Sunderland move up but lose Healy to serious injury

Coventry City 1 Sunderland 1
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The Independent Football

Neither of these sides is particularly adept at winning games so it came as no real surprise that they should finish all-square after an entertaining game at Highfield Road last night, where Coventry's veteran player-manager, Gary McAllister - he will be 39 on Christmas Day - marked his 200th appearance in a Sky Blue shirt with the equalising goal after Sunderland had claimed an early lead.

The relative value to each of gaining a point is somewhat different, however. Coventry, who have not come out on top in a game since the end of October, urgently need wins to climb away from the lower reaches of the First Division. By contrast, a draw - their eighth of the season to Coventry's 11th - was enough to push Sunderland back into the top six, even though they have won only two matches in 11, although their pleasure at that achievement was tempered by a serious injury to Colin Healy.

The 23-year-old Republic of Ireland and former Celtic midfielder, who spent a spell on loan at Coventry two seasons ago, was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg after a collision with Coventry's Youssef Safri inside the last 10 minutes.

McAllister offered immediate sympathy. He said: "We all heard a crack and we were just hoping it was the shin pads clashing but it looks bad, which is a real shame because Colin has worked very hard to get a contract at Sunderland."

The Sunderland manager, Mick McCarthy, however, was disappointed with Safri's challenge. "I'm not saying it was malicious or even reckless but it was a poor tackle," he said. "He went over the top of the ball and the result is that I have a player lying in hospital.

"I'm sure the lad didn't mean to do anything, but I just wish players would take a little bit more care."

The injury marred an otherwise entertaining match, in which Coventry had given themselves a difficult task by conceding an early goal, paying the price for static defending as Sunderland took an eighth-minute advantage through Stewart Downing. The on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder slipped past the full-back Craig Pead on the left easily, looked up to see an inviting gap to the left of Gavin Ward and made sure he found it.

The visitors could only protect their lead for 13 minutes, however, before the referee, Michael Jones, awarded a penalty against Mart Poom, the Sunderland goalkeeper, for bringing down Julian Joachim. McAllister, who had supplied the pass for Joachim, levelled with a perfectly placed spot-kick, marking his 200th appearance for Coventry with his 151st League goal.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ward; Pead, Konjic, Davenport, Staunton; Doyle, Safri, McAllister (Barrett, 85), Warnock (Jackson, 76); Suffo, Joachim (Morrell, 61). Substitutes not used: Shearer (gk), Whing.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Poom; Williams, Bjorklund, McCartney, Arca; Quinn (Stewart, 62), Healy (Thirlwell, 82), Whitley, Downing; Kyle (Wright, 70), Smith. Substitutes not used: Ingham (gk), Proctor.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).

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