Line up: Dibble, Foster, Phelan, Kernaghan, Vonk (Simpson), Lomas, Flitcroft, Summerbee, Walsh, Rösler, Beagrie
Report by: Paul Howarth
Twelve days after our memorable Coca-Cola Cup victory at St. James' Park, we headed north with an even weaker team to try to repeat the feat. We were without Ian Brightwell, star man in the Cup match and IMHO City's best player in the last couple of months who was suffering from a calf injury. City lined up with Dibble in goal, Summerbee at right back, Phelan at left back, Vonk, Kernaghan and Foster as three central defenders, Lomas and Flitcroft in the centre of midfield, Beagrie and Rösler in front of them but free to move just about anywhere and Walsh as a lone striker. Beardsley and Lee were back for Newcastle which was worrying given the effect Beardsley in particular had had in the first Coca-Cola Cup game at Maine Road. As he was making an earlier than expected return from injury, there was always the possibility that he would be unfit though.
As it happened, he looked fit enough but wasn't given the space he had at Maine Road and was therefore unable to make the same impact. The match seemed to follow a very similar pattern to the Cup replay, the first ten minutes being quite even but with City having a slight edge. After that the home side started to dominate and carved out a few chances. Dibble saved very well from a Beresford header, reaching back to tip it over the bar. Other shots were held well, which was a good job because the Newcastle forwards always followed up to latch onto rebounds. City were clearly happy with a 0-0 draw, with nobody in a hurry to do anything and Dibble doing some quite blatant time wasting. Phelan took so long over a throw that it was given to Newcastle.
After half an hour there were two contentious incidents within the space of a few minutes. Firstly, Kernaghan was adjudged to have brought down Kitson (or was it Beardsley?) when clear on goal. The referee consulted the linesman, gave a free kick to Newcastle just outside the box and booked Kernaghan. I thought it looked like a decent tackle and in any case the Newcastle player didn't go down until several strides after the challenge. What I can't understand is why Kernaghan wasn't sent off. If it was a foul, which the referee clearly thought it was, surely the offender had to go? It was definitely a clear chance on goal. Anyway, the free kick came to nothing but a few minutes later Newcastle had a penalty after Vonk was adjudged to have pushed Peacock out of the way to clear a cross following a corner. There was definitely shoving by both players, nothing compared to some other challenges by both sides which had gone unpunished earlier. I felt it was a sympathy decision by referee Alan Wilkie (Co. Durham) in view of his not sending off Kernaghan. Ruel Fox stepped up to take the penalty having scored from one on New Year's Eve at Norwich. Dibble had obviously done his homework as an identical effort from Fox was parried and then cleared by Vonk. City didn't create any worthwhile chances in the first half, though they had also looked less like conceding a goal (other than the penalty) than they did in the Cup replay, so the 0-0 draw that City seemed to desire still looked a likely outcome.
In the second half Rösler swapped places with Walsh to become the lone striker and Newcastle continued where they had left off in the first half, totally dominating the play. The chances continued to appear; Kitson had a close-range shot well saved, Lee had a couple of twenty-yard efforts which went narrowly wide and there was an amazing escape when Bracewell's shot was deflected by Hottiger onto the post and across the 6-yard box where Foster managed to clear the ball just before Cole or Kitson could prod it home. City created some chances themselves in the second half; Vonk had a powerful header from a corner blocked well by Srnicek and Walsh's delicate lob went just over the bar, though Srnicek looked to have it covered. Vonk hobbled off with 15 minutes to go after injuring himself making a clearance. Simpson came on into a midfield position, Flitcroft taking Vonk's place at the back.
As with the Cup replay, the last ten minutes saw Newcastle push forward more and City started to look dangerous on the break. Beagrie was too tired to come back and defend and Walsh stayed forward more to help out Rösler. City nearly stole the points near the end with the best move of the game. Summerbee, having a fine game as an attacking right back, broke down the wing whilst Walsh charged down the middle, taking the only defender with him. Beagrie was in acres of space on the left and was screaming for the ball; Buzzer's cross was perfect but Beagrie's first-time left foot volley flashed just wide when it looked like he had the time and space to control the ball first. In the end, another fine defensive display from City saw us take home a deserved point. Not many teams will come to St. James' Park twice without conceding a goal, even if they do have lady luck on their side.
Man of the Match: Dibble - will keep TC out on this form.
