MATCH REPORTS 1999/2000
Goals: MC Crooks (6). CA: Jack (73)
Line up: Weaver, Crooks, Wiekens, Jobson, Granville (Tiatto ), Grant (Jeff Whitley), Pollock, Bishop, Horlock, Goater, R.Taylor (Dickov)
Report by: Phil Hartley
City started with the following line-up: Weaver, Crooks, Wiekens, Jobson, Granville, Pollock, Bishop, Grant, Horlock, Goater and R Taylor. So a slightly unfamiliar line-up for the first game of 2000.
Crewe started as if the game was their cup final and immediately had us on the back foot. However it was City who struck first, with a sweet move involving Bishop, Pollock and Taylor who slotted through a ball for Crooks to race onto and score from an angle - a similar goal to Granville's against WBA. Soon after Goater was put through and brought out a good save from Jason Kearton. Our midfield looked mobile and fluid, with Grant in particular catching the eye. He broke up play, passed well, ran with the ball and (in the first half) put in a 'complete' midfield performance. Horlock too, playing wider on the left looked good and hit a screaming 25-yard first timer, which was just too high. Bob Taylor was clearly not fully fit, but I was amazed at the stick he was taking from several blues around me. They'll be singing his name come May, I'm sure of that. Dickov replaced Bob at half time.
Rodney Jack was Crewe's danger man, playing on the shoulder's of Wiekens and Jobson, but was well marshalled by our two centre backs. You always felt that we needed a second goal though, as Crewe played some great stuff at times, although they overplayed on occasion. The second half kicked off with Crewe looking more determined and they threatened to break through on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, we defended solidly and threatened to hit them on the break, although it was clear that we sat back too deeply at times. A long ball was headed by Wiekens in an attempt to control the ball before presumably clearing it. However, unfortunately for Gerard and for us, he miscontrolled his header, Jack rounded him and was left with a one on one with Weaver. Jack drew Weaver out and calmly slotted the ball past him. Immediately Grant was suprisingly replaced by Whitley (Tiatto had already replaced a presumably injured Granville). City pressed and probably created our best chances of the half when Goater volleyed wide from a great but difficult ball from Tiatto, and when Whitley appeared to be bundled over in the box for what seemed to be a clear cut penalty. But 1-1 it stayed. A disappointing result given the start we had, but probably a fair result. however but for Wiekens' slip, we would surely have added another '1-0' to our collection. That's two defensive errors in two games now. Something we must eliminate!
Goals: MC Goater (2), Bishop (12). LU: Bakke (8), Smith (21), Kewell (42, 89), Bowyer (65)
Line up: Weaver, Edghill, Jobson, Granville (Peacock), Grant (Jeff Whitley), Bishop, Horlock , Wiekens, Kennedy, Goater, Dickov
TV-Report by: Svenn A. Hanssen
Top of the Premiership against top of Division One. City was clearly the underdogs before the match at Maine Road, but one could hope that the recent uninspired performances shown by Leeds and City having the advantage of home ground, could turn the tables in this 4th round FA Cup tie.
Joe Royle could add Mark Kennedy to the midfield force and Tony Grant was preferred in the starting line-up, in favour of Jeff Whitley and Jamie Pollock. City lined up as follows:
Weaver Edghill Wiekens Jobson Granville Grant Bishop Horlock Kennedy Dickov Goater
Leeds fielded a young and inspired squad including Norwegian Eirik Bakke and Aussie striker Harry Kewell. In defens Lucas Radebe returned from injury.
The games started out very lucky for City. After only 2 minutes a ball into the Leeds area was cleared only as far as to Kevin Horlock who aimed his lob against the head of Shaun Goater. Despite the Bermudian being offside he managed to nod the ball into the corner behind Martyn and get away with it. The referee should have had the best of views, he was the one closest to Goater at the time….
It took only 7 minutes for Leeds to get even. City gave away a free-kick on the right and McPhail found Harte with the cross. Now had the left-back scored it would have been a sour apple for Danny Granville to swallow. Not only was he supposed to man-mark Harte, but it was the same player that was keeping Granville out of the team before the former Leeds player joined City. The loose header from Harte looked to be saved easy by Weaver or the defender at the post, but out of the blue Bakke stretched out his foot/toe and out-manoeuvred the City defence for the equaliser.
Now if City's first goal was unjust the next thing that happened was a moment of magic. City pushed a high ball into the Leeds defence. Goater battled in the air and the ball fell to Ian Bishop. The midfielder managed to get past a Leeds defender and with the outside of his right foot he smashed the ball into the net via Martyns right post. City was up 2 to 1 and the clock showed 12 minutes gone….
