MATCH REPORTS 1998/99
Goals: MC: Dickov (77). DC: Bennett (16)
Line up: Weaver, Edghill , Wiekens, Morrison , Vaughan, Crooks , Pollock, Mason (Dickov ),Goater, Taylor, Russell
Match report by:
Goals: MC: Allsopp (74). MT: Peacock (,)
Line up: Wright, Rimmer , Fenton , Vaughan, Jeff Whitley, Brown, Pollock (Jim Whitley), Tiatto , Allsopp, Taylor (Bailey), Heaney
Match report by: Carol Darvill
On a cold December night 3007 hardy/mad/sad (delete as applicable) fans turned up expecting to see the match which would kickstart our march on Wembley. The previous lowest recorded competitive home match (as confirmed by John Maddocks) was 4029 for the Full Members Cup game v. Leeds in the 1985/86 season - yes when we got beat 5-4 by Chelsea in the Final!! The annoying thing was that we were charged Stlg.10 for the privilege/honour (or make up your own thoughts) whereas it seems that teams like Burnley & Oldham were charging around a fiver for adults and a quid for kids. Mmm. Why did I go? Well, to date, I have only missed one home match since I moved up from "dahn sarf" 6 and a bit years ago but if things keep going as they are......
Having been originally informed that only DD lower block was being opened in the Kippax I got my own seat early - as it was the whole of the lower tier was open so you could sit where you wanted. Mansfield brought about 200 with them plus their mascot Sammy the Stag - although the bloke behind me insisted it was a moose!!! Well, to be fair, it did look more like a moose than a stag but there you go!! The nice touch was that Sammy, aided or hindered by Moonie, was distributing sweets out to the kids, not just to his own fans but to ours as well - cheers Sammy! The down side was that, being on the front row, my feet were crushed by loads of kids after said sweets although a BlackJack did suddenly appear on my lap from out of nowhere - I hid it in my pocket to savour at a later stage!! Yes I know, sad bag!
Anyway onto the game!! I was desperate to get more than one programme for my mates in the London Branch but was told by a jobsworth that I could only have one as I went in as they were expecting quite a few people and couldn't dish out any more - huh!! (Fortunately I did get some more later). Consequentlly I had to scribble the team down on the envelope containing my Wrexham tickets - the team was:
Wright, Jeff Whitley, Tiatto, Fenton, Rimmer, Vaughan, Brown, Pollock, Madge, Taylor & Heaney. Subs were: Bailey, Jim Whitley & Crooks. (this bore NO resemblance to the team printed in the "prog")
Mansfield - pass!! only managed to get a few of them!
The first half wasn't one to write home about - Mansfield were more up for it than we were, Madge had a few good shots, Fenton was OK at the back, Rimmer (first time I'd seen him) seemed OK as well, Brownie was putting himself about as usual and seemed keen to impress. Tackles were flying in and Rimmer was booked - thought unfairly myself. 0-0 then.
The Mansfield kiddies won the penalty shootout regardless of what Alan Keegan said!
Pollock didn't reappear for the second half and was replaced by Jim. He looked fresh and willing so things started to look up. However, on 52 minutes, the Mansfield number 8 - Christie I think - was brought down in the area and a penalty given. I thought it was Vaughan who gave the penalty away but the Mirror said it was Rimmer, I'm sure the MUEN will put me right later. Peacock made no mistake, although Wright went the right way. This fired Mansfield into action and four minutes later they got a free kick which Peacock took and blasted past Wright with a deflection on the way which he could do nothing about! Oh dear, the twin towers were disintegrating before our eyes! Taylor was then withdrawn and young Alan Bailey came on. He huffed and puffed and tried his best but the big Mansfield defenders were having none of it. On 74 minutes Madge got the ball, flew past me with a Mansfield defender hot on his heels, before finally rounding him and coolly slotting the ball home under the goalie. Well done Madge!! The twin towers got slightly more in focus for a short while. Tiatto and Fenton both got booked for non-cynical fouls with Lormer and the number 5 also going in the book for Mansfield. Mansfield used two subs as well during this half. Slightly worried, Mansfield kept attacking until the final whistle, whilst our lot.... well, they got soundly booed off at the end and thoroughly deserved it.