Final Score: Newcastle 0 City 0
By the way, it took us until 5th March (31 games) at QPR to reach 30 points last season.
Goals: MC: Beagrie (27), D.Brightwell (68). NC: Matthews (25), White (29)
Line up: Dibble, Foster (Quinn), Phelan, I.Brightwell (D.Brightwell), Kernaghan, Lomas, Flitcroft, Summerbee, Walsh, Rösler, Beagrie
Report by: Russell Jenkins
Well today had everything from tragedy to joy, anguish to relief. I suppose you could say it was a typical day for a 'Blues' supporter. To start with I thought the omens were not looking good when my car failed to start leaving me and my fellow city supporting mate believing that it might just not be our day, but having successfully getting my flatmate out of bed to give us a jump start we were off to Nottingham. All therefore going well, no problem about the time as an ETA was around about 1.45pm, enough time for a couple of pints and a quick skim of the programme before K.O. However tragedy struck 15 miles outside Nottingham when the scarf which I bought when I first started supporting City many years ago went flying off behind my car when my mate wound down the wind on instructions from me to put the aerial up so that we may catch the latest 'footy' news - again we thought it might just not our day.
Eventually though we reached Nottingham with no more mishaps except for a few wrong turns and made our way to Meadow Lane which in comparison to the City ground next door is tiny, but once inside the new stadium had the cup atmosphere created by mainly 'Blues' supporters who made up a large percentage of the 13,000 crowd.
The opening 10 mins was pretty much an even affair with City maybe having slightly more possession and movement but County having the first goal scoring opportunity from a free kick when they hit the bar. However it then started to swing County's way with some neat passing football being played by the 'pies' using both flanks to good effect especially the right, City's left where Terry 'Pitbull' Phelan was not having one of his best games. With County finding and then exploiting the space being offered on this left side their winger also had confidence to take Terry on, running at him and on occasions getting past him or getting in good crosses into the danger area. So with this County pressure, worried expressions and concerns could be felt on the 'Kop' and in the 24th minute these were confirmed when a low hard cross came in from Andy Legg on the County left and was volleyed into Dibb's right hand corner by Rob Matthews. No blame can be laid at Dibb's feet for this goal, but the defence and it's marking strategy is another story. Well one down, to the club at the foot of the 1st division, no surprise to City fans, but what followed the restart may have been, for within 3 minutes it was all square thanks to 'Peter Peter Peter Peter Beagrie on the wing on the wing' He picked the ball down City's left just outside the County box, skipped past one defender and into the box, then all but one man was expecting an incurling cross from the wing wizard the only man who wasn't was Beagle himself who unleashed a drive into the left of the goal leaving Steve Cherry rooted. The cartwheels and somersaults followed and it wasn't just Beagrie but the whole City support who were in a 'Beagrie Wonderland'. However the Joy of the equaliser didn't last long only 2 minutes in fact before County again took the lead. The goal came from a shot taken outside the City box on the County left, it didn't seem to contain that much pace although I think it did bounce once on its way to Dibbs but it shouldn't bother officer Dibble' I thought, how wrong I was, Dibbs himself can only explain what happened but he didn't make the easy' save, instead it seemed as if he took his eye off the ball and misread its line, this caused him to fumble the save, the ball spilled free and Devon White the County striker knocked the loose ball into the back of the net, less than 30 minutes gone and already 2-1 down. The rest of the first half was then filled with City pushing forward but never really making anything and County looking dangerous on the break especially down the left flank. So when the whistle blew for half time, it was felt as more of a relief by the City fans than those supporting County, in that at least BH could give them a talking to and try and raise Blues' game.
