Coventry City 0 West Bromwich Albion 1
Somehow, with just one game remaining, West Bromwich Albion’s fate is in their own hands.
After weeks of threatening to blow their push for the play-offs, Tony Mowbray’s men will go into the final weekend of the season knowing a win over Barnsley will seal their spot in the top six.
In many ways, their victory over Coventry City summed up their recent run — so superior in quality to most others in the Championship and yet unable to make it really count.
Even with ten men for the whole of the second half after the sending off of Ben Turner, the home team made Albion sweat for the victory although the Baggies’ nerves played as big a part as City’s all-out effort.
The difference between the two sides — apart from the dozen or so places that separates them in the Championship — is just a smattering of class. And that was provided by Jason Koumas who was far and away the best player on show and it was the Welshman’s cross that helped put Mowbray’s side in charge.
The midfielder put the ball on a plate for striker Kevin Phillips but his header came crashing back off the bar to skipper Paul Robinson, who was on hand to head home.
Just after that, Turner received his marching orders for going through Phillips from behind although a yellow card and a talking to from referee Chris Foy might have been sufficient for the 18-year-old on his Championship debut.
The Sky Blues were upset to find out afterwards that the Merseyside official had been controlling most of the first period with only one contact lens after losing his other early in the match.
Whether that had any real effect on the way he officiated the derby game — or his decision to send off Turner — is debatable but it might well have justified the ‘arrogant’ label that Coventry manager Dowie levelled at him.
Whatever the whys and wherefores of the red card, it should have been the signal for Albion to go and kill the game off with some ease ahead of the crucial clash against Barnsley next weekend.
But that just wouldn’t be the Baggies. It would be over-egging it to suggest that Coventry dominated the second period although they certainly did enough to give their West Midlands rivals a scare.
Diomansy Kamara wasted a great chance by delaying a shot which allowed Marcus Hall to block and Robinson saw an effort cleared off the line by the David McNamee.
However, the visitors had their keeper Dean Kiely to thank for securing the points.Coventry resorted to the long ball game in the hope that Michael Mifsud or Dele Adebola would break clear of the shackles and it very nearly paid off.
Adebola latched onto a loose ball outside the area and struck a fierce shot which seemed destined to finish in the top corner, Kiely reached out and pushed the ball onto the bar.
Had the goalkeeper, who started his career at Coventry, not got his fingers to it, Albion’s hopes of reaching the top six would be in the hands of others next week and not their own.
"I was pleased with the save," said the former Charlton shot-stopper. "I’ve played against Dele over the years and when he broke through, I knew he would hit a good strike.
"I was delighted to get my hand on it and keep it out. It’s great to get a clean sheet and we needed the three points to put ourselves in the best possible position going into the last day."
Phillips missed a clear chance to double the lead for Albion late on but the closing stages were dominated by Foy who, by now, was refereeing with two eyes.
He twice booked Kamara in the space of ten minutes for insignificant fouls on McNamee which resulted in the striker being sent off.
Foy also got into an argument with Coventry boss Dowie and it ended with the City manager being sent to the stand.
The manager’s tenure so far at the Ricoh Arena has been mixed and his anger with the official came partly from his pent up frustration with his own side.
After going unbeaten for six games when he took over at Coventry, this defeat made it just one point from a possible 18 and has seen much of the early optimism ebb away.
On this showing, they are not a million miles away from the likes of Albion but have been clearly lacking that little bit extra that sets apart the top six or seven teams in the league.
As for the Baggies, just one more win will see them into the play-offs. That’s when the fun will really begin.
Scorer: Robinson (37)
COVENTRY CITY (4-4-2): Marshall; McNamee, Ward, Turner, Hall (Birchall 75); Osbourne, Hughes (Davis 46), Doyle, Thornton (Tabb 79); Adebola, Mifsud. Subs: Steele, Kyle.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Kiely; McShane, Sodje (Albrechtson 46), Perry, Robinson; Gera, Greening, Chaplow (Koren 88), Koumas; Phillips (MacDonald 81), Kamara. Subs: Daniels, Ellington.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Bookings: Coventry – McNamee (foul)
Sendings off: Coventry – Turner (foul); Albion – Kamara (second yellow card)