Coventry derail Palace's revival

Crystal Palace 1 Coventry City 3
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The Independent Football

If Coventry City feared for their chances before this game, as seemed to be the case given their initial line-up, they need not have worried, as a glance at the programme would have told them. The Sky Blues had only lost once in their previous 20 trips to Selhurst Park before last night, and they duly extended that 44-year run of form in south-east London by one more on a night of inspired finishing.

Roland Nilsson had clearly planned a defensive approach before kick-off but those plans went up in smoke. His first-team has been reduced to tatters in recent weeks due to injuries, suspensions and international call-ups but it got worse just before the start when Mo Konjic was forced out through injury.

Yet ironically it strengthened the Sky Blues' hand, forcing Nilsson to pair Jay Bothroyd with Julian Joachim, who had initially started out among the substitutes. With 11 minutes gone, the ball fell kindly for Bothroyd and from 20 yards he lobbed Alex Kolinko. Nilsson called it "spectacular" and even Trevor Francis joined in with some praise.

Coventry doubled the lead after 36 minutes gone with another spectacular strike. Lee Carsley rolled a free-kick to Marcus Hall and the full-back drilled his shot past Kolinko.

With Palace clearly rattled, the match boiled over when Danny Granville tackled Bothroyd from behind and was shown red. Bothroyd followed for lashing out in retaliation.

Not that either manager saw it that way, both stating they thought yellow cards would have sufficed for the incident, but Nilsson praised his players for the extra effort they showed. He said: "We've been working hard to get a tough mentality and if you grind for 90 minutes you can get something." Granville himself was incredulous at his dismissal, as he said: "I couldn't believe it as it was nothing more than a little incident. It was only handbags."

Palace gave themselves some hope of a revival when a hopeful ball out of defence beat Coventry's offside trap, found Dougie Freedman and his shot bobbled into the net off the post.

But Palace's hopes were short lived. With 74 minutes gone, the teenage striker Gary McSheffrey controlled Magnus Hedman's punt upfield and volleyed past Kolinko for his first goal in Coventry colours.

Crystal Palace (3-5-2): Kolinko; Symons (Rodger, 45), Fleming, Popovic (Austin, 39); Granville, Riihilahti, Mullins, Gray, Smith; Morrison, Freedman. Substitutes not used: Clarke (gk), Austin, Rodger, Black, Kirovski.

Coventry (4-4-2): Hedman; Quinn, Breen, Shaw, Hall; Delorge (Davenport 90), Carsley, Fowler, Healy; Bothroyd, Joachim Substitutes not used: Montgomery (gk), Antonelius, McSheffrey, Betts.

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).

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