Coventry's dismal record in West Midlands derbies could yet cost them a place in the First Division play-offs. The run continued yesterday when Birmingham's Geoff Horsfield came on as a late substitute to cancel out Colin Healy's first goal in English football.
Roland Nilsson's team had lost all four previous meetings with their regional rivals for promotion – Wolves, West Bromwich and Birmingham. Yet they looked set to break the mould when they entered the final 10 minutes at Highfield Road still leading through Healy's solo effort shortly after the hour.
Healy, a 22-year-old midfielder, is on loan from Celtic but had not scored in 11 appearances until he decided to run at a retreating defence. On reaching the penalty area without incurring a serious challenge, he angled the ball deftly beyond a badly-positioned Nico Vaesen.
Coventry scented the success that would have lifted them to fourth place. However, Birmingham also had a signing from Celtic keen to make an impression in Olivier Tébily. The Ivory Coast international centre-back, making his debut after a £700,000 transfer, showed a playmaker's passing ability to provide Horsfield with the opening for a well-taken 10th goal this season.
Birmingham's seventh point from three consecutive away fixtures ensured Steve Bruce was much the happier manager. Millwall's defeat leaves his team level on points with the sixth-placed side and only a goal adrift, with the easiest run-in, on paper, of those pursuing Manchester City and Wolves.
Bruce believes six teams are chasing three play-off spots. "It helps us that four of our last six are at home," he said. "It was a typical derby on a bumpy pitch, though I can't recall our keeper having to make a save and I thought we thoroughly deserved our point."
Nilsson, while commendably declining to dwell on the likelihood that Horsfield was offside when he took possession, said: "I felt whoever scored first would win. But instead of going for a second goal to kill them off, we tried to protect the lead and paid the price."
Healy's goal atoned for a third-minute miss when he sent a free header wide. Horacio Carbonari, on loan from Derby, forced Vaesen to tip over a similar effort at the same point in the second half. Birmingham could hardly complain when they fell behind, but Horsfield's goal rewarded their resilience.
Goals: Healy (61) 1-0; Horsfield (81) 1-1.
Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Quinn, Konjic, Carbonari, Shaw; Thompson, Healy, Safri, Trollope; L Hughes (Zuñiga, 90), Bothroyd (Chippo, 77). Substitutes not used: Eustace, Betts, Hyldgaard (gk).
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Vaesen; Kenna, Tébily, M Johnson, Grainger (Horsfield, 77); Devlin (D Johnson, h-t), B Hughes (Lazaridis, 70), Carter, Williams; Mooney, John. Substitutes not used: Eaden, Bennett (gk).
Referee: J Brandwood (Lichfield).
Bookings: Coventry: Trollope. Birmingham: Grainger.
Man of the match: Tébily.
Attendance: 17,945.Reuse content