Coventry City's Liam Kelly (left) and Luke McNally after the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final first leg match. Alamy Stock Photo
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Clean sheet for Irish duo amid tense Championship play-off semi-final

Luke McNally and Darragh Lenihan both completed 90 minutes for their respective sides.

THERE WAS no breakthrough in the first leg of the Championship semi-final between Coventry and Middlesbrough as the two sides played out a cagey 0-0 draw at the CBS Arena.

It meant a clean sheet earned by Irish duo Luke McNally and Darragh Lenihan for their respective sides, while Ireland international Sean Maguire was an unused substitute for the hosts.

There were few chances over the course of the 90 minutes, with Coventry goalkeeper Ben Wilson required to make a couple of decent saves in the first half.

Frustratingly for the Sky Blues, who have waited 22 years for a chance to return to the Premier League, they could not muster a shot on target.

Michael Carrick’s side will now look to make better use of home advantage when the two sides reconvene at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday night.

Six days on from these two teams facing each other on the final day of the regular season, the first big chance went Middlesbrough’s way after 13 minutes when Riley McGree played the ball through and Chuba Akpom’s dink deflected off Wilson and onto the bar.

The visitors were the first to settle after a scrappy opening, with Coventry unable to make many incursions into their opponents’ half.

The Sky Blues’ first effort on goal, an off-target header by captain Liam Kelly in the 28th minute, lifted the crowd but they soon had Wilson to thank again for keeping the game goalless.

Isaiah Jones found himself in behind down the right and the wing-back’s effort from a narrow angle needing turning behind by Coventry’s last line of defence.

Jones then had the ball in the net for Boro four minutes before half-time after being played through by Akpom, but the assistant’s flag had already been raised for offside.

Middlesbrough continued to make the better chances early in the second half as Akpom headed McGree’s cross narrowly wide just over a minute after the restart.

Viktor Gyokeres, Coventry’s leading scorer, had barely had a kick and his eagerness to get more involved arguably prevented Kyle McFadzean having a sight of goal from Gustavo Hamer’s corner.

Zack Steffen in the Middlesbrough goal was also underworked, with Callum Doyle’s wild effort over the bar from the edge of the box summing up the hosts’ lack of quality in the final third.

Hamer then followed suit from long range, but the Sky Blues were at least starting to impose themselves after what had been a nervy first 45 minutes from them.

Boro’s threat dissipated the longer the second half wore on, with Akpom’s increasing isolation only adding to the sense of stalemate – which to nobody’s surprise remained unbroken, meaning this tie’s decisive moment is yet to come.

Additional reporting by Paul Fennessy

Press Association
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