So the second half, and the way in which City started it seemed as if Horton had said something. He made one substitution at half-time, David Brightwell fo rbrother Ian due to an injury sustained in the first half. Well, City came out fighting and actually took the game to County for the first time in the match with real determination. The midfield actually seemed to be working for a change with Flipper coming more into the game and Lomas/Summerbee linking up on the right flank. The defence too looked a bit more solid with Kernaghan organising at the back well.. So City pushed forward, making good passing moves through the centre and then out to the flanks. Beagrie especially seemed to be getting the better of the County defence on the left but no goal materialised. Then 65 minutes into the game BH made his second substitution bringing Quinn on for Foster, who got good applause for his performance. Again City pushed and pressured but no clear goal scoring opportunities seemed to be coming our way except for a Lomas shot turned away by Cherry. However it all changed in the 69th minute when a Beagrie freekick on the City left was superbly flicked on by the mighty Quinn to the back post and there waiting in what seemed like slow motion was David Brightwell who nodded the ball into the waiting net with what seemed at the time the greatest goal ever. Brightwell then rushed behind the goal to the City support and was subsequently booked by the referee for doing so. 2-2 and City looked good for a third, they moved forward and kept the pressure on County which could have come from a number of chances which fell to Walsh, then to Rösler who had a free header on goal but only managed to head it straight at Cherry and then Quinn who picked up the ball centre right just outside the box running onto goal with the keeper to beat, however the shot went over the bar and Quinn knew he should have done better. There was only one problem with this City pressure and drive, County were allowed opportunities to catch us on the break and could well have done so on a couple of occasions, once through David Brightwell, the hero himself, who headed the ball against the top of the City bar. However in the end the whistle went and a draw was fair result looking at both halves. City fans can find confidence in the second half fight back and if the back can get tightened up for the replay then I feel we can look forward to Villa in the next round, let's just hope we don't play like we did in the first half.
Man of the match : Peter Beagrie
Goals: CP: Pitcher (60), Salako (80), Armstrong (84), Preece (87)
Line up: Dibble, Summerbee, Phelan, Curle, Kernaghan, Lomas (D.Brightwell), Flitcroft, Quinn (Gaudino), Walsh, Rösler, Beagrie
Report by: Paul Howarth
On arriving at the ground a little over an hour before kick-off, we headed off towards the pub mentioned by Neil Foskett in MCIVTA 37. Needless to say, it was already full of City fans singing 'Beagrie Wonderland'; so full in fact that we couldn't get in! Not knowing any other pubs in the area that would be open, we trudged back to the ground. I was hoping to find somebody selling 'Eagle Eye', one of my favourite fanzines, but none were to be found. Outside the ground, I was offered tickets in the City end by two different people. I don't know if they were touts or just people with spare tickets but I thought the much-reviled Criminal Justice Bill would have put paid to such activities. The City end was indeed sold out but tickets were still available from the ticket office in the Palace end, so those who travelled without tickets almost certainly got to see the game, for what it was worth.
Having nothing better to do, we entered the ground and shortly afterwards saw the team come out to warm up. We were relieved to see Dibble come out after the doubts about his fitness but surprisingly, John Burridge was the substitute goalkeeper. I was under the impression that Martyn Margetson would have been deputising if Dibble was unfit, so where was he? Also passed fit was Keith Curle, a welcome sight after our recent defensive troubles. The full starting line-up was Dibble in goal, Summerbee and Phelan as right and left backs respectively, Curle and Kernaghan in central defence, Flitcroft and Lomas in central midfield, Beagrie on the left, Walsh on the right and Quinn and Rösler up front. As the game progressed, it became clear the Walsh was free to roam wherever he pleased and the two full backs would get forward to support the midfield.
City kicked off, backed by a vociferous contingent of about 3,000 City fans. From our formation it was clear that we'd come to win the match but it was Palace who took the initiative. In the second minute a corner reached Armstrong whose header hit the bar, the rebound being cleared by Quinn for another corner. From that corner, the ball again reached Armstrong who controlled it and fired in a shot that was going wide until Salako deflected it goalwards. The ball flew past Dibble but was hacked off the line by Phelan. Desperate stuff indeed. As the game progressed, it became abundantly clear that Curle wasn't match fit. Since when has anybody been able to out-sprint him? Salako had no trouble and Palace looked the more likely to score throughout the first half.
City just couldn't get it together although they gradually came more into the game as the half wore on. Terry Phelan was having a nightmare, passes were going straight to Palace players, he seemed to have no understanding with Beagrie and was a downright liability at times. He was frequently caught out of position, cropping up on the right hand side of defence on a few occasions but nevertheless, his clearance off the line in the 2nd minute wasn't to be the only occasion he'd rescue us in this fashion. City seemed unable to create any decent openings against a resolute Palace defence who closed City down well in midfield and around their penalty box. Some poor decisions by the officials didn't help, Quinn and Rösler were manhandled virtually every time they got the ball, most of which went unpunished and there were some ludicrous offside decisions too, including one where Quinn was given offside despite clearly being in his own half when the ball was played!
