Football: Substitute Soltvedt the sky-blue saver

Coventry City 2 Whelan 67 Soltvedt 85 Charlton Athletic 1 Robinson; Attendance: 20,259 55 Half-time: 0-0
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The Independent Online
COVENTRY PULLED off a victory that will go a long way towards keeping the Premiership's perennial survivors relegation-proof for yet another season. Gordon Strachan's side went a goal down and had John Aloisi sent off within 90 seconds early in the second half but fought back and were rewarded with goals by Noel Whelan and the substitute, Trond Egil Soltvedt.

It was the sending-off, according to the Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, that turned the match. "We had the advantage in numbers but didn't know what to do with it," he said. "We didn't know how to win the game and panicked. In a way I wish it had not happened." That sentiment was certainly shared by Aloisi, who felt Danny Mills, the defender he was alleged to have struck, had over-reacted to the incident. Strachan shared that view.

"My initial reaction was that there was a push," he said. "I would want to see it again and maybe I'm wrong but if somebody had gone down like that in a brawl with John Wayne then John Wayne would have stopped and laughed at him."

The points lift Coventry, whose feats of escapology have become legendary during three decades in the top flight, into 15th place, above Everton and Charlton, who remain a point ahead of the drop zone.

Coventry had been keen to continue where they had left off at Aston Villa, and Charlton found danger arriving thick and fast in the opening phase, in which chances fell to Aloisi and Darren Huckerby.

Only Charlton's goalkeeper, Simon Royce, sprinting 25 yards off his line, spared Steve Brown embarrassment after his error put Gary McAllister in the clear. Royce punched out a McAllister corner but then had to pull off an acrobatic save to deny David Burrows, who had headed his clearance back at him.

Charlton's bold approach to the second half caught Coventry on the hop. Having survived one scare when John Robinson's cross created a chance that was missed by Martin Pringle, they fell behind 11 minutes after the interval.

Magnus Hedman saved from Pringle with his legs, as he had to deny his Swedish compatriot late in the first half. But this time Charlton had players in support and, although the goalkeeper managed to block Andy Hunt's follow-up, Robinson forced the loose ball over the line. A protesting Hedman was booked.

Aloisi received his marching orders less than two minutes later, having used an arm or an elbow against Mills, who went down holding his head after the two clashed. But Coventry responded with renewed purpose, equalising with an excellent goal scored by Whelan, who curled a low right-foot shot beyond Royce from the inside-left position, but created by Paul Telfer's instant, wrong-footing lay-off from Paul Williams's punt forward.

Five minutes from time, a corner by McAllister was cleared only as far as Soltvedt, whose shot from just inside the Charlton penalty area beat Royce after a deflection.