Sutton has red letter day

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Blackburn Rovers 4

Sutton 67, 74, 88, Wilcox 77

Coventry City 0

Attendance: 21,657

IT WAS rather like that tiresome radio panel game Just A Minute. Mick Quinn started the talking on the subject of the yellow card he had just been shown for deliberate handball. Graham Poll, the referee, interrupted him, presumably for deviation from the linguistic straight and narrow, and replaced the yellow with red.

The back of the Coventry striker's bulky form was still visible in the tunnel as Stuart Ripley, receiving the resulting free-kick on the right, curled an in-swinging cross that Chris Sutton headed down into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to put Rovers 1-0 ahead.

That was the 67th minute; and after that Blackburn did all the talking. By the 77th it was 3-0. Sutton completed his hat-trick from close range courtesy of Shearer's work on the right.

Quinn's departure transformed a game that had been filled with frustration for Blackburn. Suddenly all their touches found their target and it was Steve Ogrizovic against the world until the whistle.

No one could do anything about Sutton in the last 25 minutes. Phil Babb and David Busst, the Coventry centre- backs, had coped well enough with Sutton and Shearer, but in the last quarter of the match, the pounds 8.3m pair ran riot.

Sutton's best of the day made it 2-0 in the 74th minute. Collecting the ball nearly 25 yards out, he curled a pinpoint right-foot shot just inside Ogrizovic's left-hand post. Three minutes later Jason Wilcox tried his luck left-footed from 20 yards and a deflection put the shot on target, the ball bouncing in off the far post.

Neither side had looked convincing when the match was 11-a-side. Coventry appeared unwilling to commit men forward after being thrashed at Newcastle in midweek. Too many Blackburn attacks foundered on misplaced passes.

It always seemed likely that a Rovers goal, if it came, would stem from a Ripley cross. However, both Shearer and Sutton had their sights set too high in the first half, and when Shearer did beat Ogrizovic with a dipping 35th-minute free-kick, Brian Borrows headed out from under the crossbar.

Rovers' lack of crispness in midfield was always likely to be their big problem and Tim Flowers in the home goal made two sharp saves after 20 minutes, from Paul Cook's drive and then from Julian Darby.

Coventry never looked like winners but a draw could have been theirs without Quinn's dismissal. From then on Shearer and Sutton looked an unstoppable strike force that might suit England against the United States next week.