Wright 7 did what he had to do and only made me shut my eyes once! Jeff Whitley 3 Too lightweight, poor passing, not in the game at all Tiatto 5 Used his speed effectively but some of the end results weren't very good. Fenton 7 Played well, composed as usual. Rimmer 5 Not bad - can't comment too much as I'd never seen him play before Vaughan 2 Sorry Tone, but I still reckon the Mighty Murt is a better player than you. Poor overall performance Brown 6 Did his best in a non-existent midfield Pollock 4 not a bad score for one half Allsopp 7 Tried hard, was unlucky on a couple of occasions but gets extra points for a well-taken goal Taylor 5 First time I've seen him "live" so I won't moan at him yet! Heaney 0 I only realised he was on the pitch when this number 11 fell over in front of me. Totally anonymous Bailey Not fair to mark him for such a short time Jim Whitley 7 One of the few positive performances of the evening
So, we are out of the cup compy that most of us thought before the season started we would stroll. It was very unfair to charge us Stlg.10 to watch such total crap - we want our money back! At least Joe Royle has agreed that the paying fans deserved far better. The pride seems to have gone out of wearing the City shirt yet again, regardless of what Chris Bird tried to tell us on Monday night. Apart from Wright, Fenton, Allsopp & Jim, the rest showed no enthusiasm, commitment or interest. Just because Joe said it was a competition we could do without, didn't mean they could take his words literally!! "Tin pot" compy or not, there is something to be won at the end of it all, OK not a top prize but a bit of silverware for our somewhat empty cabinet and a bit of dosh to boot.
Line up: Weaver, Edghill, Wiekens, Morrison , Crooks, Mason (Jim Whitley), Pollock , Russell, Dickov (Tiatto), Goater (Allsopp), Taylor
Match report by: Sharon Bennett
Oh dear. Where do I start? Joe described this after the game as "possibly the worst performance of the season" - to be honest, I'm not sure it was any worse than any of the others we've seen recently, but it did confirm once again that we are bad and getting worse. Vaughan and Brown were both suspended for the game so we started off with Weaver, Edghill, Crooks, Wiekens, Morrison, Mason, Dickov, Pollock (capt), Goater, Taylor and Russell. Allegedly. I didn't spot Russell until half way through the second half (more about that later) but I believe it was him on the left in front of the Main Stand during the first half. I haven't a clue what sort of a formation they were supposed to be playing in, sadly it soon became more than apparent that none of them knew either. Except for the fact that we'd obviously continued the trend of recent weeks in deciding that a midfield was a luxury we could do without.
City started attacking the North Stand and, predictably enough, had a good shot (from Taylor) tipped over the bar by the Rovers keeper after about 5 minutes. The possession was all City for the first 20 minutes, as ever, someone else (Dickov?) had a volley that fizzed past the post and Rovers didn't look threatening at all. They were big, dirty and very sly - why oh why is it that opposing teams can always win more wrong decisions from the ref than we can? Their number 11 in particular was having what used to be called a good battle (and now usually results in one of the offenders being sent off) with Wiekens, who must have been black and blue by the end of the game. I believe the ref was the one we had for the Halifax cup game earlier in the season - I don't remember him making as many wrong decisions as this in that game. He let far too many bad challenges by the Brizzle players go unpunished - not that that is any excuse for the complete lack of commitment shown by anyone of our lot on the field.
Oh yawn yawn. The most exciting bit about the first half was trying to make out what the Rovers fans were singing - whatever it was, it wasn't English - and why it sounded as if they were shouting "sh**head" at their centre half throughout the first half. Rovers had two shots on goal in the entire first half, neither of which were threatening and one of which should have been offside - given that, it's surprising they didn't score. Their best chance - or at least the one which nearly woke up half the crowd - came when Weaver elected to punch the ball about 40 feet in the air rather than catching it, despite the fact there were no Rovers players within about half a mile of him. This led to the customary abuse from large sections of the crowd, which at least meant Mason had a break. As none of his defenders berated him at all, and in fact wandered off rather sheepishly, I can only assume none of them had thought to tell him he had time to let it bounce and play ten minutes of head tennis with scary Andy Morrison before catching it. Poor lad.
Half time came and I very nearly lost my temper. How many times have people discussed in Mcivta and elsewhere that booing off the team at half time is not the way to give them any confidence? I'd rather it didn't happen at full time either, slag them off all you like but NOT DURING THE GAME. It's a vicious circle - we're playing crap, people get fed up & get on the players' backs, the players lose any confidence they had (and there's not a lot of that floating round Maine Road this season as it is) and play worse. Aargh. If I ever do stop going to Maine Road it'll be because of the crowd, not the team. We all know they're not up to the job, etc etc, how is telling them all the time going to help? It doesn't help when Donachie comes out and says "it's all the fans fault" - yep, nice one Willie, guaranteed to change things round. Try winning a few games and then see how the fans react.
