Strachan seals Coventry's survival

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The Independent Online
BY MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Tottenham Hotspur 1

Coventry City 3

Coventry made their Premiership place safe last night as an inspired contribution from Gordon Strachan brought them victory by a margin as wide as the post-match grin on the face of their manager, Ron Atkinson.

Saturday's defeat at Ipswich saw them lurch alarmingly towards the drop, but the half-hour of hectoring the players received from their manager afterwards clearly concentrated their minds. "That was one of the best performances from one of my teams that I can ever remember," Atkinson said. "We came here looking down the barrel and everyone responded magnificently. But Gordon made the difference for us."

Both sides came into this game assailed by doubts. Spurs are still uncertain whether they will have their manager, Gerry Francis, or their leading scorer, Jrgen Klinsmann, come next season.

The Spurs manager gave little away after what he described as Spurs' worst performance since he had taken over in November. "All questions will be answered before Saturday," he said. "I have made my mind up, but there are one or two bits and pieces left." But his response to a question about future purchases of players - "Obviously you've got to have money to spend" - hinted that financial commitment from the chairman, Alan Sugar, may be influential.

Coventry began without obvious inhibition and went ahead in the 32nd minute. Strachan, all his foxy instincts still intact at 38, intercepted a pass from David Howells on the edge of the Coventry box and scampered down the right wing into Tottenham's half, exchanging passes with Roy Wegerle before crossing for Peter Ndlovu to score with a diving header.

Gerard McMahon, Spurs' 21-year-old Northern Irish debutant, nearly restored the balance a minute before the break with a 35-yard volley which John Filan clawed away.

Coventry pressed on after the break and gained ample reward. Strachan was once again the key figure as they added two more goals within the space of four minutes. After 63 minutes, the Scot cut into the box from the right and went over Justin Edinburgh's leg to earn a penalty which Ndlovu calmly converted.

Strachan then crossed for Dion Dublin to head home a third goal and Spurs' frustration grew, especially after Gary Mabbutt's 30-yarder bounced off a post. Klinsmann was booked for the second match in a row after a wild hack at David Burrows, who was also booked for retaliation. But even Darren Anderton's 83rd-minute goal could not spoil the Sky Blue party.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Campbell (Nethercott, 49), Calderwood, Mabbutt, Edinburgh; McMahon, Anderton, Howells, Barmby; Sheringham, Klinsmann. Substitutes not used: Turner, Thorstvedt (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Filan; Pickering, Borrows, Rennie, Burrows; Strachan, Richardson, Darby, Ndlovu; Wegerle (Jones, 65), Dublin. Substitutes not used: Pressley, Gould (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Durham).

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