Foreign stars, towering stadiums, glamour status; sometimes it seems the Sky- spangled clubs of the Premiership can buy anything they want.
Not quite. All the riches in the world cannot buy confidence and spirit. Last night Woking, a typical non-League collection of taxi-drivers and milkmen, had far more of both qualities than a Coventry team assembled at more than 100 times their cost. But not 100 times their worth. The GM Vauxhall Conference side played the better football, and created the better chances, than their supposed betters. What they did not have is another commodity than cannot be bought - luck.
That fell Coventry's way. A fortuitous opening goal, scored by Noel Whelan after seven minutes, was followed by an awful own goal, 11 minutes from time. Conceded by Steve Foster, it ended a Woking revival sparked by Scott Steele's 36th-minute equaliser.
Foster's unfortunate goal settled a match which had become a personal duel between two 39-year-olds. Clive Walker was the best player on the Kingfield pitch. He created Steele's goal and could have had several himself. That he did not was down to Steve Ogrizovic, a veteran of Coventry's 1989 FA Cup humiliation at Sutton. Ogrizovic made three outstanding saves from Walker and also denied Tom Jones, Scott Taylor and, in a frantic finish, Shane Wye and Junior Hunter.
This tie has taken a month to be completed and the tension was apparent from the start, with the game erupting in a flurry of punches after seven minutes. The catalyst was a bad tackle by Kevan Brown which felled Darren Huckerby as he ran on to a through ball from Eoin Jess. Huckerby leapt up and punched Brown to the ground, players rushed in and, within seconds, all but Ogrizovic were embroiled.
The referee, Mike Riley, faced with the task of distinguishing between peacemakers and brawlers, settled for booking the initial protagonists and Robin Taylor. He later added Brian Borrows, for a fairly obvious attempt to see if Walker could run as fast with a limp, and Paul Williams.
The naughtiness should not obscure a lot of good football, much of it played by Woking, who were a credit to the semi-professional game. They went behind from the free-kick which followed the fracas. Gary McAllister took it, an errant leg in the wall deflected the ball and Laurence Batty could only block. Whelan, though playing in midfield, showed a striker's instinct to reach the ball first.
For a while Coventry, and McAllister, dominated. Then Walker bamboozled Marcus Hall on the right and Steele touched in his low cross.
Forty minutes of Woking pressure later, Coventry won a free-kick. Taken by McAllister, it seemed innocuous but caused so much confusion that Foster headed into his own net.
Coventry thus gained a fourth-round trip to Blackburn Rovers, and possibly a fifth-round game at Derby County. Woking earned a standing ovation. It was the least they deserved.
Woking (3-4-1-2): Batty; Foster, Brown, Howard; S Wye, Thompson, Jones, Taylor; Steele; Hay (Hunter, 85), Walker. Substitutes not used: Ellis, L Wye.
Coventry City (3-4-1-2): Ogrizovic; Shaw, Borrows, Williams; Belfer, Richardson, Hall, Whelan; McAllister; Huckerby (Ndlovu, 69), Jess (Strachan, 90). Substitute not used: Filan (gk).
Referee: M Riley (Leeds).Reuse content