A full moon over the Midlands may have accounted for the acts of folly which brought red cards for Coventry's Paul Cook and the West Bromwich Albion captain, Darren Bradley, in last night's rugged FA Cup third-round replay at The Hawthorns. Explanations for Coventry's victory, secured by two late goals, were less readily apparent.
Not that Phil Neal will worry. His expensively revamped side, struggling in the Premiership, looked certain to make their customary early exit from the Cup as Albion entered the final eight minutes still leading by Paul Raven's first goal of the season. Suddenly, in the space of two minutes, Dion Dublin and Peter Ndlovu scored from virtually Coventry's first efforts on target, and a fourth-round home tie against Norwich was theirs.
Remarkably, Dublin's equaliser ended Coventry's run without a goal from open play at 835 minutes. After such a sorry sequence they might have been excused had they dug in for extra time, but Ndlovu had other ideas. The near-capacity crowd, who had been in triumphalist mood, were stunned into silence.
When Alan Buckley attempted to analyse how his First Division team had contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Bradley's rush of blood figured prominently in his thoughts. "That cost us the game, make no mistake," the Albion manager said.
Facing 10 men following the 15th-minute dismissal of Cook for foul and abusive language, Albion had just taken a 49th-minute lead when the midfielder scythed through the Coventry winger Leigh Jenkinson. Bradley had been cautioned as early as the seventh minute, so the referee, Paul Durkin, had no option other than to reach for red.
Mr Durkin also brandished six yellow cards, four of them in a frenzied first quarter-hour climaxed by Cook's ill-advised reaction to a vigorous challenge. The former Wolves midfielder, previously banished against Wrexham in the Coca-Cola Cup earlier in the season, received no sympathy from his manager. "I am disgusted with him - he'll feel my wrath later down the line," Neal said.
When football eventually broke out, Albion's 11 men took the initiative, and Coventry were grateful to Steve Ogrizovic for fine saves from Lee Ashcroft and Ian Hamilton. Ashcroft, "Peggy" to his colleagues, twice revealed a theatrical bent with miscued bicycle kicks when a more mundane finish was required.
Raven, a centre-back, had no such pretensions. When Andy Hunt laid the ball into his path 15 yards from goal, a lusty swing of the left boot buried the ball low beyond the Coventry keeper.
Ogrizovic, one of only two members of Coventry's Cup-winning class of 1987 still at the club, made what was to prove a crucial stop after Hunt had sent Paul Mardon clear on goal. It was all the encouragement Coventry needed.
No sooner had Dublin soared to head home a cross by the other Wembley survivor, Brian Borrows, than Ndlovu set off down the Albion right. Cutting into the box, he unleashed an angled drive which defeated Naylor for pace and entered the net by the far post.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Naylor; O'Regan, Mardon, Raven (Smith, 58), Edwards; Donovan, Bradley ,Hamilton, Ashcroft; Hunt Rees (Taylor, 73). Substitute not used: Lange (gk).
Coventry City (4-4-2) Ogrizovic; Borrows, Rennie, Morgan, P Williams; Marsh, Darby, Cook, Jenkinson (Wegerle, 78); Ndlovu, Dublin. Substitutes not used: Jones, Gould (gk).
Referee: P Durkin (Poole).Reuse content