Goals: MC: Kernaghan (30), Flitcroft (88). S: Coton (24 o.g.), Le Tissier (60)
Line up: Coton (Dibble), Summerbee, D.Brightwell, Kernaghan, Curle, Vonk (Gaudino), Flitcroft, I. Brightwell, Walsh, Rösler, Beagrie
Report by: Nigel Kendall
Having spent most of the week leading up to the game convinced that the South Coast would be washed away by the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised that the closer we got to Southampton, the harder the sun seemed to be trying to break through the clouds. By 1.45pm, when we managed to find a parking space in a street close to the ground, the sun was shining brightly. Could the blue skies betoken our first league win since November? Harbouring such optimistic thoughts, we disappeared for a quick fry-up at an overly frilly local cafe.
As soon as we took our seats in Southampton's tiny stadium, the sun became a rather less welcome visitor. If the man who laid out and designed Southampton's ground had been a mad eye-surgeon wanting blind people for eye-transplant practice, he couldn't have done a more thorough job of inflicting needless pain on the masses. Throughout the first half, two full tiers of Blues strained, hands over eyes, to see what was going on, as the sun slipped slowly over the too-low roof of the facing stand.
Anyway, on to the match. After last week's heroics against Villa in the Cup, Coton retained his place behind a five-man defence consisting of Summerbee, Curle, Vonk, Kernaghan and D Brightwell. To make way for the extra player, Gaudino had been dropped to the subs' bench, a decision which provoked much heated pre-match discussion. This was a team which had come to play for a draw, a tactic which really goes against the grain for most City fans. I'm normally one of Horton's biggest supporters, but in this instance, you've only got to look at the balance of quality in our squad to see that our best interest lies in attack. In short, Curle excepted, we just don't have the players to defend.
Not that it mattered. After 25 minutes, during which Southampton had the best of the play (although Uwe shot high and wide with only Brucie Backhander to beat), Coton dropped the ball into his own net. A deathly hush fell over the City side of the ground; for most of us it was the first bad mistake we'd ever seen the big man make. The Southampton fans, naturally, went wild, with cries of 'Dodgy keeper' piling on the agony.
City now had to attack, and after about 35 minutes their efforts were rewarded with a corner taken by Summerbee. Vonk got in a strong header unchallenged and Kernaghan smacked it into the Southampton net. 1-1. Now we could start playing! But no. It was back to more of the same, with Curle man-marking Le Tissier and doing, on the whole, a very good job. City's defensive unit clogged up the back half of the field, managing to restrict Southampton to long-range shots, one of which Coton flew through the air to tip over on about 40 minutes. As soon as he landed, we knew something was up (back injury recurring?) and sure enough he didn't re-appear for the second half, his place being filled by Dibble.
The second half was a stinker. Those not struck blind in the first half were now praying for the roof to fall on them - anything less painful than watching both teams lose the ball in midfield and fluff the odd chance that came to them. Then it happened again. From a short corner on 65 minutes, Le Tissier received the ball and hooked it in to the near post. It was going nowhere, comfortably covered by the keeper, so Summerbee helped it in with a deft overhead flick. Naturally, our Matty claimed the goal. 2-1 to them.
City fans started baying for Gaudino to come on and after 10 minutes, in which the team seemed resigned to its fate, Horton finally acted, bringing him on in place of the lethargic Vonk. Gaudino then didn't touch the ball for another 10 minutes, although the strength of his running caused concern in the Southampton defence and started to create holes which the superb Flitcroft looked like exploiting. Even so, we were leaving it late, and a handful of Blues had already started the long trek home when, on 88 minutes, Gaudino crossed, Rösler headed down and Flitcroft stole in and scored. City don't often score vital late goals, so the crowd went wild in a mixture of shock and relief.
