Whelan fortune

Coventry City 2 Busst 48, Whelan 84 Everton 1 Rideout 67 Attendance: 16,639
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The Independent Online
DESERVED Christmas cheer for Coventry and further justification for their manager Ron Atkinson's claim that his charges do not belong in the Premiership's lower depths. Everton will not argue with him after this rip-roaring 90 minutes which provided City's newcomer Noel Whelan with the dream climax of the winning goal.

Coventry's pounds 2m buy from Leeds United has yet to iron out his precise role alongside the intelligent Dion Dublin, but between them they still managed to give Everton's defence more than enough food for thought.

The other Coventry newcomer Richard Shaw has certainly tightened the nuts and bolts of their defence, as he demonstrated with an exemplary marking job on Daniel Amokachi which rendered the Nigerian almost null and void for most of the game.

Shaw's esteem for his old Crystal Palace colleague John Salako was demonstrated by his willingness to feed him on the left wing at every opportunity. Salako's supply of menacing crosses vindicated Shaw's judgement, and it was from one of these that Dublin's header clattered Neville Southall's crossbar in the 27th minute.

Salako's ascendancy, this time from a corner on the right, gave David Busst the opportunity to head Coventry into a 48th-minute lead, but also jolted Everton into putting their minds towards rescuing a point.

Andrei Kanchelskis was their main hope, despite being cleverly restricted by Marcus Hall in his search for those wide open spaces in which the winger prospers. Twice the break of the ball from tackles favoured the Ukrainian, but on both occasions Steve Ogrizovic's legs and body blocked the final shot.

The equaliser did come in the 67th minute when Joe Parkinson's 20-yard shot took Ogrizovic by surprise as it flew through a crowded goalmouth. Amokachi made some amends for a glaring first-half miss by being first to the rebound. Again Ogrizovic managed to block the shot but the substitute Paul Rideout made sure with his header.

If this was to be a test of Coventry's character, they passed it with ease. Whelan may have felt it was not to be his day when he dispossessed the dribbling Southall, only to see his touch across the gaping Everton goalmouth come to nothing. Eight minutes from time his mood changed when, with fine control, he swept and sidestepped a couple of tackles to plant the winner deep and low in the right- hand corner of Southall's net.