Football: Huckerby hustles sorry Macclesfield

Coventry City 7 Froggart 28, Whelan 36, Payne og 45, Huckerby 60, 71, 90, Boateng 88 Macclesfield Town 0 Half-time: 3-0 Attendance: 14,197
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HAUNTED habitually over the past decade by the nastiest ghouls with which the FA Cup has the capacity to terrify its leading lights, Coventry spent this third-round Saturday exercising vigorously and exorcising successfully, as Darren Huckerby's second-half hat-trick contributed in no small part to their comfortable progress at Macclesfield's expense yesterday.

Sutton, Northampton and Cambridge have all caused Sky-Blue blushes since City lifted the trophy a dozen years ago - most recently, Woking dragged them to a replay. But, once these flu-ridden challengers had run off their early adrenalin - and, in several cases, perhaps pre-match Benylin - it was a regulation romp to the seven goals which matched City's best FA Cup tally, achieved 65 years ago.

No doubt, survivors of the Scunthorpe side which suffered that first- round day could point vainly at reasons why "it might have been different" and, when Sammy McIlroy, the Macclesfield manager, stares dolefully at the bleak statistics of this rout, at least he will be able to recall nearly half an hour of "if only" football. But, the whippy left foot of Simon Davies and the fun-to-watch runs of the Spanish trialist Pedro Matias were, like the January sales, good value for a limited period only. The visitors were soon spent up and City went to town.

City, low on confidence after seven winless games, were indebted for their breakthrough to a goal of lung-bursting determination by Stephen Froggatt. Taking flight from about halfway, he reached cruising speed by the time goal was in sight and, having negotiated a bumpy ride through the box, launched his club's Cup campaign with a sliding finish.

So began a flogging which, though enjoyable at first for the neutral, grew almost too cruel to witness, even for those at the right end of the whip. Gordon Strachan, Coventry's manager, admitted to having felt sympathy for his opponents, especially McIlroy. Strachan said he would have settled for four. By half-time, it was already three. Noel Whelan, unmarked for Gary McAllister's left-wing corner, stooped to head the second; and, at the end of another laudably energetic run from Froggatt, Steve Payne lumped the ball past his own keeper.

It was too much for the Second Division side to bear. Having conceded seven goals to Walsall in the second round of last year's FA Cup, six to Birmingham in this year's League Cup and with five first-team regulars absent, their plight was a desperate one. But Coventry displayed in insatiable greed for goals and, having created a vast wound in Macclesfield's pride, used the last half-hour as a "salt-rubbing" exercise.

During that period, Huckerby achieved his first three-goal haul since last April at Leeds. Profiting first from McAllister's midfield prompting and, in the last three minutes, from George Boateng's selfless running, he produced three adroit finishes, clustered around one splendid right- wing cross from which Boateng headed the sixth goal.

Macclesfield, who were promoted in successive seasons from the Conference and the Third Division, are now in the midst of their first up-against- it campaign in recent times. This result hardly helps.

Magic? Romance? Excuse their quizzical looks.