Overall, a poor performance based on flawed team tactics. Alan Kernaghan, though, was particularly impressive in defence, his well-timed lunges preventing many scoring opportunities for the Saints. Flitcroft looks very comfortable in midfield, and with Ian Brightwell playing the midfield holding role, could get forward as often as he obviously likes. Nice to come away with a point we didn't really deserve, although against teams like Southampton we should really be going for the full three points. :-)
Goals: MU: Ince (59), Kanshelskis (75), Cole (78)
Line up: Dibble, Summerbee, D.Brightwell, Kernaghan, Curle, Gaudino, Flitcroft, I. Brightwell, Walsh, Rösler, Beagrie (Quinn)
Report by: Svenn Hanssen
I was really looking forward to watch City play on TV, and especially since it was the derby. The pitch was soaking wet, and heavy rain poured down, so I guess sitting high and dry in my sofa was better than being drowned like a cat on the Kippax. The Kippax BTW was divided into two parts by the police, as is normal on big games, and especially in an unsheltered stand in a Manchester derby.
City started the game in a 4-4-2 formation, with Dibs in goal, Buzzer and "little" Brightwell on the sides and Curle and Kernaghan at centre back. In midfield Gaudino was on the right, with Ian Brigtwell and Flipper in the middle. Beagrie was on left wing. Up front was Rösler and Walsh. The RAGS lined-up as usual, but Hughes wasn't even on the bench. Cantona was in the Caribbean kicking an ITN-reporter.
City took command right from the kick-off. A tremendous pace was put up, and they really looked positive in the opening minutes. The ball went well between the players, and especially Buzzer looked well warmed up. After five minutes there was a rumble in the United penalty area, and two shots by Gaudino were blocked by United-players. Walsh had a left foot shot from 16 yards fisted to corner by Schmeichel. The RAGS on the other hand enjoyed some really strong counter attacks, one seeing Kanshelskis header just cleared by Dibble. Ince got booked after kicking Walsh from behind, and the crowd immediately started booing on him. In my opinion the left hand side of the City-defence looked the weaker part. D.Brightwell was caught off position, and his passes weren't always finding a blue player. Beagrie held the ball too much, and often he was tackled, or played the ball over the line. At right back Buzzer seemed confident when attacking, but often he wandered way up the flank and didn't look like getting home in a hurry. The crowd however was behind the players from the first minute: "If you hate Man.United. clap your hands".
After 20 minutes the pressure was off and the game levelled. The communication between Dibble and his defence didn't seem to work all the time, something Kernaghan disliked a lot. After 25 minutes Walsh won the ball from Kanshelskis and his cross found Rösler on the far post. His header nearly found Flipper in front of goal, but the ball was cleared by Bruce. Shortly after a United-shot following a corner was blocked by Dibble. The players were aiming their shots. Rösler got booked for kicking the ball out of play, really an unneccessary thing to do, even if the decision looked suspicious.
After 37 minutes the biggest chance of the half came for United. Kanshelskis caught Brightwell off position, and raced clear on goal. Out of nowhere came Curle, ran up to the Ukrainean and slid the ball back to Dibble. Andy handled the ball, clearly an illegal thing to do, and an indirect free kick from 13 yards. The free-kick however was deflected by Gaudino and the corner came to nothing.
Buzzer had been the big surprise this first half. His running up the right flank brought many crosses and he more often went outside Sharpe and Neville than inside. Clearly signalling a confident and in-form player. One of these raids brought us a free-kick. Flitcroft found Rösler unmarked and clear on goal. His header was poor and missed the goal, but it was City's best chance.
At half time I overheard Billy Bremner commenting on the game (on Swedish TV). He believed that if City didn't score in the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half, United would come back and finish the game. How right he was to be. After the match they played an sequence where Francis Lee and Norman Hunter had a fist fight in a game between Derby and Leeds. Lee approached Bremner after the incident and asked him what had happened. Bremner told Lee that Hunter never touched him, whereupon Lee told Bremner to keep an eye on the Ref. because someone had just smacked his jaw.
The 2nd half started with Kernaghan having a terrible pass to Flipper intercepted, and almost giving United the lead. Beagrie was booked after kicking Ince, and McClair dribbled through the City defence. His shot was deflected by Kernaghan and left Dibble stranded. Luckily the ball slipped just wide. Curle had been looking rock steady all afternoon, keeping an eye on the invisible Cole, and tackling hard on sub. Scholes a couple of times.
