Fuller takes gloss off Coventry's grand design

Coventry City 1 Southampton 1
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The Independent Football

For 23 years Sky Blues v Saints was a top-flight fixture, but on last night's evidence it will be a long time before it is again.

Southampton will be the happier with a point that keeps them within four points of Sheffield United at the top of the table, while for Coventry the only consolation is that they have home games in hand, thanks to the delay in completing the Ricoh Arena. It still does not feel entirely finished - at least one member of staff has been working in a public library to guarantee internet access - and for all the gimmicks that were laid on before kick-off the pervading feeling was of barely contained chaos.

The dancing girls and somersaulting blue fluffy elephant had scarcely cleared the pitch when Coventry took the lead. Not for the first time in his career, Dele Adebola stumbled over a simple ball, but on this occasion it squirted kindly for Marcus Hall, who crossed low to the near post for James Scowcroft to whip in his second of the season. With six minutes played, Coventry fans were probably thinking back to their only other game at the Ricoh Arena - a 3-0 win over QPR - and dreaming of a victory of similar simplicity.

With the height of Scowcroft and Adebola, at least until he departed injured after 37 minutes, causing Southampton problems, that could easily have been the outcome, but defensive inadequacies soon punctured any sense of well-being.

A Robert Page backpass let in Ricardo Fuller to equalise after 12 minutes. It was the first goal Coventry had conceded at their new home, and, more significantly, the Jamaican's first for Southampton. The calm way in which he took the goal, curving his shot around Stephen Bywater and just inside the far post from a narrow angle, suggested there will be plenty more to come.

As if to emphasise the quality of his finish, Brett Ormerod, presented with a similar chance by a Richard Duffy gaffe eight minutes before half-time, sliced his shot embarrassingly across the six-yard box.

If that was poor from the former Blackpool forward, it was only misfortune that prevented him giving Southampton the lead 14 minutes into the second half. Arriving late into a Darren Powell flick, he headed past Bywater, only for the ball to bounce to safety off the crossbar.

If that promised a second half of excitement, it was dreadfully misleading. Scowcroft carved open a couple of opportunities but he snatched at his chances. David Prutton had the final chance of the match two minutes from time when he cut in from the touchline and delivered a right-foot shot, which just swerved beyond Bywater's post.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Bywater; Duffy, Shaw, Page, Hall; Flood (Osbourne, 83), Doyle, Jorgenson (Morell, 83), McSheffrey; Adebola (John, 37), Scowcroft. Substitutes not used: Ince (gk), Whing.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Hajto, Lundekvam, Powell, Higginbotham; Prutton, Oakley, Quashie, Belmadi; Ormerod (Blackstock, 72), Fuller. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Wise, Craney, Dyer.

Referee: M Thorpe (Suffolk).

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