Joe has to take some of the blame for what's happening regarding some of the players. Mason in his first few games looked a class above but the last four or five times I've seen him he's been scared to go anywhere near the ball - no wonder given the reaction he gets if he does anything wrong. He was subbed for Jim Whitley and couldn't get off the pitch quick enough. We've got lots of mediocre midfielders who could take Mason's place without anyone even noticing (some of them would have to grow their hair a bit first though) so PLEASE Joe, give the kid a chance and let him have a few games in the reserves to get his confidence back.
Second half was much the same as the first. Goater was subbed for Allsopp and must have been extremely heartened to hear both City and Brizzul fans cheering his departure - I'd have taken the completely ineffectual Taylor off instead but there you go. I'd finally realised Russell was playing when our number 11 put in a terrible cross from the left and I thought "wish Russell was playing, he'd have done better with that - oh that is Russell..." Can't blame him completely for his performance though, I think Frank Clark left his "Team selection and formation" text book behind for Joe to read. Why else ask a striker who once scored lots of goals in the centre of the attack to play at left wing back? I despair.
Pollock was booked after throwing the ball away (now now Jamie) when another free kick was given the wrong way. Morrison had already been booked in the first half and was the quietest I've seen him after that. One of their centre halves should have been punished for stamping on Dickov's back during the first half and wasn't - we were cheerfully laying bets on Dickov getting sent off for retaliation after that as it would have been a perfect accompaniment to the game. Their number 11 was booked at last after yet another foul on Wiekens - he didn't do it again after that, oddly enough. Even the Brizzle Ruvvers fans were getting bored.
With twenty minutes to go Tiatto came on for Dickov and started running at the Rovers defence, who panicked, but we still didn't look scoring. There were several occasions when Taylor and A.N.Other Defender were running for the same ball and Taylor didn't get there first for any of them. I'm still waiting to see what it is that's so good about this lad's game that made Royle buy him as there's nothing obvious so far. I can't remember them having any shots on goal and I can't remember us having any good ones. Boring boring boring. Yet another drab nil nil draw, yet another chance lost to make up any ground on Stoke and yet another Saturday evening wondering why on earth we all bother. <>PCan't wait until we play Stoke, we'll show them who's promotion material from this division - i.e. lots of teams but not us.....
Goals: MC: Brown (108)
Line up: Weaver, Crooks, Morrison (Tiatto ), Wiekens, Edghill, Horlock, Brown, Pollock, Goater (Bishop), Taylor, Russell (Dickov)
Match report by: Tony Burns
I really don't know why I'm bothering to do this match report, other than having just read the latest McVittees I noted there wasn't a single match report from this game. Perhaps that's because those who were there didn't recognize it as much of a match.
It was once again a very poor match, not quite as bad as the shambles against Bristol, but pretty bad in anyone's book.
I think the best thing about the match was that my daughter and her friend moved seat a few times (they had plenty of choice) whilst my son said "Dad can I move down there and have a row on my own" such was the pulling power of City v Darlington. It wasn't all bad though as there was no crush at the bar so getting served was easy.
It was another game where we never looked like getting beat, but we never looked like winning. Having said that we were relieved when a Darlingotn player missed an absolute open net after the ball had bounced back of the bar in the first few minutes.
The shape or lack of it resembled that evidenced in the game against Bristol. Its really disappointing to see a real lack of off-the-ball movement. It's just so static, the idea of moving and pulling players away just doesn't happen. It seems that we are back to that kick it and hope style of play, very little running at the opposition with the ball and a real lack of imagination.
I've read the last couple of McVitees and the comments about City fans venting their frustration and I realize it must sound crazy for those blues who are far away to think that the team are getting booed, but to be honest whilst I don't go that far myself I can understand it. What other form of entertainment would be tolerated if after paying your money you were dished up with poor performances week in, week out. Its not so much the fact that we crap and not winning, its to do with the mediocrity of effort and performance. I know it's been said before but I'll say it again when you watch recent performances, it really does seem obvious that there's a lack of passion and commitment. I can't believe that players don't want to win, so why does it look so jaded week in week out?
It was a real disappointment to go to extra time and sit though another 30 minutes. It was brilliant however when we got the goal, and what a good goal it was as well.
City fans as ever the eternal optimists could already see the twin towers looming, the double dream of promotion and FA cup is back on and our place in Europe assured. We've all got our dreams and I said to my children as we were leaving the ground "looks like we're going to Wembley twice this year"
My forecast for the York game - we'll destroy them possibly by a clear 4 goal margin, the FA cup win against the mighty Darlinton has surely 'kickstarted' our season and now it's only a matter of time before were on Match of the Day every week. We have to believe that don't we?