Leeds immediately came back but Bowyers long range effort was cleared off the line, and they had to wait for another 8 minutes before their second goal was a fact (now that was a pretty long wait for us City fans): A free-kick, this time from the right, found Smith in front of goal. Bishop managed to block the header, but Smiths second attempt was beyond rescue, 2-2.
After the equaliser Leeds pulled some great combinations. Often the City defence was caught on their heels, and it was especially the right hand side of the defence with Edghill and Grant that suffered the most. Horlock made a terrible pass that fell to Smith. He raced clear with only Weaver to beat, but the young goalkeeper saved well with his left foot. The ball fell to Kewell who aimed at the top-corner, but just as the ball was about to hit the masks Weaver was back stretching and palmed the ball away for a corner - Tre-men-dous goalkeeping!
Citys best chances (remember we've scored two already and haven't had a chance yet ;-) came when Edghill was played free on the right 27 minutes into the half. He entered the box with acres to play on, but managed to put the ball directly into the hands of Martyn. 6 minutes from half-time Dickov went past Harte who rewarded the battling striker with a kick to the head. The referee pointed to the corner flag even though Dickov clearly headed the ball and Harte kicked the head. Since it was (almost?) inside the box one could wonder what would have happened if the referee had seen the incident.
Just before half-time the right-hand side of the defence decided to throw an open day at Maine Road. Edghill was nowhere to be found and McPhail raced clear. He found Kewell in front of goal with a neat pass that outplayed both Weaver and Jobson.
Half-time score: City 2, Leeds 3.
The first half had bin lively and entertaining. My hopes for the second was that the City-players would not get to tired, and that they managed to level the score, and be equal in class with the Premiership leaders. I proved to be wrong on all accounts.
Leeds came out looking relaxed and playing well. City struggled, and everybody at the stadium knew that City had to get forward and that Leeds only waited for the golden opportunity to kill the game off. Wilcox got the first real chance for Leeds after 55 minutes, but the powerful shot was well taken by Weaver.
Tony Grant had been anonymous for most of the game and was substituted with Jeff Whitley. 10 minutes later Wilcox broke loose on the left (now didn't we just strengthen that side?) and his cross was met by the lone ranger Bowyer inside the penalty area. He nonchalantly smashed the ball into the top-corner without blinking, and so the game was finished.
Royle answered immediately by bringing on Lee Peacock for Granville, but the difference was unnoticeable. Peacock didn't do much with his 25 minutes in the limelight, nor did the resto fthe team. Still the crowd was fantastic, singing Blue Moon like there was no tomorrow.
Towards the end of second half it was only a matter of which team would get the last goal. City pushed forward hoping for their third and a respectable result. This gave the visiting strikers enough space to explore the qualities of Weaver again and again. Bowyer went one-on-one with Weaver 10 minutes from time, but the goalie gave him no chance. But one minute before time he had to surrender when Huckerby came through on their left side (how many times did they do that anyway?) and his cross was met by Kewell for another easy goal from the aussie. Kewell made another nice effort to humiliate the home-team when he went past three defenders before putting the ball behind Weaver, only to be denied by the post
Full time: City 2, Leeds 5.
There was a difference in class today, and it was probably not a fair match to judge the City team by. A Leeds friend of mine was impressed by the attitude of the City players, and the neat passing they managed to put up against the top team of the Premiership. Also the games Fulham-Wimbledon and Arsenal-Leicester showed that City could play far better than any of those teams. My friend also had Weaver as man-of-the-match. I wonder how long we can hold on to him. Surely he will leave if we don't go up this year.
We still have the Premiership in sight and that is far more important than not going to Wembley this year.
Goals: MC: Goater (29, 77, 85), Horlock (87 pen)
Line up: Weaver, Edghill, Wiekens, Jobson, Granville, Grant, Bishop, Horlock, Kennedy , Goater, R.Taylor
Report by: Phil Hartley
The bl**dy seagull wasn't there again! I warned you didn't I? Yeah I know we won 4-0, but it would have been 10-0 if the seagull had have been in place. I'll get my coat.... Seagull or no seagull, the previous day's results, dropping us out of the top 2 for the first time in ages, meant that this was a 'must win' game. City made one change from the team who played Leeds, with Bob Taylor replacing Dickov. On the bench were Crooks, Tiatto, Wright, Dickov and Pollock.
