FOOTBALL: SKY BLUES BIG MATCH VERDICT: Shaw finish caps cracker.
GILLINGHAM 2 SKY BLUES 5
SKY BLUES' stalwart Richard Shaw will be an unexpected but hugely popular contender for the club's goal of the season this year.
His sublime 90th minute strike in a game that had absolutely everything from top class goals to high drama amid an amazing ten-man fight-back, has already been added to the list for the end of season awards.
But what will make his stand out from the rest is the fact that it was his first ever goal in a Coventry career that spans eight years and almost 300 appearances.
"The result was fantastic but for Richard to cap off with a goal like that near the end of the season was magnificent," said a relieved Eric Black, who had seen his side take a comfortable three-goal lead into the break, only to allow relegation-threatened Gillingham back into the game with two goals in eight minutes midway through the second half.
"It wasn't just a goal, it was an exceptional strike. He is at right- back and he has broken forward and hit a ball as cleanly as I have ever seen him hit.
"Myself and the players are delighted for him because he is a top, top professional and a great guy to have about the club, and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
Although with seemingly little left to play for apart from pride, the City manager revealed he didn't have to do too much to inspire his charges to get up for a match that meant so much to their opponents.
"I spoke to the players before the game and told them it would be Gillingham's biggest game of the season but I didn't touch much on that," he revealed.
"We watched the reports on local television and interviews with their chairman on Friday night and it was a challenge to my players to show what they are capable of doing and to do the right things.
"There is an enjoyment to be had but you have to do the right things and prove that you are a good team because we haven't done that enough this season, so I am really pleased for the players."
And doing the right things is exactly what they did in as composed a first half as City have managed this season. All three opening goals were of the highest quality, the first from an inch-perfect Michael Doyle free- kick as early as the eighth minute which served to take the sting out of an otherwise determined looking opposition in the opening exchanges.
But Coventry kept their cool and played a patient waiting game, retaining possession and passing the ball with an air of superiority before taking their second and third goals from delightful attacking moves resulting in clinical finishes from Andy Morrell and Gary McSheffrey.
But as City discovered in their March victory over Preston - when they took a four-goal lead into half time - it is a tricky and vulnerable business trying to play in such a comfort zone, especially against a team fuelled by a fear of the drop as they were on Saturday.
And so it came as no great surprise when inspirational substitute Gary Wales pulled one back in 64th minute with a clean finish past Scott Shearer at his near post to give Andy Hessenthaler's side a lifeline and the belief that they could get a valuable point at the very least.
But just as they looked to be turning tables, the hugely competitive player manager got himself sent off for a second yellow card when he chased down and felled Doyle, adding to a first half card for dissent. The tenacious midfielder was lucky to still be on the field after wrestling Stephen Warnock to the ground in an off- the-ball incident in the opening minutes.
But the red card, however, merely served to whip the home crowd to fever pitch and spark an incredible second goal against the odds, scored by Mamady Sidibe amid goalmouth desperation in the 72nd minute, to leave the Sky Blues defending a fragile lead in numbers.
But City kept their heads with some critical defending from Calum Davenport - who should really have had other things on his mind considering his first baby was due and he was on standby to travel home for the birth - and Mo Konjic, aided by some exceptional and composed play from Eric Deloumeaux and Warnock at full-back.
"There was a point when I thought we could blow it when they pulled the two goals back," admitted Black.
"They were fighting for survival and didn't know other results, so the crowd got behind them and they made it very difficult for us. We got deeper and deeper and tried to defend the box and couldn't get out. We gave the ball away cheaply and gave away free-kicks and the referee seemed slightly more sympathetic to them, which is only human nature, and all of a sudden you can sometimes see the headlines, so it was nice when the fourth one went in, I must admit."
That came from McSheffrey's boot as the hard-working striker capped an outstanding display alongside the equally impressive Morrell - in for the injured Julian Joachim - with another quality finish when he controlled a dropping Warnock free-kick in the box with one foot before pushing round his marker and lashing it across the keeper with his other.
The 85th minute strike secured the three points and consigned the home team to a nervous last game of the season at Stoke where they need a point to avoid the drop at the expense of Walsall.
But not before veteran defender Shaw had the last say with virtually the last kick of the game. Racing forward from right-back where he had been brought on to keep things tight, he hit a spectacular first time shot that rifled into the back of the net past the helpless keeper Steve Banks, right in front of his ecstatic fans who knew full well the significance of the goal for one of the club's longest serving and most respected players.
GILLINGHAM: Gary Wales (54 mins, for John Hills), Mark Saunders (74 mins, for Alan Pouton). Not used: Jason Brown (goalkeeper), Barry Ashby, Matt Jarvis.
SKY BLUES: Richard Shaw (79 mins, for Graham Barrett), Brian Kerr (86 mins, for Bjarni Gudjonsson). Not used: Richard Brush (goalkeeper), Claus Jorgensen, Andrew Whing.
BOOKINGS: Andy Hessenthaler (24 mins, dissent, and 65 mins, foul on Michael Doyle), Michael Doyle (34 mins, foul on Danny Spiller), Gary Wales (55 mins, squaring up to the linesman), Danny Spiller (57 mins, foul on Bjarni Gudjonsson), Barry Ashby (57 mins, dissent aimed at the linesman while warning up as a substitute), Nicky Southall (84 mins, foul on Andy Morrell).