In the 59th minute however Cole went past Gaudino and found Ince in front of goal. His shot was deflected by Buzzer and once more Dibble was beaten. This time the ball found it's way into the net and the RAGS got their lead. Up until the goal City had most of the play, and United just defending themselves and looking dangerous whenever they got the ball. Now it became more an more clear that City looked tired. Ferguson read Horton like an open book and played three men up front. While defending well, they were always looking for more goals. It was pityful to watch as Buzzer often looked more like a winger, leaving more pressure on our defence.
The Kippax were moving, and the police had a busy job keeping the crowd separated. Kanshelskis had a good shot just wide in the 62nd minute, and shortly after Quinn replaced Beagrie. More and more often the ball was kicked up front and the wings were never used. The fine play by Summerbee was almost non-existent in the 2nd half. Only some good crosses from Flipper found their way to Quinn. One of them was headed down to Gaudino who had his shot blocked. Quinn managed to get booked after only 4 minutes, and didn't quite find his position up front.
In the 75th minute Kanshelskis took Brightwell for a ride and his shot in the near corner was missed by Dibble. This was clearly not what we needed, and three minutes later a United counter-attack showed us how it should be done. Click-clack, McClair, Giggs, Cole. An open goal. From now on it was only a matter of how many goals United would get.
The crowd went silent and the soaking City-supporters on the Kippax started to leave the ground. They witnessed Cole having a shot blocked by Dibble, and Quinn heading over the bar before leaving. Then the stadium was Uniteds and "We love you United we do" sounded all over Maine Road.
So what had I just seen? I saw Dibble and Kernaghan having trouble communicating. Curle looking very fit and rock steady. Summerbee having a great 1st half, but not a to good defensive play. The Brightwell brothers doing their job, but David is no great passer. I saw Gaudino run fast and having a nice first touch. Flitcroft could use a break. He's clearly ambitious, and wants to run things on the field. Today he wasn't quite man enough. Beagrie never impressed me, and both Walsh and ovsler ran, and ran without getting paid.
To me it didn't look like City played like a team. Francis Lee wants City to play attractive football with two wingers This requires some team. City did NOT look like such a team. Individually they sure looked like quality players, but together they pulled in different directions, so to speak. If they start to think like a team and behave like a team, not like a bunch of individuals running around on a playground, we might get somewhere with the players we have.
The tactics also went way wrong, and Alex Ferguson just held on to it until City had run out of steam. Playing three men up front in the 2nd half shows that he knew what he was doing. Surly there had to be opportunities, as long as City kept pushing forward. So my question is: How long is it before Horton gets the boot? Saturdays loss was another step in that direction.
Goals: MC: Rösler (29). NU: Gillespie (18,64), Beresford (34)
Line up: Dibble, I.Brightwell, D.Brightwell (Foster), Kernaghan, Curle, Summerbee, Gaudino, Flitcroft, Rösler, Quinn (Mike), Beagrie
Report by: Ian Thompson
Being a South Wales exile Blue, I enjoyed seeing England beat Wales in Cardiff at the 15 man game in difficult circumstances, and I thought it was a good omen for the City game - but alas, this was not to be.
Missed the 1.00 start (who in Sky decides on these KO times? If its bad enough for me making it down the road to the pub, what's it like for those loyal Blues who actually went to the game?). I watched the game at my regular, the Merlin Hotel in Pwllgwaun, Pontypridd (no comments please on the Welsh names!) with a couple of local Blues (good to know there are people in South Wales who have some taste in football teams) and many neutrals (none of the regular Rags had made it out of bed yet!)
