When the draw for the third round of the FA Cup was made on 2 December Iain Dowie had bigger things on his mind. Broke Coventry City were heading towards administration and getting Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park was just another problem.
"I wasn't too happy with the draw," Dowie, the Coventry manager, said. He feared a rout at one of the toughest grounds to play at in the Premier League and that, on top of the financial woes, prompted pessimism. A scoreline of 4-1 even crossed his mind... but in Blackburn's favour.
On Saturday night, after a day in which the Cup had proved reports of its demise are premature, Dowie looked like a man barely believing how far he had travelled in five weeks. Coventry have been saved by Ray Ranson's consortium and are in the fourth round.
Coventry, who won the Cup in 1987 but are currently 17th in the Championship, were excellent. Do not think this was a lucky win with the underdogs hanging on. Blackburn hit the frame of the goal twice through Chris Samba but they were isolated pieces of enterprise from a weary and only slightly weakened Premiership side. The visitors had at least three other chances that could have brought them greater reward, a three-goal margin was the least they deserved.
Two of which were scored by Michael Mifsud, who is regarded as the finest player Malta has produced in his native land and who is gaining a significant reputation in England. In September he scored twice to knock Manchester United out of the Carling Cup and his exploits at Ewood Park took his tally for the season to 15. His nickname is "Mosquito" and, to Premier League clubs, he is becoming an irritating pest.
"We all respond to big games," Mifsud, 26, said, rightly spreading the attention to the entire Coventry team. "Everyone played with their heart, believing we could win. There was good defending, the midfield ran marathons and there were good balls for us to run on to."
Blackburn played adequately for 20 minutes but once Dowie restricted Tugay's supply by withdrawing striker Leon Best, Coventry were the better side. Michael Hughes, playing in front of the back four, dictated the tempo and with Elliott Ward and Ben Turner resolute at the back the home side barely threatened. At the other end, Dele Adebola got the goal of the match and Ward converted a penalty to add to Mifsud's contribution.
"It was a great day for the fans," Dowie said. "From the moment we came on to the pitch they were very buoyant. Steve Ogrizovic [goalkeeper in the 1987 win] told me that Coventry has always been a big, big Cup city and they turned out in their numbers. It's nice to be talking about something that isn't 1987." In Coventry, just to have a future to talk about is nice.
Goals: Mifsud (34) 0-1; Ward (64, pen) 0-2; Adebola (83) 0-3; Bentley (85) 1-3; Mifsud (90) 1-4.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton (Pedersen, 60), Samba, Khizanishvili, Berner; Bentley, Tugay, Mokoena, Treacy (Derbyshire, 69); Rigters (Nelsen, 60), McCarthy. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Warnock.
Coventry City (4-3-3): Konstantopoulos; Osbourne, Ward, Turner, Borrowdale; Tabb, Hughes, Doyle; Mifsud, Best, Adebola. Substitutes not used: De Zeeuw, Kyle, Simpson, Gray, Thornton.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Booked: Blackburn Khizanishvili; Coventry Doyle.
Man of the match: Mifsud.
Call from Capello?
David Bentley (Blackburn)
Coventry paid him the ultimate compliment by devising tactics to halt him. Free-kicks were dangerous, his goal was excellent.Reuse content