There was no talking on the pitch. Noel Whelan shinned a Steve Froggatt opening on two minutes and it took another 68 to get a shot on target. It was Whelan again, spurred on by his lame clearance from which Dean Gordon hit a spectacular 30-yarder. Then Whelan's header on 75 minutes was tipped over by Mark Schwarzer.
Without old-timers like Paul Gascoigne and Robbie Mustoe, the bright young things of Middlesbrough, Mark Summerbell and Robbie Stockdale, were given their chance in midfield. "With all the changes I was pleased with the defensive side of our performance and then Summerbell and Stockdale came on to a really good game in the second half," their manager, Bryan Robson, said. His only concern was a shoulder injury that might sideline Gianluca Festa for six weeks.
Stockdale, 18, had snuffed out Coventry's best attacker, Froggatt, and he hit a stream of crosses in from the right. Fittingly he had the last word, his exquisite pass from half-way floating in for Hamilton Ricard to hit his ninth League goal and really silence Strachan's men.
Goals: Gordon 66 (1-0), Ricard 83 (2-0).
Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Schwarzer; Cooper, Vickers, Festa (Maddison, 49); Stockdale, Townsend, Summerbell, Beck, Gordon; Ricard, Deane. Substitutes not used: Beresford (gk), Kinder, Blackmore, Baker.
Coventry (4-4-2): Hedman; Nilsson, Williams, Shaw, Edworthy; Telfer, Clement, McAllister (Boateng, 84), Froggatt; Whelan, Huckerby (Jackson, 70). Substitutes not used: Ogrizovic (gk), Soltvedt, Breen.
Referee: G Willard (Brighton).
Bookings: Middlesbrough Deane, Cooper; Coventry Williams, McAllister, Huckerby, Whelan.
Man of the match: Stockdale.