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"Rory Delap ought to have halved the deficit"
 real 14k

Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Hartson lifts Coventry
Coventry's John Hartson
Hartson scored Coventry's second goal
Coventry 2-0 Derby

Welsh hero John Hartson and Moroccan Mustapha Hadji gave Premiership strugglers Coventry a much needed life-line at Highfield Road.

Hadji, put the home side ahead at the end of a scrappy first half but almost proved villain later as he was sent off with 20 minutes of the game remaining for foul and abusive language.

Hartson, fresh from his hat-trick for Wales in midweek, had added to Coventry's haul with a much deserved header of his own four minutes into the second half but Derby threatened for the remainder of the match.

John Hartson was immense for us and at times Derby did not want to go in on him because he caused so many problems
  Coventry City manager Gordon Strachan
It was Coventry keeper Chris Kirkland who time and again stopped Derby in their tracks as they tried to capitalise on Hadji's untimely departure.

The victory moves Coventry into third from bottom, level with Manchester City on 27 points and gives manager Gordon Strachan a feint hope of Premiership survival.

Derby had not been helped by the departure of their goal keeper Andy Oakes after just seven minutes.

Hartson on song

Oakes was stretchered off with a knee injury after clashing with Hadji outside his box. He was replaced by Estonian international Matt Poom, who himself had only just returned from a shoulder injury.

Oakes had come charging out of his penalty area after a poor back-pass from Darryl Powell let in Hadji.

Coventry, desperately in search of points to move out of the relegation zone, started nervously but found their stride after five minutes with Hartson relishing in much better delivery from his team-mates.

He had a chance in the opening minutes as Marcus Hall crossed from the left, but his header was scooped up by Oakes shortly before his departure from the field.

Hartson also latched onto to a Hall free kick after 20 minutes, only to see his shot go wide, two other chances in the first half suffered the same fate.

Derby then enjoyed a period of opportunity but could not find a way past Kirkland.

Hadji on target

With a minute remaining in the half Coventry once again found themselves in the Derby box but this time the visitors failed to clear their lines.

John Eustace latched on to the loose ball. His shot was parried by keeper Poom but fell straight to the waiting boot of Hadji, who made no mistake.

We handed the game to Coventry by our own bad performance and the team will be kidding themselves if they felt they performed up to standard
  Derby assistant manager Colin Todd
Coventry seemed even more determined as the second half got underway and within four minutes Hartson got his just reward, rising higher than the Derby defence to head home a corner from the left.

The remainder of the half deteriorated into an even more scrappy affair and it was almost no surprise when referee David Ellery brought out the red card on Hadji, who appeared to spit after a challenge by Derby defender Danny Higganbotham.

Rory Delap had the best chance for Derby but his close range shot flew over the bar, to give Coventry the much needed three points.

Coventry: Kirkland, Shaw, Breen, Hadji, Telfer, Eustace, Quinn, Carsley, Hall, Bellamy, Hartson. Subs: Hedman, Williams, Thompson, Chippo, Aloisi.

Derby: Oakes, Carbonari, Higginbotham, Mawene, Delap, Johnson, Gudjonsson, Powell, Burley, Burton, Christie. Subs: Poom, Kinkladze, Bragstad, Boertien, Murray.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).

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