An already dismal season for Crystal Palace is set to subside into further despair as Neil Warnock, the manager, prepares to move across London to take over at Queens Park Rangers. If that comes to pass – and it is expected to occur once Palace's FA Cup fifth-round replay at Aston Villa on Wednesday night is out of the way – the Yorkshireman will leave Selhurst Park with the Eagles in the Championship relegation zone.
The club has already been docked 10 points for going into administration and Roy Keane's Ipswich are now above them following a late winner from Coventry substitute David Bell. Warnock certainly could be forgiven for jumping ship to a club where there are no financial worries, although Loftus Road has been something of a managerial graveyard since Flavio Briatore took over almost three years ago.
The Italian has just stepped down however and Warnock gave no indication that he would be staying put in his present position. "I don't even want to mention it, I'm sorry," he said. "No comment – so you can make a story out of that. I won't be talking about that tonight. I'm talking about my players tonight. I've done nothing but talk about that." Asked if he would still be in charge for the Villa game he declared: "I'm bloody looking forward to it!"
A game that seemed destined to finish scoreless was settled five minutes from time in a fashion that was out of keeping with the scrappy fare that had preceded it, with the red-booted Bell making rapid progress down the right beyond the home back line.
Julian Speroni, the Palace goalkeeper, came out to meet him but could only watch as Bell floated the ball over him from just outside the penalty box. It landed just in front of the far upright and went in off it.
Palace worked hard if not effectively, with Darren Ambrose unlucky on a number of occasions. Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood almost let a low drive go in through his legs, getting just enough on the ball to divert it wide, and was grateful for centre-back Richard Wood's block on the line just before half-time after Alan Lee had set Ambrose up in the box.
Before Bell's decider, team-mate Aron Gunnarsson had spurned a much clearer chance with Speroni managing to come out on top in a one-on-one contest.
Palace applied pressure whenever they could but only Ambrose possessed the necessary quality to threaten a breakthrough. Westwood managed to get just enough on a low drive to deflect it wide through his legs and needed centre-back Wood to block another Ambrose effort on the line.
Both chances came before the break however and Coventry's second-half display was impressive enough to merit victory on a pitch that is as untidy as the Palace accounts.
City manager Chris Coleman, who was a Palace player in happier times, said: "You have to feel sorry for them because it's not their fault."