FOOTBALL:Just the Tonic for City; SECOND-HALF GOAL RUSH CLINCHES CARLING CUP SUCCESS AND GIVES REID'S SKY BLUES A WELCOME INJECTION OF CONFIDENCE
Byline: BY ANDY TURNER
SATURDAY'S boos and chants of 'What a load of rubbish' were quickly forgotten as the Sky Blues eased their way through to the second round of the Carling Cup.
Critics may point to the fact that they were playing considerably easier opposition but, nevertheless, Peter Reid's players gave themselves and their fans the perfect pick-me-up with a masterclass in passing and some terrific goals.
The pick of the bunch was a brace of superb solo efforts from Patrick Suffo who struck twice in the space of three minutes, adding to Stephen Hughes's 51st-minute opener following an extremely entertaining yet ultimately frustrating first half during which Coventry totally dominated the game but had nothing to show for it.
To Torquay's credit, despite travelling to Highfield Road with a string of key players missing and low on confidence after failing to win any of their opening four League One games, they defended stoutly against a team determined to put right a wrong.
Reid made a number of changes to his starting line-up, notably dropping Suffo to the bench and restoring Gary McSheffrey up front, while also giving Andy Morrell a start ahead of Eddie Johnson and bringing back the creative influence of Bjarni Gudjonsson into the side.
But the one change who made the biggest difference was Neil Wood who had an impressive debut in midfield to send a clear signal to the manager that he wants to be more involved after failing to feature in the opening four games.
Operating wide on the left, the summer signing from Manchester United linked up well with Michael Doyle who buzzed about in the middle with Hughes holding, and played some delightful forward balls to release the strikers, the best of which set up Suffo for his second.
City improved in every area of the pitch, including on the flanks where Steve Staunton and Louis Carey got forward a lot more on the overlap to supply a string of crosses. And although the majority went begging, the midfield were quick to regain possession and dominate the final third as United struggled to retain the ball themselves.
The Gulls offered very little in return in the opening 45 minutes bar a couple of opportune shots off target, but were plucky in their resolve and served to thwart Coventry's attractive build-up play which was desperately short of an end product.
But the breakthrough finally came when a free-kick was cleared by the visiting defence, only to fall to Hughes who buried the loose ball into the back of the net to lift the growing tension.
The goal served to spark Torquay to have a go themselves and impressive substitute Martin Phillips almost pulled a goal back with a blistering shot that was tipped over by the largely redundant Scott Shearer.
Stuart Noble, the Gulls' new loan signing from Fulham, then sent a shot over the bar and one got the feeling that had they scored at that point then the visitors would have made a real fist of the game.
Instead, a minute later, Suffo received the ball at his feet some 35 yards out from goal, turned and danced his way through a static defence and coolly placed his shot past the keeper.
Three minutes later the striker carved open the defence once again when he cut in from the left, giving two defenders the slip and rifling the ball into the roof of the net at Arjan van Heusden's near post to kill the game and put himself back in the frame for a start.
The lively Jo Kuffour grabbed a goal back 16 minutes from time, drilling home a loose ball on the edge of the box, before Morrell opened his season's account with a close-range effort from a neat square ball from Hughes, leaving the fans singing, 'Reidy, give us a wave,' as confidence was restored all round.
But we all know what a difference a few days can make in football and it now remains to be seen whether the Sky Blues will build on their perfect tonic, or slip back to disappointing ways. …