Football: Strachan looks to the heavens for help

Coventry City 1 Derby County 2
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The Independent Online
TOMMY STANIFORTH

Coventry City 1 Derby County 2

Gordon Strachan laid out the prayer mat after Coventry slipped back towards the Premiership precipice.

Player-manager Strachan was unable to inspire Coventry to stay out of the bottom three as Derby plundered a victory that means the Sky Blues must win at Tottenham this Sunday and then hope that the footballing gods smile on them again.

It is 31 years since Coventry were last outside the top flight - only Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal have survived longer in the Premier Division - and they have an annual habit of somehow defying the laws of gravity.

But, after goals by David Burrows and Dean Sturridge had reduced Gary McAllister's penalty equaliser to nothing more than a consolation, Strachan said: "We're favourites to go down now, but we've put ourselves in this position.

"We didn't do ourselves justice at the start of the season, but there's no excuses. We've had our chances and didn't take them. Now we've got to go to Tottenham and get a result. Even then it will be out of our hands. There is nothing else we can do but give it a go."

It is unlikely that Strachan will play at White Hart Lane after limping off with a hamstring strain that could spell the end of the 40-year-old's career.

Strachan's temper led to the first Derby goal. Incensed by what he thought was an illegal block of a Coventry free-kick, he clattered into Chris Powell, was booked for dissent and the resultant free-kick deflected off David Burrows' head into the Coventry net. The second goal was also self- inflicted when Gary Breen missed a header and Sturridge skipped clear to chip over Steve Ogrizovic.

It is now down to the wire for Coventry, but last season's final-day goal-difference escape from the clutches of the First Division will keep them believing in salvation. "We have to win at Spurs," the midfielder Eoin Jess said, "and we've got to pray that things happen for us elsewhere.

"The players are desperately disappointed for the fans, but there's still a chance we can redeem ourselves."

The Derby manager, Jim Smith, admitted that he felt for Strachan. "It's obviously devastating for Gordon, but that's the nature of the game," he said. "The difference between the sides lay in their ability to take chances. We had three shots at goal and scored twice."

Goals: Burrows og (49) 0-1; McAllister pen (59) 1-1; Sturridge (67) 1-2.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Shaw, Williams, Borrows (Breen, 36), Burrows; Whelan, McAllister, Telfer, Strachan (Jess, 50); Dublin, Ndlovu (Huckerby, 73). Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Richardson.

Derby County (3-5-2): Poom; Rowett, C Powell, Trollope; Laursen, D Powell, Van Der Laan (Willems, 79), Carsley (Yates, 46), Dailly; Sturridge, Ward. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Gabbiadini, Simpson.

Referee: L Dilkes (Mossley). Booking: Coventry Strachan.

Man of the match: Sturridge. Attendance: 22,839.

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