After starting brightly, the Blues (or Dibble to be more precise) shot themselves in the foot and gave Newcastle the first goal. City were pushing out when Newcastle floated the ball over the City defence to their right wing, for their ex-Rag winger Gillespie to chase. Kitson was caught about 3 yards offside in the centre of the pitch, and the linesman rightly flagged. Meanwhile, Curle chased back and comfortably got himself between Gillespie and the ball, just inside the corner of the City box. Gillespie then proceeded to slide into the back of Curle with both feet (he may have touched the ball but only after scything through Curle), the ball then went loose to Dibble on his 6 yard line, as Gillespie got up and ran at Dibble from the corner of the 6 yard box. Dibble must have thought that Curle had passed it back because he then tried to put the ball past Gillespie with his left foot (I still dont know if he was trying to take it round Gillespie or if he was attempting a pass to Curle). Anyway, all he succeeded in doing was giving the ball to Gillespie who ran past Dibbs and put the ball into an empty net. As the Newcastle players and fans celebrated, most of the City players, particularly Curle, remonstrated with the ref and linesman, as did Brian Horton, who ran along the touchline to the linesman and the ref. However, it was all to no avail - the goal stood. Gillespie's tackle on Curle was definitely a foul (if it had been the other way around the ref would have given a penalty) but unbelievably the ref ignored the linesmans flag - Kitson was definitely offside, and City were 1-0 down. What Dibbs was doing I dont know, but he is fast becoming a liability, fluctuating between sheer brilliance and sheer incompetence (there's no way hes going to get back into the Welsh squad with moments of madness like this).
Anyway, all credit to City who took the game to Newcastle. The equaliser came on the half hour, and was again the result of a goalkeeping error. City had a corner which went straight to their keeper, who dropped it under pressure into a crowded pack, straight to the feet of Uwe. He seemed to have his back to the goal, so he instinctively turned and hammered the ball first time with his left foot through the melee of players in the box into the top of the Newcastle goal. He then ran to the City fans, ripped off his shirt and twirled it around his head (I think some Wrexham player also did this when he scored against Ipswich in the 3rd round of the cup). The other 2 blues and myself were bouncing around the pub, so I'm not sure if Uwe got booked for his over- zealousness or not.
However, our celebrations were to be later proved premature as Newcastle came back at city to take a 2-1 half time lead. They were by now playing some neat passing football, and they took the lead again thanks to another Dibble lapse of concentration. After a period of Newcastle pressure, City cleared the ball straight back to the toons, and it was floated over the city defence again as they pushed out, this time to the left hand side of the box. Beresford (ain't it amazing how ex-players come back to haunt us) ran onto the ball and appeared to cross it from just outside the 18 yard box. I say appeared to cross because the ball flew over the stranded Dibble, who was outside the 6 yard box, and into the far top corner, just beyond the reach of a retreating Curle. In my opinion, another defensive/goalkeeping error and another gift to the Toons.
The second half started as the first had ended, with Newcastle pressure, and Dibbs made a good save to tip an angled drive from Kitson against the inside of the post, the ball ricocheting along the City line and out for a corner. City now started to come into the game a bit more, they played some neat football in midfield without really threatening the Newcastle goal, and the 2nd half was probably even in terms of possession. However, it was Newcastle who were to score the final and 4th goal of the game. Beardsley was put away on the left and given far too much room. he got to the byeline and put in a cross which went right across the box, the City defence and Dibble. David Brightwell was at the far post and he had acres of time to clear, but amazingly he hesitated and Gillespie ran in behind him to knock the ball from a tight angle just inside the near post despite the attention of Curle and Dibble, who both could have stopped it but who both got in each other's way.
After this, City never really looked like scoring, they played some reasonable football and looked comfortable on the ball, but never really got the ball into dangerous positions. In the 2nd half, the only chances that come to mind were a speculative overhead scissors kick cross-cum-shot (from Ian Brightwell?) from the edge of the box (it sailed just wide and would have beaten their stranded keeper had it been on target), and a chance late on when Flitcroft was put clean through with a one on one with their keeper but shot tamely at him.
