Stalemates all arrive at once for U's

LAYER Road stalemates are like London buses - you don't see one for ages and then two come along in quick succession!Before the goalless draw against Burnley a fortnight ago, the U's had not hosted a 0-0 draw for more than a year.

By Carl Marston

LAYER Road stalemates are like London buses - you don't see one for ages and then two come along in quick succession!

Before the goalless draw against Burnley a fortnight ago, the U's had not hosted a 0-0 draw for more than a year. You had to harp back to Valentines Day of last year (February 14) for a goalless result against visiting Walsall.

But opponents are beginning to treat the top-10 U's with a lot more respect these days, and Coventry City were no exception on Saturday.

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The Sky Blues had done their homework, kept it very tight and were good value for their point in what was an instantly forgettable game.

Having plundered 38 goals in their first 17 home games, Geraint Williams' men are suddenly finding it difficult to score in front of their home fans. In fact, they have only mustered two goals in their last five fixtures.

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And, after beginning 2007 in sixth spot, the final play-off berth, they are now a distant nine points adrift of the top six after a run of just two victories in 12 games.

But that's the downside. Alternatively, another hard-earned point has seen the U's stay in 10th slot, with a healthy 53 points to their name.

They still have an excellent chance of at least finishing the season in a top-half-of-the-table position, which would be a marvellous achievement.

And once again, they proved a tough nut to crack on home soil. Iain Dowie has not lost in four games since his appointment to the Coventry hot-seat and he was more than happy with a point at Layer Road, as most Championship managers would be this season!

The U's also have nine games left, and only one of these is against a top-six side (at home to Sunderland), so there is scope for several more points to be collected before this historic season comes to an end at home to Crystal Palace at the beginning of May.

United did not play badly but, for the second game running, they failed to test the opposing keeper. Burnley custodian Danny Coyne had virtually nothing to do a fortnight ago and Coventry keeper Andy Marshall, the former Norwich and Ipswich shot-stopper, might just as well have stayed in the Midlands!

Marshall did not have a save to make, although the U's did come closest to stealing the points. Kevin McLeod endured a frustrating afternoon down the left flank, although he did whip over a superb low cross early in the second half which Chris Iwelumo seemed poised to poke home.

Unfortunately, Iwelumo could not get the vital touch that would have made him the U's outright top goalscorer on 16 goals and would also probably have won United the match.

Iwelumo led the frontline well, and was always the most likely goalscorer. Dropped for the 5-1 defeat at Derby, the Scotsman also went close in the first period with a volley that flashed wide of target from Pat Baldwin's measured ball forward.

His strike-force partner, Jamie Cureton, also drew a blank in front of goal. Both are stuck on 15 goals, and both have only scored a couple of goals since the turn of the year.

At the other end, Dean Gerken was just as under-employed as Marshall, at least until the 56th minute. Midfielder Stephen Hughes unleashed the shot of the game and Gerken had to arch back to claw the ball over the bar for a corner.

That save earned him another clean-sheet, just as a smart save from Ade Akinbiyi had guaranteed a shut-out against Burnley.

Coventry are still not completely safe from relegation and they certainly had grounds for a penalty in the 80th minute when Jay Tabb appeared to be tugged back by Karl Duguid. Referee Keith Stroud thought otherwise, and so another stalemate was assured.

Norwich City are the next visitors to Layer Road at the end of this month.

Hopefully, they won't be arriving on a London bus!

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