Reid is bitten by reality

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The Independent Football

THEY HAVE been living on euphoria on Wearside these last five days as the blessings have come like a procession. Sunderland beat Newcastle, the old enemy are second bottom in the Premiership and Ruud Gullit resigned. Happiness has been dressed in a red and white striped shirt.

THEY HAVE been living on euphoria on Wearside these last five days as the blessings have come like a procession. Sunderland beat Newcastle, the old enemy are second bottom in the Premiership and Ruud Gullit resigned. Happiness has been dressed in a red and white striped shirt.

Reality had to intrude some time and it trampled over the feel-good factor yesterday. Sunderland got a point but they were forced to strain and stretch by Coventry, who were the better football team but could not hold out against a ferocious and prolonged onslaught in the second half.

"For some inexplicable reason we tried to play the game from 30 yards out," Gordon Strachan, the Coventry manager, said, "and you can't do that against Sunderland and Niall Quinn." Was he happy with a point? "No, I thought we could have won."

"RIP Sexy Football" a banner in the crowd read, a gleeful dig at the problems 12 miles away on Tyneside, although it was almost equally pertinent for Sunderland, whose passing, by manager Peter Reid's admission, was woeful. "I hate doing it but in the second half I told them just to hit Quinny," Reid said, "and fortunately it worked. We were taught a lesson by Coventry in the first half. We couldn't get near them. They outpassed us."

Reid may have told his players to locate the giant striker but they needed no invitation because that was their inclination from the start. Quinn towered five inches above his marker Paul Williams and with that kind of advantage he was too juicy a target to ignore.

Coventry had seen that coming and, with Williams doing a magnificent job in nullifying his height disadvantage, the visitors concentrated on the knock-on and used it as a springboard for their own attacks.

These flowed through the two Moroccans, Moustapha Hadji and Youssef Chippo, and the Sunderland defence had almost been pierced three times by clever little passes through a square back four before Coventry got the angle, direction and strength of the through ball right in the 33rd minute.

Chippo, a beautifully balanced footballer with a rare control of the ball, cut in from the left and delivered an exquisite pass just out of reach of Paul Butler's outstretched leg. Robbie Keane sped by, flicked the ball to the right of the advancing Thomas Sorensen and scored from a narrow angle.

They also had a Reid team- talk to endure - "We had a little chat" - and they came out like scolded children anxious to make amends.

A goal had to come and it arrived after 72 minutes. Quinn won his second attempt at a header, Butler headed on and Phillips, turning in a flash, volleyed acrobatically past Magnus Hedman.

Sunderland had won 41 of their 55 games at the Stadium of Light prior to yesterday but their force dissipated just when you expected them to take command and instead it was Coventry who had the better of the closing minutes.

That was disappointing for the visitors but so was the sending-off of Chippo with three minutes remaining for a second bookable offence.

"I was cross about the first because we should have had a free-kick," Strachan said, "but it's not unusual for him because it's his fourth booking. He has to do something about it."

Goals: Keane (32) 0-1; Phillips (72) 1-1.

Subs: Oster (for McCann) 71; Telfer (for Hadji) 75; McSheffrey (for Aloisi) 82.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Butler, Bould, Gray; Summerbee, Rae, Schwarz, McCann; Quinn, Phllips. Substitutes not used: Oster, Helmer, Dichio, Ball, Marriott (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Breen, Shaw, Williams, Edworthy; Chippo, McAllister, Hadji, Froggatt; Aloisi, Keane. Substitutes not used: Telfer, Konjic, Hall, McSheffrey, Nuzzo (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Sunderland: Bould, Rae, Phillips. Sending off: Coventry: Chippo.

Man of the match: Williams.

Attendance: 39,427.

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