 19,231

GORDON STRACHAN had some explaining to do after his gamble with his injured goalkeeper Magnus Hedman backfired to leave Coventry, the perennial brinkmen, still unsure of their Premiership safety.

Hedman was hurt after only two minutes in a heavyweight collision with Middlesbrough's Gary Pallister and continued only after lengthy treatment but, despite the Swede asking to be taken off because of his restricted movement, Strachan decided not to risk his 17-year-old substitute goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland.

Ultimately he paid the price as second-half goals by Vladimir Kinder and Dean Gordon sentenced his side to a defeat that may yet have unwelcome consequences. Although there are five points between Coventry and the relegation places, both Charlton and Blackburn have matches in hand.

Afterwards, Strachan refused to accept responsibility for what appeared to be an expensive misjudgement. "The goalkeeper took a knock but he said he was fit to carry on, even after the physios had looked at him again at half-time," he said.

His explanation did not tally, however, with that of the Swedish international himself. "You saw me make the signal that I wanted to come off," Hedman said. "You will have to ask the manager why he kept me on, although even if I had been fit I don't think I could have done anything with either goal."

Even so, when Middlesbrough went ahead, Hedman made no attempt to dive for Kinder's long-range shot and Strachan's claim that he was wrong-footed was unconvincing.

Kinder, the Slovakian defender who had replaced Pallister after 18 minutes when the veteran centre-half decided he could not go on, brought the ball out of defence himself and Hedman had ample time to assess his intentions.

That should have been the signal for a change but, with the veteran reserve goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic currently injured, Strachan's indecision suggested he felt the risk of throwing an inexperienced teenager into such a critical match was too great.

With supporters screaming at him to replace Hedman, Strachan's players then gave him a short-lived reprieve by coming up with an equaliser. Gary McAllister, on a diagonal run from right to left, took a return pass from John Aloisi before unleashing a shot that Schwarzer could not keep out.

Two fine saves by Schwarzer prevented Aloisi and then Huckerby from putting the home side ahead but Middlesbrough, hitherto disappointing, knew by now that any shot on target was liable to leave Hedman helpless. Sure enough, with eight minutes left the inevitable happened. A corner was headed away but only as far as Dean Gordon, whose volley from the edge of the 18-yard box was hit with power and accuracy, with Hedman again unable to intervene.

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