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CITY FOLD AT THE DEN; Solid start is undone as Sky Blues are picked apart.


ANDY Thorn asked his players to man up at Millwall and they did for 52 minutes before a dramatic second-half collapse that left the manager scratching his head at The Den.

Although the Sky Blues were admirably composed in and out of possession in the first half, Millwall were bubbling with the confidence that comes from two hefty wins in their previous two outings.

More important, they had the magic ingredient in Darius Henderson, currently the hottest striker in the Championship, who snapped up two goals to make it six in three matches before he went off to a hero's reception five minutes from time.

The Sky Blues matched their opponents in an encouraging opening 45, albeit unable again to make the most of their chances when they had them, but failed woefully to carry that endeavour through into the second half when they were picked off all too easily, carved open three times by midfielder Liam Trotter.

Thorn made three changes with James McPake making his first Championship start of the campaign and Richard Wood returning to the back four in place of the injured Chris Hussey at left-back, while Richard Keogh was deployed at rightback in place of Cyrus Christie who dropped to the bench to enable the manager to field a more experienced side against The Lions.

Elsewhere, Gary Deegan was restored to the starting line-up in place of teenager Conor Thomas who was also named as a substitute against Kenny Jackett's free scoring side.

And the home team sent a warning shot across the bows as early as the seventh minute when Liam Feeney showed electric pace down the right to pick out Henderson at the back post where the in-form striker headed, unchallenged, on to the roof of the net.

The tricky winger was proving a real handful to keep the excellent Wood on his toes, creating space for himself and looking to get early balls into the box that helped force a couple of early corners.

City, meanwhile, moved the ball about confidently and enjoyed decent spells of possession and even provoked boos and chants of "boring" from the home fans when they strung several passes together across the back four and in their own half as they looked to play a patient game.

Carl Baker did find space in the 14th minute when he unleashed a long-range effort that goalkeeper David Forde spilled before Cody McDonald turned the loose ball into the side netting.

When City couldn't play it out from the back goalkeeper Joe Murphy sent a diagonal kick up for Lukas Jutkiewicz, but it was Wood on the opposite flank who won a terrific header on the touchline to send Gary McSheffrey scampering through on goal. But, instead of hitting it first time, the lively looking forward attempted to cut into the box where he was snuffed out by centre-back Paul Robinson as the Sky Blues gave a good account of themselves to the break.

Keogh enjoyed plenty of space down the right flank and a promising counter attack following a bit of Lions' pressure on the half hour mark saw McSheffrey whip in a low cross in to the six-yard box behind the defence where Forde parried, only for the ball to hit McDonald and loop agonisingly over.

But the ball was soon back down the other end when Millwall countered themselves, resulting in holding midfielder Jimmy Abdou going clean through but, put off by Baker, saw his effort roll towards the open goal before Keogh raced in to hook out for a corner.

McSheffrey then clipped the top of the bar and sent in another decent ball that had Jutkiewicz stretching but failing to connect with in a wide open game that looked to be waiting for either side to make a mistake, but Coventry going in the stronger of the two.

Seemingly keen to carry on where they left off, Thorn's men were out early for the second half but it was the home side who gained the advantage seven minutes in to the restart when Trotter played Henderson through. The centre-forward then turned inside Keogh and his shot deflected off the sliding in McPake and looped over the keeper into the back of the net for his seventh of the season.

McDonald went close when he headed a Baker free-kick narrowly wide at the far post as they enjoyed some good decisions from the referee who kept a lid on Millwall's attempts to bully them off the ball.

But Trotter and Henderson combined again in the 68th minute to put the game beyond reach as City's early confidence withered dramatically away, the midfielder out-muscling Sammy Clingan and driving forward to play the striker through. And the composed target man showed supreme confidence when he pulled inside Nathan Cameron and picked his spot with his left foot to bag his second of the night.

Thorn responded by throwing caution to the wind by sending on Clive Platt for Deegan but it back fired when the home side caught them on the counter to record their tenth goal in their last three outings. Trotter, again, surged forward in the midfield all too easily to feed Feeney through with just Murphy to beat, which he did with a well placed shot to the keeper's right to wrap things up with eight minutes to spare on a disappointing night of extremes in each half.

THE TEAMS Millwall (4-1-3-2): David Forde; Alan Dunne, Paul Robinson, Darren Ward, Jack Smith; Jimmy Abdou; Liam Feeney, Liam Trotter, Brian Howard (H/T James Henry); Darius Henderson (86 mins, Dany N'Guessan), Jay Simpson (75 mins, Tamika Mkandawire), Substitutes: Steve Mildenhall (goalkeeper), Josh McQuoid. Coventry City (4-1;2;1;2): Joe Murphy; Richard Keogh, James McPake, Nathan Cameron, Richard Wood; Sammy Clingan; Gary Deegan (70 mins, Clive Platt), Carl Baker (88 mins, Conor Thomas); Gary McSheffrey (82 mins, David Bell); Lukas Jutkiewicz, Cody McDonald. Substitutes: Chris Dunn (goalkeeper), Cyrus Christie.

CLOCKWATCH 6 mins: McSheffrey shot from edge of area is deflected for a corner.

7: Henderson heads on to the roof of the net from Feeney's cross.

16: Baker's long-range shot is turned wide by Forde and McSheffrey fires the rebound into the side netting from an impossible angle.

28: McPake slides in to block Simpson's shot.

29: Henderson's 25-yard shot is straight at Murphy.

34: Forde fumbles McSheffrey's low cross but the loose ball rebounds off McDonald and over the bar.

37: Keogh pulls off an incredible goal-line interception to deny Henderson after Abdou bundles the ball past Murphy.

39: McSheffrey's deep cross bounces off the top of the bar with Forde struggling. 40: Jutkiewicz is just short of connecting with McSheffrey's low cross.

51: Jutkiewicz cuts in from the left and shoots past the near post.

52: Henderson's low shot takes a big deflection off McPake and loops past Murphy. 1-0. 61: McDonald heads just wide from Baker's deep free-kick.

68: Trotter finds Henderson who cuts inside from the right and drills a crisp left-foot shot into the top corner. 2-0. 69: McSheffrey turns Wood's low cross past the near post.

73: Ward blocks McDonald's shot. 81: A quick counter-attack sees Trotter pick out Feeney to sprint down the left and calmly beat Murphy.

88: Murphy makes a fine save from Trotter.

DISCIPLINE REFEREE: Dave Phillips (West Sussex).

MATCH STATS MILLWALL SKY BLUES 7.................. Shots on target.............. 1 1.................. Shots off target ............. 8 7......................... Corners .................... 3 1......................... Offside..................... 1 10......................... Fouls .................... 11 0..................... Yellow cards ................ 0 0....................... Red Cards .................. 0 Attendance: 9,517(Away 386) STAR MAN RICHARD WOOD Solid in unfamiliar left-back role.


HOLDING OUT: Sky Blues defence come under pressure. Pictures: Brian Tonks ON THE BACK FOOT: David Bell closes down James Henry. Below: Richard Keogh tracks Millwall's Brian Howard.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 2, 2011
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