There has been some debate about our formation, the 'official' line seems to be that we played 3-5-2, with Edghill and Kennedy as wing-backs. However, although Edghill clearly got forward more, I can't say that Kennedy did much 'backing'! Fulham of course had Kit Symons as one of 3 centre backs, who drew the now customary jeers from the MR crowd. Kit does seem a sensitive boy. In one of the Sunday papers he admitted that the boo boys did unsettle him during his latter days with City and it seemed that today, he allowed the crowd to get to him. Whether this contributed to Paul Bracewell's crucial decision to sub him in the second half, I don't know, but I do feel a bit sorry for Kit.
Anyway, the opening exchanges were fairly even. Kennedy got 3 or 4 crosses in, all picked out of the air by Maik Taylor. At the other end Peschisolidido (Pesky will do from now on) did a fair impersonation of Paul Dickov, buzzing around making a nuisance of himself. He also, persistently handballed and threw himself to the ground without any intervention from ex-Prem referee Paul Danson. Dangerman Geoff Horsfield was superbly controlled by Wiekens and I think it is fair to say that he didn't get a meaningful kick all game. The first goal, when it came was beautiful. Following a Fulham attack, the ball was played to Taylor on the left. He floated a superb 50-yard crossfield ball into the path of Edghill who fired a low cross into the box for Goater to steer the ball in with a first time left foot shot. There has been some debate as to whether Goater was off side when Taylor passed to Edghill. It was close, but such a sweeping move deserved a goal! The other main talking point of the first half was when a long Fulham ball sailed over Pesky's head, but was he brought down by Edghill? Probably he was! Although there was no way that a goal scoring opportunity was denied, Edgy's leap for the ball, clattering into Pesky, was certainly clumsy and could easily have been punished with a spot kick.
The start of the second half was scrappy, and although Fulham had better possession than in the first half, still they couldn't force a save out of Weaver. Until that is, Mark Kennedy decided that he was indeed playing as a wing back and promptly dribbled the ball around our penalty area before sliding a ball through to Weaver to clear. Weaver's left foot clearance hit Pesky, who controlled and tried to dribble around Nick, who thankfully put in a good tackle to deny an opportunity [was actually the first half - Ed]. Weaver's kicking is usually so good, probably the outfield players take it for granted that he'll clear anything with either foot. Today Nick's kicking throughout the game was poor (not quite down to Tommy Wright's level, but certainly Immel-esque at times!). Although Kennedy's backpass was not especially difficult, it was unnecessary. It was noticeable that later on, when in a similar defensive position, his chosen target was 'Row X' in time honoured fashion!
As mentioned above, Symons was replaced by Riedle, as Fulham changed to a 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to force an equaliser. Minutes later, Goater chased a long ball, pursued by Chris Coleman. Goater tried to play the ball through Coleman who fell to the ground and handled the ball, stopping Shaun from continuing into the penalty area. For me at the time, and backed up by seeing the incident on TV, this was one of Mr Danson's better decisions. Coleman handled the ball for so long, he could have been autographing it! Although there was a defender in the vicinity, I believe that a deliberate handball to deny a goalscoring opportunity (which it certainly was) is a red card offence. With Symons already leaving the field of play, Fulham only had one centre back left. Kevin Ball dropped into defence and Fulham kept the three upfront.
It was surely a matter of time before we added to our tally and indeed it was. Robert Taylor 'won' a free kick wide on the right (he wasn't looking for it, neither was the crowd, but the ref saw a tug on the shirt). From Horlock's cross, the Goatman hooked a right foot shot over his shoulder for number 2. Not quite as spectacular as Tueart's overhead in '76, but good nonetheless. Minutes later, from a Grant shot, Maik Taylor parried the ball upwards for Shaun to notch a simple header for his hat trick [ it was actually from Jobson header, not a Grant shot - pedantic Ed]. Tiatto who had replaced the fading Kennedy, was upended in the box for a cast iron penalty claim and super Kev made it 4!
All in all, although 4 was a bit harsh on Fulham, a thoroughly deserved win put us back into 2nd with the best defensive record and best goal difference in the division. The midfield trio of Horlock, Bishop and Grant worked together very impressively. Edghill typically, following criticism from many, including me, put in a solid performance, capped by the run and cross for our first goal. Wiekens, although not looking as elegant as he does with Morrison next to him, put in a very effective performance to snuff out any threat from Horsfield. As previously mentioned Kennedy faded badly and is a shadow of the player for earlier in the season. He's had some misfortune with injuries and the flu, so hopefully it won't be long before he's firing on all cylinders. Bob Taylor had only one shot which went woefully wide, but he set up the first goal and won the freekick for the second. He's clearly not yet fully fit, but it must be said that his presence did seem to create more space and opportunities for Goater. I've heard Gillingham and Brentford fans say he brought the best out of his strike partner, Asaba, so perhaps he can do the same for Shaun. And of course, 'our Shaun', scored the classic hat trick (left foot, right foot, head) and today looked a very dangerous striker. His improvement in every area of his game has been phenomenal, and with the vocal backing of the fans, his confidence can only get higher, his play even better. A strange game; we played 'OK', great in small spells, but until the second goal went in, we still didn't hit the heights. It was good to see us continuing to press for more goals, rather than sitting back, as goal difference could still be very important to us come May! Not sure what we should do about the seagull now, any suggestions?
