Town 2-1 Coventry
Tuesday, 12th Sep 2006 23:21
Billy Clarke was Town's supersub for the second time in four days, netting the winner in the 85th minute as the Blues defeated Coventry 2-1 at Portman Road. Earlier in the half Mark Noble had put Town in front prior to Elliott Ward equalising for the visitors.
As expected, Fabian Wilnis's return to the starting line-up saw Alex Bruce move back into central defence and Richard Naylor dropping to the bench. Sylvain Legwinski came in for his first Town start with Matt Richards not even in the 16. Loanee Jon Macken got the nod ahead of Billy Clarke alongside Alan Lee.
Former Town keeper Andy Marshall was booed early on but there was praise from the North Stand for Coventry's 3-0 victory over Norwich at the weekend: “You beat the scum 3-0...”
Coventry should have gone in front in the seventh minute when Marcus Hall crossed from the left and an unmarked Kevin Kyle was allowed a free header at the far post. Fortunately for the Blues the ex-Sunderland man somehow sent the ball across the face of goal when it seemed simpler to score.
Town missed a similarly good chance four minutes later after Alan Lee and Jon Macken had combined well down the right. Lee sent a low ball into the box and Gavin Williams directed the ball wide of goal from six yards out.
Lewis Price did well to come out of his box and head the ball away from Kevin Thornton in the 19th minute. Soon after, Mark Noble cut in from the left and hit a shot which struck Alan Lee and deflected only narrowly wide of Andy Marshall's right post.
The Blues had another escape in the 21st minute when a Stephen Hughes freekick was nodded back across goal by Robert Page and Kevin Kyle again headed over.
On the half hour, Sylvain Legwinski shot well wide, prior to Mark Noble finding Jason De Vos with a freekick whipped into the box, the Canadian's header catching a defender and going behind.
Alan Lee's header from Sylvain Legwinski's cross was saved on 36 before Alex Bruce picked up his fifth booking of the season for a foul on Thornton. Bruce will now miss the game against Sunderland in 10 days time in addition to Saturday's match at Birmingham in which he can't play under the terms of the transfer agreement with his former club. From the freekick, Price saved Chris Birchall's 30-yard strike.
On 40 Dan Harding, Town's player of the half, sent in a superb cross which was just too long for Lee who couldn't control his header.
Just before the break, Elliott Ward felled Gavin Williams on the edge of the Coventry box and received a yellow card. Mark Noble lashed the freekick and the subsequent rebound into the wall.
It was a surprise that there had been no goals in the first half with both sides missing good chances early on. Town had had the better of the game overall with Coventry not always appearing overly interested in pushing for the three points with time-wasting starting early on in the half.
Within seconds of the restart Stern John shot wide from a tight angle, but soon after the Blues were in front. Jon Macken exchanged a one-two with Simon Walton on the right before sending in a low ball which a delighted Mark Noble hammered home from six yards. It was the move of the game and arguably of the Jim Magilton era so far.
The goal gave Town a huge lift and for 15 minutes or so the Blues were passing the ball around as slickly as at any other time this season. Noble sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal, then almost added a second but put Gavin Williams's freekick from the right over the bar from close range.
Alan Lee felt he should have been awarded a penalty in the 61st minute when he appeared to be hauled back by Marcus Hall but for once referee Paul Taylor failed to grab his whistle.
Price saved a Kyle chip, then Lee's shot from the left of the penalty area deflected out for a corner. After Marshall had needlessly punched under no pressure, Noble was yellow-carded for a foul on Thornton.
On 66 Richard Naylor replaced a clearly hobbling Fabian Wilnis, Alex Bruce moving to right-back, perhaps surprisingly with Sito on the bench.
Noble chipped the ball over the Coventry bar, prior to Kevin Kyle talking his way into the referee's book.
Coventry came close to a goal in the 70th minute when Thornton curled a 25-yard freekick off the crossbar, the rebound was sliced well wide.
But a minute later the Sky Blues were back on terms. Jon Macken strangely decided to stop a Town clearance from going out of play on halfway and surrendered possession. The ball eventually ended up with Leon McKenzie on the right and his cross-shot landed at the feet of Elliott Ward, still forward from the corner, and the defender beat Price from close range.
The Blues really should have had the game well and truly settled by this stage, but had failed to turn their dominance into further goals. Noble saw his shot deflect over, before Lee headed a freekick over his own crossbar.
Billy Clarke took over from a flagging Macken on 80. A minute later Walton's low strike from just to the right of the area was pushed wide by Marshall. Shortly afterwards Darren Currie took over from Mark Noble on the left of midfield.
Once again it was to be Clarke's night. The Irishman received the ball just beyond halfway, held off a challenge and lashed a low left-foot shot which bounced awkwardly in front of Andy Marshall, off the keeper's midriff and into the net for the Irishman's second goal in successive games and his third of the season.
Clarke went to the top of the Town goalscoring chart, while Marshall was left listening to the North Stand proclaiming that there is “only one Andy Marshall”.
Town sat back in the closing stages and, despite some dangerous moments, held on to their lead. The Blues might even had added a third when Alex Bruce broke down the right and crossed to an unmarked Darren Currie. The midfielder probably should have shot but instead played a ball into the box between Billy Clarke and Simon Walton, the Irish youngster eventually chipping the ball over the bar.
As the final whistle drew close, Harding and McKenzie were both booked for a clash then Marshall tried to make amends for his error by coming up for a corner but failed to net his side a dramatic equaliser.
Town's third win in a row and a much better performance than Saturday, albeit after a another shaky start defensively. Mark Noble's first senior goal for either the Blues or West Ham gave Town the impetus which should have seen them to a comfortable victory but more hesitant defending allowed the Sky Blues back into the game.
But Billy Clarke was on hand once again to confirm a well-deserved three points which takes the Blues up to 13th in the table.
Town: Price, Wilnis (Naylor 66), Harding, Bruce, De Vos, Noble (Currie 84), Walton, Legwinski, Williams, Lee, Macken (Clarke 80). Unused: Supple, Sito. Att:19,465.
Photo: Action Images
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