Clinical Wolves expose the size of Strachan's task

Coventry City 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

After a week in which some Coventry followers began believing they could put their shirts on the Sky Blues to return to the Premiership at the first attempt, a Wolves win secured by Carl Robinson's early goal last night prompted a disgruntled home fan to tear off his replica top and hand it to Gordon Strachan.

The Coventry manager, whose team had raised expectations with a first-day stroll at Stockport, was still exhorting his players to press for a late equaliser as the lone dissenter made his futile gesture. Paul Williams' header, which was deflected on to the bar in the dying seconds, was the closest they came, although there was still time for Temuri Ketsbaia's drive to twang the same part of the woodwork at the opposite end.

Strachan had suggested he did not regard the meeting of clubs 30 miles apart as a derby; but then he did play for Dundee against neighbours from literally across the street. The fervour on the pitch and atmosphere in the stands suggested his was a minority view.

The home debut of Lee Hughes, Coventry's £5m newcomer from Wolves' Black Country rivals, West Bromwich Albion, lent an additional edge to proceedings. He was jeered at every turn by the visiting support, though his virtual invisibility scarcely warranted such hostility.

Wolves had been admonished by their manager, the former Coventry defender Dave Jones, for giving Portsmouth a two-goal start before drawing the season's opener. This time they scored in their first attack. Mark Kennedy's sixth-minute free-kick was floated beyond the far post to where the unmarked Robinson lurked. The Welsh international caught the ball with a fiercely struck first-time diagonal volley à la Hughes – Mark, rather than Lee – which tore past Magnus Hedman.

A more mature finisher than Adam Proudlock might have doubled Wolves' lead within two minutes. With only Hedman to beat, the young striker sidefooted the ball straight at the advancing keeper.

The home side's better moments invariably involved David Thompson, doing his Strachan-like routine on the right flank. Even before Wolves scored, his cross led to Keith O'Neill's header being cleared off the line by Joleon Lescott. But all around Thompson was a lack of cohesion and of the creativity that might have coaxed Hughes out of the shell into which the outstanding Lescott had locked him.

Wolves would have scored again with 19 minutes remaining but for a stunning save by Hedman, who diverted the ball over his bar after Proudlock, inside the six-yard area, put a boot on Shaun Newton's cross.

The lone protestor, who was led away bare-chested, was at least spared the indignity of hearing the sardonic chant of "You're worse than the Albion" rise from the old-gold ranks.

Goal: Robinson (6) 0-1.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Nilsson, Shaw, Williams, Hall; Thompson, Chippo (G Strachan, 70), Carsley, O'Neill; Bothroyd (Zuñiga, 70), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Edworthy, Quinn, Montgomery (gk).

Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Oakes; Muscat, Butler, Lescott, Naylor; Newton, Dinning, Robinson, Kennedy; Proudlock, Roussel (Ketsbaia, 71). Substitutes not used: Branch, Connelly, Pollet, Beresford (gk).

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

Bookings: Coventry: Shaw, O'Neill, Carsley. Wolves: Roussel.

Man of the match: Lescott.

Attendance: 22,902.