Goals: SU: Brown (40)
Line up: Weaver, Crooks, Edghill, Jobson, Tiatto ), Grant, Bishop, Horlock, Kennedy, Goater, R.Taylor (Dickov)
Report by: Phil Hartley
A pretty cr*p day all round really. Left for the match later than I intended. Despite having been to Bramall Lane more times than I can remember, got lost, eventually parking around 2.40 pm. Too late for a pint or anything 'decent' to eat. Horrible queues inside the ground for the woefully undermanned food bar. As I rate queuing for ANYTHING slightly more irritating than going shopping for clothes with the Mrs, I decided my not insubstantial stomach was on a crash diet!
And then the game started. As predicted, Edghill moved inside to cover for the suspended Wiekens, with Crooks drafted in at right back. Suprisingly at the time, Tiatto was in Granville's place, whom I later found out had pulled up in the warm-up with a recurrence of a calf strain. The Blades of course had one player of note in their line-up, Michael Brown. Sheffield had us on the back foot from the kick-off with Marcus Bent and on-loan-from-the-Rags, Alex Noteman, both being particularly awkward. It wasn't a great game, but what football there was, was played by City. Infact throughout the game there were patches of quite sweet passing movements which deserved more reward. However, it must also be said that there were many more patches of misplaced passes, thoughtless play and ineffectiveness upfront. Horlock had a freekick tipped over the bar by Tracey for our only real chance in the first half. On 40 minutes, the (almost) inevitable happened. Tiatto lost the ball on the touch line, a cross was met by Bent and headed back into play. Brown controlled the ball, swivelled and drilled a low shot past Weaver from 10 yards. Yet another 'ex-City player who scores against us' to add to our collection of Bradbury and Bailey this season. It was well taken, but frankly a soft goal to concede from our point of view.
Still too many queues at half time, so already a stone lighter, I took my seat for the second half. Play went from end-to-end, but don't think that there were many chances; there were not! We probably had better possession, but still failed to dominate and lacked a cutting edge. Our best 'chance' came when a Blades defender deliberately handballed on the edge of the box, cutting out a great pass from Goater (I think), which would have landed at Taylor's feet with a clear run on goal. Surely a red card? Nope, yellow only. Although the handball was not as 'spectacular' as Chris Coleman's the week before, the end result was surely the same? Shortly thereafter, Taylor handled the ball in the centre circle and was also booked. The ref probably thought he was being consistent, but for me, an innocuous handball in the centre circle deserves a different fate than for a wilful attempt to deny a goal scoring opportunity .
A little later, it seemed that there was another handball, this time in the box, which the ref again ignored. This game was probably Taylor's least effective and it was the right decision to replace him with Dickov on the hour mark. Dickov did his usual hustling and created a few openings, but nothing special. He was lucky not to be booked for an absolute blatant dive, when challenging for a ball with Brown, just outside the box. Brown just laughed, he'd obviously seen it all before. Dickov wasted a decent opportunity to run at goal trying to win a free kick. Not good enough, Paul. So a pretty lacklustre performance. I don't agree with JR that it was the worst performance of the season, (Wolves, first half away at Port Vale were much worse), but we certainly didn't deserve to win. A draw may well have reflected the balance of play better. Upfront we were toothless. Goater was probably our best defender at times, clearing several crosses, particularly in the first half, but upfront he wasn't given any service. Kennedy was in and out of the game and the midfield trio of Grant, Bishop and Horlock although as mentioned played some nice stuff at times, didn't have the variety or drive that we needed. Indeed, at times Grant and Bishop seemed to be jostling for 'the deep lying playmaker' role and certainly no-one patrolled the right side. I think JR is correct, the break has come at the right time. He needs to reassess the squad, his 'best' team and the right tactics to play. Hopefully Morrison and Granville will be fit, Taylor will be fitter and Kennedy will have rediscovered his form by the time we play Forest. Maybe even Terry Cooke will have served his pennance. I think mid-field needs to be looked at very closely and a more 'back to basics' approach adopted for the next tranche of games. It took me 2 1/2 hours to get back home (used to do it in 45 minutes), so a cr*p end to a cr*p day!
by Svenn A. Hanssen, firstname.lastname@example.org