SENT OFF: Andy Hessenthaller (65 mins, second bookable offence).
GILLS CITY 2 Goals 5 8 Shots on target 8 9 Shots off target 8 9 Corners 3 3 Offside 2 15 Fouls 10 5 Yellow cards 1 1 Red cards 0
4 mins: Leon Johnson clears a yard from his goal line to deny Gary McSheffrey.
8 mins: Michael Doyle opens the scoring with a stunning 25-yard free- kick into the top corner.
14 mins: Mo Konjic makes a crucial block to deny Patrick Agyemang.
18 mins: Andy Hessenthaler is lucky not to be sent off after wrestling Stephen Warnock to the ground.
24 mins: Andy Morrell makes it 2-0 when McSheffrey knocks down a Bjarni Gudjonsson cross into his path just inside the area, leaving the striker to hit a neat finish.
31 mins: McSheffrey picks his spot with a stunning curling shot round the keeper from the edge of the box.
33 mins: Warnock clears off the line to deny Mamady Sidibe.
42 mins: Danny Spiller clears on the line to deny Calum Davenport.
60 mins: Scott Shearer makes a good save with his legs to deny Ian Cox.
64 mins: Substitute Gary Wales beats Shearer at his near post with an angled drive.
65 mins: Hessenthaler is sent off for a second yellow card when he fouls Doyle.
71 mins: Agyemang has a shot saved before Nicky Southall blazes the ball across the face of goal.
72 mins: Sidibe pulls a second goal back for Gillingham with an angled shot in a crowded box.
85 mins: McSheffrey takes the pressure off with a fine individual goal.
90 mins: Richard Shaw gets his first even City goal with a stunning first time strike.
"The goals were magnificent, I have to say, every last one of them was outstanding and that's the difference, so to come away from home and score five goals is exceptional.
"And to score five of that quality is great so I am delighted with the result but, again, we have put ourselves under a lot of pressure in the second half to say the least in a very strange game. But we are very pleased with a 5-2 victory away from home.
"I didn't see the sending off because it was through a crowd as I was putting someone on. It is hard for a player manager to be out there and he was trying so hard to get a break for his team, and he is obviously a winner. But he was rather fortunate not to be sent off in the first half."
"The first half was our poorest 45-minute display of the season. The dressing room was a little quiet before the game, and it was very disappointing to go in at 3-0 down.
"We said at half-time that can't happen again in the second half and we got back with two goals, and the defeat means it's another big week coming up for everybody at the club.
"We know we've got to go to Stoke next Sunday and get a win and I'm sure it will be a terrific game up there.
"I'm sure we'll take thousands there and it's a big game for Gillingham, not just for the players and the chairman but for us all.
"We don't want to go down and it's all on 90 minutes against a club managed by Tony Pulis and facing two former Priestfield players."
WAYNE JONES Coach
Outstanding at the back where he made several crucial clearances at a critical time
REFEREE Tony Bates (Staffordshire).
ALAN CHUMBLEY Age: 37 Job: Accountant Supported City since: Early 1980s Favourite player: Andy Morrell
THE ever-vocal City away support made their way to Kent and were treated to a match full of incident and drama.
Few however would have predicted the historic climax as defensive stalwart Richard Shaw broke his Sky Blue duck with a sublime finish to send the Coventry fans into stunned delirium.
Best of luck to Eric & the lads for next season's championship challenge
Shearer 8 Deloumeaux 8 Warnock 7 Konjic 7 Davenport 9 Barrett 7 Doyle 8 Safri 7 Gudjonsson 7 McSheffrey 9 Morrell 8
Shaw 10 Kerr 7
STEPHEN WILLIAMS Age: 15 Supported City since: 1998 Favourite player: Richard Shaw
WHAT a win! A few months ago we had a striker crisis. Why did we not try Shaw up front? For a first goal in 297 appearances, it was well taken. This must earn him a new contract.
A good game all round. Let's keep this form against Palace.
Well worked lads!
Shearer 7 Deloumeaux 6 Warnock 9 Konjic 8 Davenport 9 Barrett 8 Doyle 8 Safri 7 Gudjonsson 8 McSheffrey 5 Morrell 6
Shaw 10 Kerr 7
MARK COLLINS Age: 27 Job: Liaison officer Supported City since: 1983 Favourite player: Patrick Suffo
WE never thought it would happen, but it did - Shaw scored and what a goal it was.
Lets hope he's offered a new contract. Five great goals and a good team performance makes you wonder what might have been this season with a bit more consistancy.
Hopefully that will come next season and if Jojars millions appear, then anything's possible.
Shearer 7 Deloumeaux 8 Warnock 8 Konjic 7 Davenport 8 Barrett 8 Doyle 8 Safri 7 Gudjonsson 7 McSheffrey 9 Morrell 8
Shaw 10 Kerr 6
D19935_16 CHARGING ON: Eric Deloumeaux put in a fine display at right-back; D19935_12 MAC ON MARK: Gary Mc Sheffrey scored a fine individual goal
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|Publication:||Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)|
|Date:||May 3, 2004|
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