IT TOOK an outrageous fluke to give Coventry the breakthrough at Manor Park, but having taken complete control of the game they crowned their success with a goal of stunning quality.
A full complement of half-a-dozen Sky Blue coaches, headed by manager Gary McAllister, didn’t learn too much they didn’t already know in terms of who is ready to step up a grade.
All but two of the outfield players that started the game have already been tested in the first team while goalkeepers Gavin Ward and Scott Shearer were given precious little opportunity to show what they can do during their 45-minute job-sharing sessions.
But it was nonetheless a thoroughly satisfactory exercise, with Dele Adebola and Graham Barrett sharpening up their act for possible substitute duties against Gillingham on Saturday while men like David Pipe, who have slipped down the pecking order this season, showed that they, too, have still got plenty to offer.
The centre of Sky Blue attention, particularly in the first half, was Tottenham midfielder Johnnie Jackson, whose trial period is due to be upgraded to a one-month loan today. One of those always-available types who is comfortable on the ball and can dispense it with an admirably wide range of passes, he certainly shaped up as an option worth pursuing.
City’s 38th-minute opener, however, proved that however much quality you’ve got on board, there’s nothing quite like a little bit of luck to put you on the right track.
When Isaac Osbourne hurled himself into a shuddering centre-circle challenge the ball scuttled out to Claus Jorgensen on the left wing and gave the Dane the chance to tee up Dean Gordon for a cross that skimmed off defender Adam Green’s back and looped over veteran keeper Dave Beasant to drop just under the bar.
Sometime Zorro impersonator Facundo Sava provided Fulham’s only real moment of danger with a sinuous run down the middle of the field but cut his shot wide. And the black-shirted Londoners collapsed in the final half-hour as City’s fitness and work-rate took maximum effect.
Fulham had already survived one astonishing scramble, with shots from Adebola and Barrett both charged down on the line, when another corner produced goal No.2 on the hour. Having seen his initial kick blocked, Jorgensen pumped in a second attempt that found Gordon loitering beyond the far post. He in turn fired in a low drive and, when the ball popped up from a Fulham boot, Adebola nipped in to nod it past Beasant.
Andrew Whing cleared the bar from 12 yards when an excellent combination between Adebola, Pipe and Jorgensen contrived a clear-cut opening, but it was the arrival of youngsters Andrew Hall and Liam Nicell that signalled a belated pay-off for the Sky Blues.
Nicell replaced Barrett 10 minutes from time and his first contribution was to collect Jackson’s free-kick on the right flank and sweep over a perfect low cross that Jorgensen stabbed home without having to break his stride.
And both substitutes were involved as City, and Pipe in particular, saved the best for last.
Even though the final seconds were ticking down and the match long-since won, the young Welshman showed exemplary commitment to wriggle his way through two fierce challenges five yards inside the home half and push the ball out to Nicell on the right wing.
He rode another rugged tackle to clip a long pass down the flank to Hall, who held up the ball long enough for support to arrive, and pushed it inside to Pipe who smacked a precise right-footer into the far corner from just inside the Fulham area.
On a night when a glitch in the catering arrangements meant that Manor Park’s rightly renowned hot-dogs were off the menu, it was a goal to send the City faithful home with a warm glow inside.
Coventry City Reserves: Ward (Shearer 45); Whing, Briscoe, Quinn, Gordon; Pipe, Osbourne, Jackson, Jorgensen; Adebola (Hall 75), Barrett (Nicell 80). Subs (not used): Giddings, Yazdani.
Fulham Reserves: Beasant, Rosenior, Green, Watkins, Fontaine, Davis, Buari, McDermott (Stratford 65), Sava, Noble (Lawless 70), Doherty. Subs not used: Flitney, Kouadio.