Overall, it was always going to be a difficult game, and although City didn't play badly, a Newcastle win was a fair result. The first goal should never have stood, but it didn't matter in the final outcome. Rösler was probably our best player, he looked hungry, took his goal well but didn't see much of the ball. Gaudino showed flashes of skill, but seemed to drift in and out of the game without stamping any authority on the match. Flitcroft beavered away tirelessly, and Beagrie and Summerbee managed to get to the bye-line and put in some useful crosses (Beagrie does have this annoying tendency of wanting to beat his man several times before crossing though). The main City culprits I thought were Dibble, who I thought was at fault in the 2nd and 3rd goals besides giving them the 1st; David Brightwell who looked out of his depth; and Quinn who never seemed to be in the game at all - on performances like this, City will not miss him even though he was our main man a couple of seasons ago. City certainly missed Walsh, whose running and skill on the ball would have unsettled the Toons defence.
After the game finished, I saw the first 5 minutes of the United-Leeds game on BBC1, and this was enough as the men in white gave the Rags 2 goals in the first 5 minutes. The fact that City were playing before Utd seemed set up and tailor made for us to loose and them to win, and I heard (although couldnt quite make out) various derogatory chants from the Rags about us.
So, the only thing left to play for now is our premiership place, and this looks very precarious now. The free flowing, free scoring attacking play of the early season (and the 6th spot) seems a very long way away now, and I think relegation is a serious threat to us now. I'm not making a knee-jerk, pessimistic reaction to the defeat - the points difference between the relegation zone and a respectable mid-table place is very narrow, but we must NOW win some league games - if we lose against ipswich on Wednesday then I think city will really struggle to stay up, if you bear in mind 4 of our final 5 games are against Liverpool, Blackburn, Newcastle (again) and Forest. I think Brian should stay, even if we go down, who else can we get or will want to come to Maine Road?
A dissapointed South Wales blue,
Goals: MC: Quinn (69), Rösler (71)
Line up: Coton, I.Brightwell, Phelan, Kernaghan, Curle, Summerbee, Gaudino, Flitcroft (Quinn), Rösler, Walsh (Simpson), Beagrie
Report by: Gary Wood
Basically this is the match that City couldn't lose for fear of relegation and for Brian Horton's job. City started brightly with some neat passing but didn't look dangerous in front of goal. However, an interchange between Summmerbee and Gaudino created an opportunity for Flitcroft, who blasted the ball into the net. What looked a legitimate goal was then ruled offside much to the anger of the Umbro Stand crowd who had a good view of the situation.
This was a foretaste of the City performance in tonight's game as they continued to pressure the Ipswich defence with Beagrie spearheading the attacking play, getting plenty of crosses in for Rösler who tested Wark and co with some darting runs and headers. Beagrie came even closer to getting the first goal when a quick one-two with the rejuvenated Phelan enabled him to fire in a tricky shot which bounced in front of goalkeeper Forrest who could only scramble it away for a corner.
City's next attacking move came via the Summerbee/Gaudino partnership, where a short Gaudino cross was met by Summerbee who looked on for a shot but instead passed to Walsh who in turn lost possession. Summerbee again looked like scoring but the wet surface took the ball away from him and it went out of play. City fans at the front of the Umbro Stand who thought that he could have done more made their feelings known, which drew an angry but muted response from Summerbee.
Then a challenge on Flitcroft put the City midfielder out for the rest of the game, and it was thought that a straight swap with Simpson would be the plan but instead Niall Quinn was brought on and he was straight into action for a free kick which broke down. Ipswich attacks in the first half were few and were only the result of City errors which the elegant Curle and the much improved Kernaghan mopped up.
The second half started like the first with more City attacks at the Ipswich goal with Summerbee playing in his more usual right wing role. His full back position was filled by Ian Brightwell who looked totally out of place and tended to drift into the central positions when Ipswich infrequently attacked, leaving the wide player Gavin Johnsen totally unmarked. Johnson took full advantage of this and crossed a series of dangerous balls into the box. One cross found the head of Adrian Paz who hit the bottom of the left hand post and the ball scurried wide. This brought on a massive City onslaught when a Brightwell cross met the head of the flying Summerbee who forced Forrest into an excellent save. City then had another three near misses as they turned up the heat on Ipswich. The breakthrough finally came in the 68th minute when a through ball from Rösler set Quinn on his way who then scored a fine angled goal which sent the crowd wild and released the frustration of the players, who then played with more confidence and style and a second goal looked on the cards and sure enough a cross field pass from Summerbee to Beagrie gave the winger the chance to shoot. Beagries powerful shot was only parried by Forrest and Rösler obliged by poking the ball into the net. That ended the game and after that City sat back a little and allowed Ipswich to pass around but failed to penetrate the City defence.
