Thome's strike adds to Coventry's gloom

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The Independent Online

In a sour, scrappy stalemate on a grim Wearside day, two very ordinary teams were separated by Emerson Thome's first goal for Sunderland. As befitted the game, it was a static affair - a lumbering rise at the back post - which culminated in Coventry's young goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, who was sent off last week, being booked for complaining too much.

In a sour, scrappy stalemate on a grim Wearside day, two very ordinary teams were separated by Emerson Thome's first goal for Sunderland. As befitted the game, it was a static affair - a lumbering rise at the back post - which culminated in Coventry's young goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, who was sent off last week, being booked for complaining too much.

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the match was watching two of the modern game's greatest barrackers in action on the touchline. Peter Reid warmed up his substitutes and his vocal cords as early as the half hour because his team looked clumsy and in danger of being overrun by Craig Bellamy and Moustapha Hadji, while Gordon Strachan conducted a long and loud argument with the broad back of the linesman, showing his exasperation at not being able to exploit Sunderland's lethargy.

"I think he deserved something out of the game," said Reid magnanimously afterwards. "But if you win football matches when you are not playing well, that's got to be a good sign."

"Peter knows his stuff and he's analysed this one right," said Strachan. "It was a good, imaginative performance and I have said 'well done' to everybody."

After the deluge at Chelsea, Strachan had made just one real change for the sodden Stadium of Light - Ivan Guerrero from Honduras making his debut in midfield - and from the opening, which was full of slitherings on the saturated surface, whistling from an over enthusiastic referee and sly kicks from players who should have known better, Coventry looked the more likely to score.

Hadji was perennially bursting from midfield although it was Paul Telfer who provided the first test for Thomas Sorensen with a 13th minute free kick. Bellamy had the ball in the net in the 32nd minute only to be ruled offside. Although he regularly was, on this occasion he appeared a couple of yards to the good. "I think we got a break with that one," Reid conceded.

Sunderland looked to their totem Niall Quinn, but he was well - although not always legally - pinned down by Gary Breen and Richard Williams.

The most dramatic of the team changes had been enforced on Sunderland by the suspension of winger Kevin Kilbane. Don Hutchison joined a tight midfield and, as a result, Kevin Phillips, denied Quinn's flick-on's and any quality balls, dropped deeper and wider.

Consequently he was much of an observer for the second half, especially when Julio Arca swung over Sunderland's first corner of the game. Thome headed in while Kirkland raged. The goal appeared to be a double blow for Coventry as John Aloisi had yet to be replaced by Cedric Roussel after limping off. Yet Roussel performed a traditional big and little double act with Bellamy and soon the diminutive striker was racing onto flick-on's.

But even his brightness couldn't prevent Sunderland reaching 518 minutes without conceding a goal.

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