Coventry produce first-half onslaught

Coventry City 4 Preston North End 1
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The Independent Online

Coventry, who spent the first seven months of the season in the bottom half of the First Division table, confirmed their newly acquired status as promotion candidates with a comprehensive mauling of fellow play-off hopefuls Preston in which they scored all their four goals in the opening 28 minutes.

Coventry, who spent the first seven months of the season in the bottom half of the First Division table, confirmed their newly acquired status as promotion candidates with a comprehensive mauling of fellow play-off hopefuls Preston in which they scored all their four goals in the opening 28 minutes.

With an impressive record of 22 points from Eric Black's 10 matches in charge, Coventry have climbed to within two points of sixth place. Last night's scoreline ­ their second consecutive four-goal haul ­ could have been more emphatic had Iceland international Bjarni Gudjonsson not missed the 88th minute penalty that would have given him a hat-trick.

Preston had the striker Richard Cresswell sent off and their manager, Craig Brown, ordered to sit in the stands 14 minutes from the end. The referee, Neale Barry, acted on the advice of one of his assistants and Brown was punished after walking along the touchline to complain, claiming mistaken identity after the Coventry defender Calum Davenport appeared to elbow Preston's David Healy.

"It was clear that the wrong man was sent off," Brown said. "Healy flicked out a leg in retaliation but Cresswell had nothing to do with it. I was perfectly polite but the assistant did not even acknowledge me."

His side made a dreadful start, conceding three goals in the first 11 minutes as Coventry turned on an impressive display of fluid movement and top-class finishing. Gudjonsson launched the blitz after 88 seconds, curling home a 25-yard strike that gave the goalkeeper Andrew Lonerghan no chance.

Michael Doyle slotted in a second from Gudjonsson's pass before Gary McSheffrey revealed high technical ability in bending a 15-yard shot beyond Lonerghan's reach with the outside of his right boot. Gudjonsson headed in his second from a Julian Joachim cross and would have left with the match ball but for his tamely hit penalty.

Preston improved in the second half, Ricardo Fuller lobbing the goalkeeper Scott Shearer to score his 18th of the season within two minutes of the restart.

Black was delighted with the performance but feels promotion may be beyond his side. "The scary part is looking at the fixtures we have to come," he said.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Shearer; Deloumeaux, Davenport, Staunton, Grainger; Doyle, Gudjonsson, Kerr (Konjic, 80), Warnock; Joachim (Olszar, 85), McSheffrey. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Adebola, Barrett.

Preston North End (3-4-1-2): Lonergan; Alexander, Jackson, Davis; Mears (Keane, 37), McKenna (Lynch, 84), Gemmill, Edwards; Healy; Fuller, Cresswell. Substitutes not used: Lucas (gk), McCormack, Smith.

Referee: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).

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