If we don't then let,s just settle on the most appropriate name for the new stadium, something that matches the reds 'Theater of Dreams' I rather fancy The Temple of Doom - what do you think?
The fact that this match report contains so little content about the actual game is an accurate reflection of the content of the game.
Onwards and upwards - our day will come.
Oh one last thing - credit to the Darlinton fans (or darlo as they referred to their team) they had a few there and they got behind their team - well done to them)
Goals: MC: Russell (32). YC: Connelly (1), Dawson (87)
Line up: Weaver, Crooks, Nick Fenton, Vaughan, Edghill, Brown, Pollock (Jim Whitley), Bishop, Horlock, Taylor, Russell (Allsopp)
Match report by: Colin Jonas
Never thought our annual visit to my wife's relatives in York for Christmas would coincide with a City match. I've always intended to visit York's ground out of curiosity and add to my tally of grounds visited, but I never dreamt that Man City would be providing the opposition. For those who havn't been to York, it really is a great place. Very picturesque with load of pubs, it really was an effort dragging my wife out of the shops and to the game. York City's ground though is a total contrast. It's horrid. Two smallish stands run along the sides of the pitch. The home supporters get a roof for their terraces, while the away fans have to bear the elements. I purchased my tickets from York to ensure I got some, although I notice that Man City still had seats available the day before the match. To get to our seats, we had to go right through the terrace behind the goal to enter the 'Popular Stand'. However, I was relieved to find that the majority of this 'Home' section was occupied by Man City fans.
I didn't tell my wife that Paul Dickov was out suspended until we were well inside the ground, as she definitely wouldn't have left the shops. With Goater injured, Wiekens out with flu and Morrison suspended, City lined up as follows:-
Weaver Crooks Fenton Vaughan Edghill Brown Goater Bishop Horlock Taylor Russell Subs: Whitley Allsopp Mason
We were just making our way to our seats when York scored in the second minute. One of the York forwards took on Tony Vaughan in the box, played the ball across goal to an unmarked Connelly who rifled the ball home unchallenged. Aaagh. City's response was generally quite good. They outpaced and constantly pressurised York for the majority of the first-half. After about 10 minutes, Brown made a great run into the box, and a long cross from Russell resulted with him heading just over. After 15 minutes Russell made a good break down the right, cut inside the defender and curled a shot towards the far corner, which resulted in a great save by the keeper. At approximately 20 minutes a long cross from Brown found Taylor 5 yards from goal. He did manage to beat his marker to the ball, but missed the goal. Should really have been the equaliser.
Inside the first half an hour City had four corners and simply lobbed the ball into the box for each one. Suprisingly nothing came from any of them. When will City start practising their corners. 15 years ago, corners were City's main source of goals. Those good old days on the Cup run when Kevin Reeves would flick the ball on at the near post and Bobby MacDonald would steam in unmarked and score. This simple tactic has even been adopted by the likes of Darlington recently against us. When will City try something new? What does Donnachie do with the players in training?
Anyway, after 33 minutes, the ball was played over the top to Russell making a diagonal run towards the corner, right in front of me. With Taylor making a run inside of him, I was thinking 'play a quick ball inside', but no, Russell whipped in a cross that amazingly went over the keeper and nestled in the back of the net. Yesss. I'm sure it wasn't what Russell meant, but if he did then what a great goal.
After the goal, City sat back a little. York didn't exactly come into the game anymore, just that the City players seemed to be taking a bit of a breather after their exertions in scoring the equaliser. Nevertheless, in the first half City were looking a half decent side. The midfield in particular was dominating the game. Bishop was having one of his better matches showing some good touches. Brown was covering every inch of the right flank, and was constantly outpacing his opposite marker. Pollock was retaining possession more than usual, and Horlock was having one of his steady if unspectacular games.
No more chances before half-time, when it was time to seek out the York toilet facilities. Amazingly, there was just one loo at the back of the terraces to cater for both the terrace stand and the 'Popular' side seats. Approximately 4.000 people. I guess if you're a York fan, you just don't go to a pub before the game. Arrived back at my seat to witness a very loud and heated discussion between Dave Wallace and another City fan who was chanting for Francis Lee to come back. Most bizarre, especially as this was taking place in the York seats. Personally, I can't understand how anyone can still support Francis Lee after what he's done to this club, but that's another story.
Anyway, first minute of the second half and City really should have gone in front. A great 30 yard shot from someone on the left. I think it was Horlock, but not sure. The ball broke loose to Taylor right in front of goal. Rather than place the ball, he elected to whack it straight at the keeper, who easily knocked the ball away for a corner. Which, as noted above is not much better than a goal-kick. City had most of the ball and were putting York under a great deal of pressure, although not really creating many chances except from a header from Horlock which went over, when really it was easier to score. The Man City fan sitting next to me said, 'surely it's only a matter of time before City score'. He obviously hasn't seen City very often! Indeed, I suspected his credibility as an ardent City fan when he said to me 'Has Clough come on at half-time?'
