Two goals from Dwight Yorke prompted the Coventry manager, Gordon Strachan, to declare that his side had "no chance" of qualifying for the Uefa Cup. Villa, who move into eighth place in the Premiership, might be more optimistic.
Gregory picked Savo Milosevic in spite of the striker's insistence that his future lies elsewhere, omitting Mark Draper from midfield in favour of a 3-4-3 formation. It was a bold ploy that paid off when Yorke secured a fifth-minute lead. The architect of the goal was Lee Hendrie, a bright 20-year-old who has caught the eye this season. Fed by Alan Wright on the left, Hendrie turned cleverly, spun around Trond Soldvedt and dispatched a cross towards the far post which Yorke met with a powerful header.
Coventry fought back. Soldvedt dragged one opportunity wide and Darren Huckerby brought a fine save from Mark Bosnich. Then, Paul Telfer's cross left Bosnich stranded but Dion Dublin's header found only the side-netting.
However, just when it seemed Coventry might be about to draw level, Villa extended their advantage, starting the second half just as they had the first, with a goal from Yorke. Steve Ogrizovic, playing in his 499th League game, was let down by his defenders, each apparently leaving it to another to pick up Yorke, who scored with a bicycle-kick from Julian Joachim's accurate cross on the right.
Coventry replied with a splendid goal, curled around Bosnich magnificently by Noel Whelan from 20 yards after Joachim had failed to block his progress, prompting damage-limitation measures from Gregory, who replaced Milosevic with Riccardo Scimeca, a defender, and switched to 3-5-2.
Strachan seized the attacking initiative, sending on the Romanian striker Viorel Moldovan in place of Soldvedt. It almost worked. Close to full time, Moldovan presented Whelan with the chance of an equaliser but Bosnich was equal to his shot.