Daily Express


Sky Blues to face Boro again in battle for top-flight return

- By Simon Bird

MARK ROBINS hailed Coventry’s “phenomenal” play-off miracle and vowed they would fight their way to Wembley.

In the away dressing room, City players sang Moving On Up and Sweet Caroline as they took a big step towards ending more than two decades out of the Premier League.

The game became a stalemate, with neither side wanting to show too much of their hand, or ruthless edge before the real business when they face each other in the play-off semi-finals.

The teams started the match in fourth and fifth place respective­ly and it ended there, with Gustavo Hamer’s opener in the 22nd minute cancelled out by Cameron Archer’s 11th of the season before half-time.

When the teams meet again, for the first leg at the Coventry Building Society Arena on Sunday at noon, it will be more feisty. City were relegated in 2001 and are three games from ending 22 seasons out of the top flight.

Manager Robins said: “I’m proud of everyone.

“When you consider the start to the season we had, Boro similar, it took a while to get going. I’m proud of everyone, the achievemen­t of getting to the play-offs is phenomenal.

“You only enjoy them if you win them. We have a few days to think about our plans. They have more to come.

“Michael [Carrick] is a talent. Smart. So we have thinking to do. But we will enjoy it. Big teams have missed out.

“When we heard the scoreline at the Den, amazing that.

“When Millwall were three up and Sunderland were, we were thinking, ‘Stay in the game’. But it worked out.

“It was a difficult 46 games but we have good momentum. We are in there fighting.”

Boro manager Carrick has known they would end in fourth for a couple of weeks.

He said: “It is all about what happens next. There is a different feel now.

“New atmosphere, no hiding from that, and you have to relish it.

“We are fighting for something that is worth achieving. Next week is a different ball game.

“It is not an achievemen­t. It is all eyes on next week and we will judge it after that.”

MIDDLESBRO­UGH (4-2-3-1): Steffen 6; Smith 6 (Fisher 90), Lenihan 6, McNair 6, Giles 6; Hackney 7, Mowatt 7 (Barlaser 65, 6); Jones 6 (Finch 90) Akpom 6, McGree 7; Archer 7 (Crooks 76). Goal: Archer 45.

COVENTRY (3-5-2): Wilson 6; McNally 6, McFadzean 7, Doyle 6; Norton-Cuffy 6, Hamer 7, Kelly 7, Eccles 6 (Allen 81), Bidwell 6; Goden 7, Gyokeres 6.

Goal: Hamer 22.

 ?? ?? RIDING HIGH: Coventry celebrate taking the lead
RIDING HIGH: Coventry celebrate taking the lead
 ?? ?? SEE YOU LATER: Coventry’s Hamer finds net
SEE YOU LATER: Coventry’s Hamer finds net

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