Allsopp came on for Russell about half way into the second half. A strange substitution as I felt Russell was City's most dangerous player. But then again Joe Royle seems to see things differently to everyone else. Allsopp was immediately presented with a great opportunity in the box, but his first touch let him down and the ball was cleared for another corner / goal-kick. Another strange substitution followed shortly after. Pollock, although not as good as his first half display but still effective made way for Jim Whitley who just wasn't in it for the rest of the game. Nice one Royle. With five minutes to go, the predictable finish happened. York who hadn't mounted one serious attack all half broke forward. The ball was played inside to York's 18-year-old debutant substitute Andrew Dawson, who had only been on for 1 minute. He calmly slotted the ball past Weaver who had no chance. Aaagh. City had no response and 2-1 it finished.
WEAVER: Did not need to make any saves apart from the two he let in. Had one dodgy moment when he elected to punch the ball away unconvincingly, but he generally dominated the area and held onto everything. (6)
CROOKS: Another steady performance. Good tackling and heading, but his final cross into the box was woeful. Can't shoot, can't cross. Come on Lee - practice! (5)
EDGHILL: Not a natural left-footer and consequently can't put over a decent cross when in telling positions. Would prefer to see him back on the right, but while Tiatto prefers fighting to playing, I guess he'll have to stay on the left. Good defensive performance though. (6)
N. FENTON: Didn't do a thing wrong. Could quite easily come into the side permanently in place of Wiekens. City's main weakness lies up front. If Wiekens could be sold to generate some funds for a decent forward, I don't feel the defence would suffer. (7)
VAUGHAN: Allowed the York forward to get in a telling cross in the first minute. Played a dodgy back-pass to Weaver shortly before the City equaliser that was almost intercepted. Besides that, good tacking and heading. (6)
BROWN: Rarely gave the ball away and obviously playing with much greater confidence than in the past, no doubt due to his brilliant goal in mid-week. Just about edged Russell as City's best player. (8)
POLLOCK: Good first-half. Provided a continuous link between defence and attack throughout. One of his better games. Faded in the second half and was greatly missed when substituted. (7)
BISHOP: Showed some good touches and often looked a class above the York midfielders. Played an absolutely awful cross field pass in the second half, which York really should have done better with, but in general one of his better games. Although for Bishop that is not difficult to achieve. (7)
HORLOCK: Didn't look match fit. Didn't cover nearly as much turf as Brown on the right. Rarely conceded possession, but again can do much much better. (6)
TAYLOR: Best game yet, but again that is not difficult. Held the ball up quite well, and won a couple of headers. Didn't concede possession cheaply like Goater, but still missed City's best chances. No better than Niall Quinn on an off-day. (5)
RUSSELL: Good first-half. Made the goal out of nothing, and great play early on deserved a better outcome. City created little after he was withdrawn in the second half. Deserves an extended run in the side up front. (7)
WHITLEY (Sub): Didn't see him touch the ball in the last 15 minutes that he played. (1)
ALLSOPP (Sub): Made no impact (1)
Again City failed to win a match which they had dominated. Royle had changed the forward line once again to find that winning streak. Once again it failed. Now in a lowly 11th place, 15 points below 2nd place, automatic promotion can be ruled out. Our only hope is that a good run might see us into the play-offs, but my main concern is that we're only 9 points above the relegation positions. Surely we're too good to go down again, but who knows while Royle & Donachie remain in charge.
Goals: MC: Wiekens (56)
Line up: Weaver, Crooks, Wiekens, Vaughan , Edghill, Brown, Pollock , Bishop (Jim Whitley), Horlock, Taylor (Goater), Russell (Dickov)
Match report by: Colin Jonas
My first visit to Wrexham and my first match on 'foreign' soil. At least this dire season is allowing me the opportunity to add to my tally of grounds visited. Wrexham's Racecourse ground is a strange one. Two good seated stands to the side and one end face a partly covered terrace and pub. Didn't fancy the open part of the terrace in the pouring rain and strong winds, but the pub certainly looked inviting. I purchased my seats directly from Wrexham and was again pleased to see that most of the supporters around me in the Wrexham seats were City fans. I was a little surprised to hear the Wrexham fans chanting 'Argentina, Argentina'. Can't quite see what relevance the English team has to City fans at this moment in time, especially while it's loaded with United players. The last City player to play for England was David White over five years ago. Maybe, I'm out on a limb on this one, but I really couldn't care less about the English team at this moment in time.
