Saints delighted by decisive Dodd

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN BRENKLEY

Southampton 1 Coventry City 0

If passion and desire can guarantee Premiership status, Southampton may eventually survive in some comfort. Coventry, on the other hand, will be departing shortly, having produced a display at The Dell last night which almost suggested that 30 years in the top division were barely worth fighting for.

Southampton, given the blessing of a goal after only 90 seconds, sought to preserve their lead with a tenacity to be expected from a side in their parlous position. They had their defensive lapses but their goalkeeper, Dave Beasant, made two outstanding saves - one in each half - and Coventry frequently looked as though it was too much trouble to be troublesome.

Southampton had spent their last home game trying vainly to get back into the contest against Sheffield Wednesday after conceding a goal in the second minute. It must have been much more comfortable to be in that position themselves. Matthew Le Tissier's corner from the left was a typical example from his set-piece armoury: well paced, of awkward height and curving. Jason Dodd timed his near-post run and glanced it to perfection.

As the Coventry manager, Ron Atkinson, might have put it, his side, for the opening 30 minutes, were not at the races. Indeed, they might never have seen a horse before. Jim Magilton twice came close to increasing Southampton's lead, the first time denied by Steve Ogrizovic diving high to his left. The goalkeeper's form and willingness failed somehow to give his colleagues any momentum. There was, at least, a brief Coventry flurry in the first half's closing stages, but Eoin Jess was prevented from equalising by Beasant's dash off the line and the goalkeeper then stopped a ferocious close-range shot from Paul Williams at the near post.

It was not enough, but it was just about all Coventry had. Southampton fell deeper in the second half, tackled with aggression and were quite content simply to launch cautious counter-attacks. Jess, one of the most recent additions to a Coventry side which Atkinson has spent pounds 12m assembling, showed some neat touches without providing an incisive pass.

Atkinson denied his side's lethargy in a television interview with Andy Gray, his former assistant at Aston Villa, but refused to expand further later.

Only once did Coventry threaten to deprive Southampton of their second victory in 15 matches. Substitute Peter Ndlovu unleashed a thunderous drive from the edge of the area which curled dramatically towards Beasant's left-hand post. The goalkeeper, unsighted, dived late and low to make a truly world-class save.

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Neilson, Dodd, Monkou, Charlton; Le Tissier, Magilton, Venison, Heaney; Shipperley, Watson (Warren, 63). Substitutes not used: Tisdale, Robinson.

Coventry (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Borrows, Shaw, Daish, Burrows; Richardson, Jess, Williams, Salako (Ndlovu, 63); Dublin, Whelan. Substitutes not used: Telfer, Filan (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

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