Football: Williams' debut delivery

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The Independent Online
Coventry City. .2

Middlesbrough. .1

THIS was a successful return to Coventry for Bobby Gould, but his side faltered when all but home. They dominated and, at times, delighted, but very nearly let a 2-0 lead slip from their hands. And the lead should have been bigger. In the first half, Middlesbrough looked as though they had nothing except rousing support to contribute to the Premier League.

All the new signings were on show. Tommy Wright excelled for Boro, unlike the pounds 900,000 signing Derek Whyte: it was his poor marking that let the Coventry new boy John Williams score the first goal and set the Coventry ball rolling.

How circumstance has smiled on Williams. A year ago he was a Birmingham postman with a reputation as an impressive table-tennis player. Swansea then signed him: it was goodbye to postbags and ping-pong, and, in time, welcome to Wembley, where he won the Rumbelows Sprint Challenge.

The luck did not end there. Williams's debut would almost certainly have had to wait had Kevin Gallacher not been injured and Peter Ndlovu been on international duty. It took just 10 minutes for the new boy to be transformed from relative nobody to Highfield Road hero. Mick Gynn's pass wide to Stewart Robson cut open the Boro defence and Williams's run placed him perfectly to poke home the well-paced cross.

The strike was bracketed by goal-mouth scrambles, the pressure being all Coventry's. Robert Rosario, consigned to play second fiddle to Williams, was forced further out of the limelight when he missed two goal-scoring chances. The first was a header that went wide, the second an air shot at Terry Fleming's cross which so foxed keeper Stephen Pears that the goal was left totally open for David Smith to blast in from three yards.

Then Boro finally came to life, and their efforts soon bore fruit. Willy Falconer chipped Coventry's defence, keeper Steve Ogrizovic ran out, but Paul Wilkinson got there first and lobbed the keeper. Two minutes later Bernie Slaven had a goal disallowed for offside, but the away side maintained the pressure, forcing Ogrizovic to stretch. For Middlesbrough, though, it was too little, too late.

Coventry City: S Ogrizovic; T Fleming, K Sansom, S Robson, A Pearce, P Atherton, M Gynn, L Hurst (P Babb, 76 min), R Rosario, J Williams, D Smith (S Slymm, 70 min). Substitute not used: J Gould. Manager: B Gould.

Middlesbrough: S Pears; C Morris, J Phillips, A Kernaghan, D Whyte, A Peake, T Wright, R Mustoe (B Slaven, 55 min), P Wilkinson, J Hendrie, W Falconer. Substitutes not used: J Gittens, I Ironside. Manager: L Lawrence.

Referee: H King (Merthyr Tydfil).

Goals: Williams (1-0, 10 min); Smith (2-0, 51 min); Wilkinson (2-1, 63 min).