Anyway, back to more important matters and City's line-up against Wrexham. With Wiekens recovered from his flu bug, his inclusion at the expense of Fenton was the only change from the team that faced York. Playing 4-4-2 City lined up as:-
Weaver Crooks Wiekens Vaughan Edghill Brown Pollock Bishop Horlock Taylor Russell Subs: Dickov Goater Jim Whitley
City had the majority of possession in the opening quarter of an hour although as usual creating little. Wrexham tended to sit back and attack on the break, mainly through Terry Cooke on the wing. After fifteen minutes a shot by Pollock at the second attempt narrowly flew over the bar from outside the penalty area. Wrexham responded with three good chances in the next five minutes. First Karl Connelly headed just over. Next Ian Rush hit just past from five yards, when he should have scored after Terry Cooke beat Edghill on the wing, and an awful past by Bishop straight to a Wrexham midfielder resulted with the ball hit straight at Weaver. City came back and a great cross from Russell, his only real contribution of the game ended with Taylor forcing the keeper into a save from five yards via a deflection off the arm of the covering Wrexham defender.
Weaver kept City in the game with two absolutely outstanding saves from Terry Cooke. The first shot he brilliantly tipped over the bar, and the second he somehow managed to scoop the ball away when the ball seemed to have passed him and a goal certain. City came back and a good interchange between Crooks and Bishop ended with an excellent cross into the box from Crooks (has he been practising!) onto the head of Brown who glanced the ball towards the far corner, only to see it graze the post.
City started well in the second half. A diving header from Tony Vaughan at the far post went just over. This was quickly followed by a curling left foot shot from outside the penalty area from Michael Brown that went just past the far post.
On the hour, and after a good fifteen minutes of constant pressure. The ball was lobbed into the penalty area from a corner and Gerard Wiekens rose above everyone else and headed home. Yesss. I guess my criticism of this type of tactic used in the York game was proved wrong. It seems that if you use this basic tactic all the time, the law of averages suggests eventually you're going to win one.
Wrexham came back immediately and really should have equalised within a minute. Two separate attacks saw close range shots narrowly miss both posts. It seemed really strange watching City have some luck for a change. Five minutes after the City goal, Dickov replaced Craig Russell. For once, a substitution that I agreed with. At least it made the wife happy. Russell was reportedly recovering from a flu bug and looked a good yard off the pace. Should he have played at all?
After Dickov had been on a couple of minutes he played a great cross field ball to Michael Brown. His cross eventually landed at the feet of Taylor. With the ball stuck in the mud one yard out of goal and the keeper stranded Taylor managed to scoop the ball up so high that it hit the bar and went away. I would have to say that this was the worst miss I have ever seen. If you've seen the often televised miss by Ronnie Rosenthal when he played for Liverpool against Aston Villa, well this was worse. Joe Royle obviously thought so as well, because he was immediately withdrawn to be replaced by Shaun Goater.
Shortly after, Wrexham had another chance to equalise. One of their midfielders ran onto a long through pass, past a static City defence and only had Weaver to beat. But Weaver came out to narrow the angle and brilliantly saved the ball with his feet.
With time running out, Dickov saw a lob from thirty yards go just over, and in injury time Wrexham should have won it. Edghill made another mistake in defence. The ball ran loose inside the box, and again the Wrexham forwards missed the target. With a good five minutes of injury time having been played and with City frantically hanging on, the referee finally blew for full-time and City had won 1-0.
It makes a great change to report on a City victory. For once. City had all the luck and a 4-3 victory for Wrexham would have probably been a fairer result. However, I've lost count of the number of matches City have territorily dominated this season and failed to win. A very mixed bag of performances for this game. Some players, notably Weaver and Wiekens were exceptional. Others, in particular Edghill had their worst games this season.
