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Town 3-2 Coventry
Town 3-2 Coventry
Saturday, 15th Jan 2005 19:10

Shefki Kuqi turned from villain to hero as he notched the goal that gave Town a 3-2 home win over Coventry. Kuqi's handball had given the visitors a penalty which Gary McSheffrey converted, Darren Bent's two goals either side of the break having put the Blues in front after Stern John's opener.

Town made two changes to the side which lost to Bolton in the FA Cup last week. Ian Westlake missed out due to a one-match suspension and Tommy Miller returned to the starting line-up. Richard Naylor returned to central defence, Fabian Wilnis switched to right-back and Scott Mitchell dropped to the bench.

The Sky Blues started strongly and an early Kevin Horlock mis-kick inside the area caused Kelvin Davis to have to make a hasty clearance with his feet.

Town's first opportunity of the game didn't come until the 10th minute when Shefki Kuqi turned and shot wide from the edge of the area after Coventry keeper Luke Steele had weakly punched a corner. Soon after, Andy Morrell's 20-yard shot caused Kelvin Davis little trouble.

The visitors went in front in the 12th minute. Dean Leacock caught Danny Karbassiyoon in possession on the Town left and fed Stern John. The former Forest man took the ball into the area, rounded Kelvin Davis and stabbed home.

Town had failed to get their game going with Coventry not allowing them time on the ball. Nevertheless, an equaliser almost came in the 20th minute when Darren Currie whipped in a freekick which both Shefki Kuqi and Tommy Miller just failed to get a touch on.

One of Town's better moves of the half ended with Darren Bent laying the ball off to Jim Magilton just outside the area but his strike was blocked. The ball subsequently fell to Fabian Wilnis but Steele saved his shot at the near post.

On 24 Kuqi had the Blues' best chance of the half when a loose ball fell to him on the right of the area. The Finnish international set himself but shot just over the bar.

Just before the half hour, Kuqi flicked a Kelvin Davis ball on to Bent who shot wide, with Miller making a run into the area and calling for a pass.

Currie's 25-yard freekick was saved by Steele in the 31st minute, while at the other end Isaac Osbourne shot wide.

The Blues still hadn't really got into their stride, picky referee Mike Russell not helping matters, but just before half-time they were back on terms. Fabian Wilnis threw the ball in to Jason De Vos, who laid the ball back to him, the Dutchman crossing low into the six-yard box where Darren Bent netted, although Sky Blue Gary McSheffrey may have got the last touch.

Town's goal appeared to give them confidence and a quick break almost led to a second, Currie's cross from the left just too high for Kuqi to head home.

At the break, referee Russell was booed off by Town fans, more for a series of incorrect or over-fussy decisions rather than any major error.

The Blues had made heavy weather of the strugglers, although Coventry had battled well and deserved to be on terms at the break.

Three minutes into the second half, Leacock did well to get to the byline on the Town left and cross. The ball flicked Karbassiyoon's head as it came across but fortunately failed to fall to a Sky Blue shirt. The loanee from Fulham was forced off soon after due to an injury he sustained in the first half.

On 54 Jason De Vos did well to get in front Stern John's shot and put it out for a corner.

Coventry continued to press and a minute later Karbassiyoon was beaten to the ball on the Town left by Morrell. The former Wrexham man brought the ball inside but Kelvin Davis blocked his effort on goal.

A minute before the hour mark, the Blues were in front. Jim Magilton's excellent pass set Bent away beyond the defence, the striker doing well to put the ball over Steele and into the net off the post with a first time strike.

Coventry quickly went looking for an equaliser and Davis did well to save from McSheffrey after a swift counter-attack.

From the resultant corner Coventry were awarded a penalty. Michael Doyle sent in a corner from the Sky Blues' left which struck Shefki Kuqi on the hand. Referee Russell had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, McSheffrey sending Davis the wrong way with his strike to the keeper's right.

Five minutes later Coventry had a chance to go ahead when Stern John headed Steve Staunton's freekick from the left over the bar when he might well have done better.

On 70 Joe Royle switched Jim Magilton for Dean Bowditch, the youngster going to a left midfield position and Darren Currie to the right.

Three minutes later, Darren Bent came close to Town's third of the match with a header from a Currie corner which flew straight to Steele. The Blues claimed a penalty after their next attack, Bowditch appearing to be pushed by a defender as Bent's cross came in from the right, however Mr Russell was not convinced.

Town got themselves back in front again in the 77th minute, in slightly strange circumstances. Kelvin Davis mis-hit a clearance which Jason de Vos and Tommy Miller both tried unsuccessfully to flick on. The kick bobbled beyond the Coventry defence and into the path of Shefki Kuqi who took the ball on and lashed it into the corner of the net.

Not long after the goal Richard Naylor and sub Andrew Whing got their names in the referee's book after the Town defender reacted angrily to the Coventry man's dive in the box. Naylor had picked the prone Sky Blues number two up by his shirt and was clearly very unimpressed.

With six minutes left on the clock, Kuqi was sent away in the clear, escaping Richard Shaw dragging him back, and ought to have scored when one-on-one with Steele, the keeper saving from him twice. After the ball went out of play, Shaw was yellow carded.

On 88 Currie played a fine ball down the right to Darren Bent, the striker crossing into the box where the ball was forced back to the keeper by Kuqi and a defender.

As the game entered its final minutes, Bent cut in and shot straight at Steele and then chipped into the arms of the keeper.

Town just about deserved the points but were never really were at their best against an industrious Coventry side. In the end the Blues could have had more than three goals but overall the game was closer than was expected considering the teams' relative league positions.

Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi both got back in the goals, although the Finn missed a good chance late on. At the back, Richard Naylor and Jason De Vos had decent games, while Fabian Wilnis was probably the pick of the Blues.

Full-back Danny Karbassiyoon was given a much more difficult afternoon than he was against Bolton.

Back to winning ways at home after two successive defeats, still two points clear at the top and an away game at off-form Reading next weekend.

Town: Davis, Wilnis, Karbassiyoon, De Vos, Naylor, Magilton (Bowditch 70), Miller, Horlock, Currie, Bent, Kuqi. Unused: Price, Richards, Couñago, Mitchell. Att: 23,670.

Photo: Action Images

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