Football: Lee makes up for goal-shy strikers

Coventry City 2 Dublin 4, 82 Newcastle United 2 Barnes 31, Lee 87 Attendance: 22,679
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The Independent Online
A Bad week for Newcastle and the omens point to a worsening season. But that is to take no credit away for their contribution to a thrilling, competitive game at Highfield Road yesterday. Significantly, though, they had to salvage a point only with a shot blasted late from midfield by Robert Lee.

Like so many other clubs, Newcastle are being told that they must get a "reliable" goalscorer, but quickly. Waiting for Alan Shearer is not an option and Kenny Dalglish is searching everywhere and, like all the other managers, getting nowhere fast. The option of shouting down the pit shaft "come up No 9, you're playing Saturday" disappeared with Woodbines.

For Dalglish the problem was exacerbated in the week by PSV Eindhoven's 2-0 Champions' League win at St James' Park. The saga of injuries is beginning to be a story the patient fans are reading with increasing frustration and, worse still, the often redeeming, wonderfully unusual Faustino Asprilla is looking for somewhere warmer at a club more likely to add medals to his riches.

Not even Ian Rush was available yesterday to bring his experience to Newcastle's attack which began with John Barnes as its only permanent member. Not that such a seemingly defeatist tactic had anything to do with Newcastle suffering a humiliating fourth minute setback when Shay Given caught Gary McAllister's cross but failed to notice that Dion Dublin had run behind him. As Given rolled the ball out so Dublin nipped in, turned and scored probably the most unlikely goal of his career.

The shot struck deep into Newcastle's senses. Lee came to more quickly than the rest, taking every chance to go up in support of Barnes while Temuri Ketsbaia and Keith Gillespie filtered through in time. To add to Newcastle's worries they lost David Batty after half an hour with an injury yet within a minute of Warren Barton arriving Gillespie was driving a searching centre down into the Coventry goalmouth where Steve Ogrizovic made attempts to get his hands to the ball, only for Barnes to stab it in.

As so often this season, Gillespie's imaginative distribution and speed off the mark ought to have brought Newcastle more than merely an equalising goal. That was where the absence of a sharp striker came in. Even so, Coventry had to look to the ever-dependable Ogrizovic to stop Newcastle's growing pressure. Just after half time he bravely beat Ketsbaia to a 50- 50 ball that he made safe.

Much as a full-strengthed Newcastle would probably have devoured this Coventry side, as it was the game developed into absorbing equality and relentless opportunity. Coventry's Darren Huckerby had more chances than most and completely missed the best of them after Paul Telfer had attacked down the right edge. As the ball arrived invitingly in the penalty area, Huckerby seemed to have the rest of the afternoon to beat Given but slapped at his shot that cleared both goalkeeper and goal.

The opportunity for victory remained. Ogrizovic again had to show the old master's touch, denying Barnes who thought he had chipped over his reach. That gave Coventry their final inspiration; after a concerted charge they saw Paul Williams pummel the ball into the crowded goalmouth. It rebounded only a little but sufficient for Dublin to snap it past Given. If the scoring had remained there, Coventry would have been justified but Newcastle hard done by. So when, with three minutes remaining Lee unleashed a 35-yard drive high into the top corner beyond Ogrizovic, a fair result was achieved.

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