WEAVER: Brilliant. Made three world class saves. Best goalkeeping performance by a City keeper since Joe Corrigan at his best. (10)
CROOKS: Much better game than York. Good defensively and even managed to get in a couple of half-decent crosses. (7)
EDGHILL: Had a very very poor game. Was beaten every time by Wrexham's winger Terry Cooke (pity about Cooke's United connections, because here was a winger who could be the answer to City's requirements). Edghill also kept giving the ball away, didn't win many tackles and his positional play was hopeless. (1)
VAUGHAN: Usually it's Vaughan's ball distribution that lets him down. This time it was his defensive work. Not too clever for a defender. Poor tackling, poor heading and no positional sense. Not quite as bad as Edghill, but not much in it. (2)
WIEKENS: Constantly had to cover for the mistakes made by his defensive partners. Great tackling and passing. I'd still prefer to see him play in midfield with Fenton and Morrison at the back, but was by far City's best outfield player. (9)
BROWN: Great touch on the ball. When he's involved he looks a class player. Stuck in a wide midfield role he tended to get left out of the action. Would prefer to see him more central, but nevertheless a good game (8)
POLLOCK: A very quiet game. Went for long spells without touching the ball. City's long ball game, aiming for Taylor's head or over the top for Russell seemed to miss Pollock out. Looked quite good when he was involved though. (7)
BISHOP: Good first touch, but still hasn't dominated a match like someone with his experience and class should. Tired in the second half and was replaced by Jim Whitley. (7)
HORLOCK: Again, he didn't look fit. Also appeared to be ducking out of 50-50 challenges. On his day. Horlock can be a quite excellent player. But not this season and certainly not this game. (5)
TAYLOR: The first 15 minutes looked quite promising. He was seeing a lot of the ball, and even dominating in the air. But the Wrexham defence soon got the measure of him and most of what he tried went wrong. His first touch was letting him down. In particular one long ball in the first half played him clear of the defence. Unfortunately, as Taylor stuck up his foot to control it he managed to kick the ball back towards the half way line where it had come from. His confidence went down from there, culminating in his awful miss as described above. (4)
RUSSELL: Not a patch on his York performance. If he wasn't recovering from flu, then a poor poor performance. Showed a lot of promise against York, so let's hope this was a one-off. (4)
DICKOV: (Sub) Gave City a much needed outlet up front. Came close with a lob from way out near the end, but was injured in the last five minutes and although still on the pitch didn't take any further part in the game. (7)
GOATER: (Sub) Such was Taylor's poor performance I was actually glad to see Goater back on the pitch. Didn't really do much, but still gave Wrexham more to worry about as they'd appeared to stop bothering to mark Taylor. (6)
WHITLEY: (Sub) Didn't really have much time to show (6)
I'll leave the match report for the Stoke game to someone else, but I'd just like to say that City's second-half performance was quite brilliant. They fully deserved the victory. With Brown and Pollock winning every 40-60 ball in midfield and Dickov creating numerous chances up front, City were a different team from the one that luckily beat Wrexham. Indeed, every player was magnificent and fully deserving of 10 out 10. Yes, even Gareth Taylor. I'm now even feeling optimistic about our chances of promotion. If City can keep this form going then maybe one of those automatic spots can still be reached. It's weekends like these that make being a City fan all worthwhile.
Goals: MC: Dickov (47), Taylor (85). SC: Sigurdsson (31)
Line up: Weaver, Crooks , Wiekens, Vaughan, Edghill, Brown, Pollock, Bishop (Goater), Horlock, Taylor, Dickov
Match report by: Ashley Birch
After our Boxing Day victory, which was by all accounts a somewhat lacklustre (surely some mistake!) performance, but one when we finally got the rub of the green, I was strangely optimistic about our chances against Stoke. I'd been told by a Stoke season ticket holder with whom I work, that there was great disappointment with their ticket allocation, "we could bring 8,000 but we've only been given a lousy 3k" were his words. I was therefore somewhat surprised to see quite a few empty seats in the North and Gene Kelly Stands, probably about 500 short of 3,000. I did wonder if the Stokies had been delayed at a pub somewhere off the M6, after all, we all know what a riotously good time they usually have on their little trips away.
City lined up once again with the -oh-not-so-promising- '3 at the back' system, but this time with Wiekens partnering Crooks and Vaughan, Morrison being ill. The wingbacks, or what pass for wingbacks at Maine Rd, were Edghill and Horlock. The midfield consisted of Pollock, Brown and Bishop, with Taylor and Dickov up front. I could understand it if Dickov's lack of height were made up for by adept finishing, but it isn't; why then is he preferred to Russell who is not only much faster, but can finish convincingly. As it's the season of goodwill, I'll assume he was feeling a little peeky after all the Xmas pud.
The game was quite open for the first 10 mins - especially the Stoke defence - which surprised me as I had been told by a Stoke fan that their results this season have been built on solid defence, everything else being pretty much mediocre. Maybe that was earlier in the season, 'cos they showed precious little evidence of it for the rest of the game. City got behind them a couple of times early on, and one lovely cross saw Taylor race in, outleap the Stoke defence and head down past the flailing arms of Muggleton. Cue hysteria, followed shortly by disbelief as the ref saw fit to disallow it. I've really no idea why, the only thing we could think of was that he presumed Taylor's impressive (and aggressive) leap was man-assisted. To be perfectly honest though, if the goal had been scored against us, I'd have accepted it without question as it just looked what it was, a striker outjumping the defenders. Later on it was suggested that Horlock was offside, but I certainly didn't see it, nor did any of the other 4 people I spoke to at half time, all of whom were level with the play as the ball was delivered in.