City really need to sort out the right full back position and soon as better teams will capitalise on the fact that Brightwell and Summerbee are both poor in that position. I believe that City's season went downhill from the moment they lost both Edgehill and Hill and the sooner they return the tighter City's defence will become. Phelan, Curle, and Kernaghan looked very comfortable in defence it just needs a proper full back to help them out (especially Kernaghan).
Man of the match: Phelan!
Line up: Coton, Hill, Phelan, Kernaghan, Curle, Vonk Summerbee, Gaudino, I.Brightwell, Simpson, Quinn
Report by: Martin Ford
This must rank along side one of City's best performance's of the season. The patched up team (consisting of no less than 6 outfield defenders), took the game to Leeds and could so easily have won, if they had taken a fraction of the chances created. My initial reaction to seeing the line-up was one of disappointment, it looked like City were going to try and defend and settle for the point in a home game. It looked like Quinn was going to be a lone striker and he'd have to do all the work. City started with three centre-halfs, which allowed the full-backs (Phelan and Ian B) to push up more and support the midfield. The midfield had Buzzer on the right, Dino and Simpson in the middle and Andy Hill seemed to have a floating role.
From the start City took the game to Leeds and created the better chances. Unfortunately for City they fell to the wrong players. The Leeds goals seemed to be under a constant bombardment, but City just couldn't get an opening goal. Phelan had a hat-trick of chances to prize open the scoring. His first chance a header from no-more than 6 yards out went straight at Lukic. His second chance a shot was blocked by Lukic (again). The third was the best worked chance, he played a one-two with Quinn (?) on the edge of the box, took the return ball and somehow managed to put his shot over the bar, when it looked like he'd easily score.
During the onslaught, Gaudino showed just how good a player he was. City had a corner headed out, as all the players ran out, Dino controlled the ball and flicked it over the advancing defence, ran onto the flick and pushed his volley just wide. (It reminded me of the classic Frank Worthington goal for Bolton versus Ipswich, the only difference was that Dino missed :-( ) Leeds just didn't seem able to get to grips with the game and even when they broke out City snuffed out the threat with ease. So the teams went in all square. The first half performance was just the tonic that City needed, they had played well and managed to keep Leeds quiet.
The second half was much the same as the first with City controlling the game and keeping Leeds quiet. In fact if anything Leeds were even less of a threat in the second half then they had been in the first. Once again City created chances that were missed. This time Quinn seemed to be the main culprit. He headed a chance over the bar, one of the first time's he'd managed to get free in the box. He also had a volley blocked.
City's best chance of the game came when Curle went on a run. He ran through on goal and as Lukic came out, he shot. Lukic got a touch but it still looked like the ball was going in, just as we prepared to celebrate the ball hit the inside of the post and rebounded straight into Lukic's hands. With that miss it pointed to being one of those days were City just wouldn't score. Fortunately Leeds were ineffective upfront, so much so that Yeboah was replaced by Deane to try and put some life into the Leeds attack. This still had no effect on City. The final chance of the game fell to Quinn, but once again the ball ended up in the crowd behind the goals, as Quinn lifted the ball over the bar.
So City have to look back on this match as 2 points lost, rather than one point gained. City played really well, even with what I regarded as defensive line-up. It was just unlucky that all the best chances fell to our defenders, I'm sure if Rösler or Walsh had been playing City would have easily won. I just hope that the team can continue the good work laid down in this match and carry it forward into the difficult games ahead. (but knowing how predictably unpredictable City are, I'm sure they'll make hard work of the games)