Late Samba strike hard to stomach for Coventry

Blackburn Rovers 2 Coventry City 2
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The Independent Football

There were times on the way to Ewood Park when Chris Coleman would have switched the team coach for something more medical. The churning in the stomachs had nothing to do with the nerves surrounding an FA Cup tie at a Premier League club but plenty to do with something the players had eaten. Two were being physically sick, several others were green at the edges.

The goalkeeper Kieran Westwood warmed up but could not take the pitch and Freddy Eastwood and Elliott Ward played through waves of nausea, so Coventry City's near miss against Blackburn Rovers had a merit that the scoreline did not reflect. A replay at the Ricoh Arena was the least the Championship team deserved.

Coleman said afterwards that Chris Samba's goal for Blackburn deep into stoppage time to earn that replay had made the tie feel like a defeat but on reflection he will surely draw much more. On a ground where Coventry had recorded a 4-1 win last season, this result, while not as blatantly gilded in Cup glory, had a comparable worth.

"We don't know what it was but half a dozen have been affected," the Coventry manager said. "Two or three couldn't play, two or three played and got through it, but it wasn't ideal preparation. Our players eat a lot of fish because it's healthy and some times you get a bad bit. That's the danger."

The danger looked more intense when Andy Marshall, Westwood's last-minute replacement, was beaten inside two minutes by a brilliant sharp shot from Roque Santa Cruz, but they weathered the storm within and without, changed tactics to place more emphasis on attack and, after Aron Gunnarsson and Michael Doyle scored in the second half, were seconds from another famous win at Ewood Park.

Then Keith Treacy banged in a speculative shot that bounced off Marshall's chest and Samba scored from the rebound. "It was hard for him," Coleman said, exonerating his goalkeeper. "He saw it late, there were so many bodies in our box, it took a deflection and it moved. Absolutely no blame on Andy."

The frenzy that Blackburn displayed in going for that equaliser confounded those who thought the Premier League side had scant regard for the Cup and Sam Allardyce, too, said he was disappointed. Not just with the extra game his team will play, but the fact they had not gone straight into the quarter-finals. "When you are in control of the game you have to make sure you see the opposition off," he said.

Goals: Santa Cruz (2) 1-0; Gunnarsson (61) 1-1; Doyle (76) 2-1; Samba (90) 2-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Simpson, Samba, Khizanishvili, Givet; Villanueva, Tugay (Andrews, 65), Warnock, Dunn (Treacy, 71); Roberts (McCarthy, 78), Santa Cruz. Substitutes not used: Bunn (gk), Nelsen, Grella, Doran.

Coventry City (4-1-4-1): Marshall: Osbourne, McPake (Dann, h-t), Ward, Fox; Beuzelin (Best, 53); Henderson, Gunarssoon, Doyle, Eastwood; Morrison. Substitutes not used: Hall, Simpson, Thornton, Cain.

Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).

Booked: Blackburn Samba, Khizanishvili; Coventry Beuzelin, Eastwood.

Man of the match: Gunnarsson.

Attendance: 15,053.