City strove to recover, but just couldn't seem to get the break. There was one beautifully worked move, a one-two on the edge of the area, which saw Brown move behind the defence and pass hard and dangerously in front of goal, bringing an emphatic clearance from a Stoke defender, the sort of move which can easily end up with an own goal. City however, hit the old self-destruct button after about half an hour, when a Stoke forward was left, and left, and left on the edge of the City box, I think Vaughan was the culprit - after an eternity, when he finally realised that no-one was going to bother tackling him, he calmy walked forward and crossed to Sigurdsson who left Weaver absolutely no chance from about 3 yards out.
City, to give them credit, didn't let their heads drop and were unlucky not to get an equaliser from the pressure they applied. However, the Blues really needed a change of game plan for the second half; Taylor was fairly dominant in the first, but noone else seemed to be unable to capitalise on his knock downs. Crooks had earlier put Dickov through with an excellent ball, with the goalie fully 15 yards of his line - it was crying out for a lob but by the time Dickov had finished panicking, his half-hearted effort was intercepted by a defender before even reaching Muggleton. Stoke had really looked frail at the back, and particularly down the wing; however, Edghill in particularly seemed unable to overlap, despite several gilt-edged opportunities. A fellow sufferer offered the suggestion that he was under orders from Royle not to cross the half-way line, though I think this was probably a spontaneous outburst of Xmas spirit rather than a real assertion!
The pack was indeed shuffled for the second half, the ineffectual Bishop was replaced by Goater and City adopted what looked like a 4-3-3 formation, with Crooks and Edghill as right and leftback, respectively.
Big Shaun made an immediate impact, lunging into a 50:50 with the goalie, and the ball bouncing free for Taylor to pass to an unmarked Dickov who slotted the ball home from his favourite distance - 3 yards out! City were really up for it now and the crowd was more animated than I've seen in a long, long time. Several chances came our way, with Taylor in particular being unlucky, as well as Goater. As the minutes rolled by, it looked like another fairly dominant performance was going to see us only get a single point. Suddenly, a goal appeared from nowhere; Dickov received the ball on the wing, looked up and crossed, inch perfectly, for Taylor to rise above 2 Stoke defenders and head down, off the post and in. The celebrations were ecstatic, particularly from the impressive Taylor. Furthermore, it seemed that the usual script had been torn up when, instead of Stoke penning us in and then scoring 2 in extra time, City tore into Stoke for virtually all of the remaining 9 minutes. There was a funny incident when the crowd encouraged the City players to hassle the Stoke defence, panicking them into a farcical series of attempted clearances which cannoned back into the defence off the onrushing Blues!
The whistle went and we could hardly beleive it, not only had we won, but we'd deserved it and the crowd had been excellent; Stoke looked like they were glad it was all over.
Weaver 8 A couple of sound stops and no chance with the goal, thanks to an awol defence. What a joy it is to watch him receive pass backs and distribute them like a seasoned campaigner. Crooks 7 Had a few uncomfortable moments in the first half, but showed he has the skill in the second, getting forward and delivering some telling balls, both through the middle and as crosses. Wiekens 8 A couple of beautifully timed interceptions. Vaughan 7 Looked very good in the second half, but the Stoke goal must go down to him really. Lucky not to get booked for twice roughing up Stoke players after late tackles, the last one not on him! Edghill 6 Very poor first half performance. Edgy will never be a wingback, he doesn't overlap, surely an absolutely prerequisite for this position, and can't cross to save his life. Redeemed himself in the second with a solid performance at leftback. Brown 7 Made some excellent runs and got forward to support the strikers. Pollock 5 Looked unfit but did put in some fairly aggressive tackles! Bishop 5 Fairly poor, no telling passes and not much of a workrate either. Horlock 5 Again not sure if he's fit, did get forward to support the front two but not as effective as we know he can be. Taylor 8 Won almost everything and provided some excellent knockdowns for the others, Should have had two goals, both excellent headers under pressure. Dickov 4 Scored, but who wouldn't have! Ineffectual as a goalscorer and as a goal provider. Subs: Goater 7 The equaliser was down to his hard work, looked very lively and should win his place back at the expense of Dickov. Ref 5 Poor decision for the disallowed goal. Stopped the game every 90 seconds in the first half, totally disrupting it.
by Svenn A. Hanssen, email@example.com