I doubt that these decisions had any bearing on the result as City seemed unable to take advantage of any situation They were also playing a depressingly large number of long balls up to Quinn and Rösler, possibly a side effect of the return of Curle? Just before half-time, the referee played an excellent advantage which led to City's best move of the game. Quinn was fouled as he shielded a ball knocked forward. The referee waved play on and Walsh hit the loose ball first time to Rösler on the edge of the area, who flicked the ball sideways to Flitcroft, making an excellent run through the Palace lines. His first touch left him one on one with the 'keeper but his low shot was brilliantly blocked by Nigel Martyn in the Palace goal. Whilst we were all telling each other that he should have lifted the ball over the 'keeper and should definitely have scored, the ball was punted down to the other end and a deep cross found Chris Armstrong in yards of space in our penalty area. Fortunately, his header went straight to Dibble.
The second half began much like the first, with Palace coming very close to scoring. Dibble pushed a great header over the bar and another header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line by Phelan. City were still in the game though and a long range effort from Flitcroft went right through a packed penalty area but straight to Martyn. The turning point of the game came on the hour; Salako, marauding down the left where George Ndah had also been causing problems got in a good cross which Dibble came for but could only palm the ball to Southgate. He pulled the ball down and laid it back to Darren Pitcher who smacked the ball into the top right corner from 15 yards. It was a great finish but Dibble should have had the cross.
Shortly after the restart, Quinn picked up the ball after a poor clearance by Martyn and passed the ball forward to Lomas who was challenged (fairly) by Coleman as they both tried to get to the ball first. Both players fell over but Coleman appeared to prevent Lomas from getting up to challenge Martyn for the loose ball. Lomas had words with Coleman when they eventually got to their feet and it looked like a scuffle could break out but the referee and other players intervened and both players were booked, which was rather harsh on Lomas I thought. Quinn's pass was his last contribution to the game, being replaced by Maurizio Gaudino. Unlike the gamble on Sunday which paid off, this substitution smacked of desperation. Taking off a striker to be replaced by a virtually untried midfielder seemed a strange move when we were a goal down in a very important match, though it later transpired that Quinn had a thigh strain and was nearly taken off at half time anyway.
Shortly after the substitution, Beagrie whipped over a good inswinging cross which was met by a superb and extremely brave header by Lomas which was heading for the bottom right hand corner until another brilliant save by Martyn rescued Palace. Lomas clashed heads with Shaw whilst making the header and appeared to have been knocked unconscious. A crowd of players gathered around his prostrate body and signalled frantically to the dug-out. From where we were it looked like anything from concussion to a broken neck could have happened. When he was stretchered off straight out of the ground and not back to the dressing rooms we feared the worst. It later transpired that he'd swallowed his tongue and physio Eamonn Salmon had saved his life, though he recovered enough to travel back on the team coach after the game. This wasn't mentioned on the radio or over the public address system at the ground, so I didn't find out what had happened until I saw the video of the highlights when I got home. It was a traumatic experience for us and surely for the players too which may have had some bearing on the events that followed.
Lomas was replaced by David Brightwell and from the corner resulting from Lomas' header, a head back found the ball at Brightwell's feet five yards out, in a similar position from which he scored on Sunday. Unfortunately his shot was tame and went straight to Martyn. He hung his head in shame and rightly so, though he must have been surprised to receive the ball in that position with all the bodies in the penalty area. Another corner on City's right led to the killer second goal for Palace. City had pushed everybody but Curle and Phelan up for the corner but it was a terrible delivery from Summerbee which went straight to a defender near the edge of the box. He cleared the ball up to Armstrong on the halfway line, wide on Palace's left flank. He controlled the ball well and, despite the attentions of both Curle and Phelan, hit an excellent ball to Salako at the other side of the pitch. Salako couldn't believe the amount of space he had and ran into the space where Phelan should have been. By the time Phelan caught him Salako was just outside the City box; he jinked inside Phelan and before Curle could block him he unleashed a powerful shot into the far corner from the 20 yards. Dibble didn't stand a chance.
City now needed two goals to stay in the competition and had only had 10 minutes to get them so they pushed forward even more. Kernaghan was having to do the work of two men with Curle often nowhere to be seen in the second half; Palace were a constant threat on the break and from their trademark set pieces and it was largely down to 'Big Al' that the score wasn't even more humiliating. The third goal, like the second, came from a move down Palace's right flank. Southgate punted the ball forward for Armstrong to chase behind the City defence and he cut into the penalty area about 6 yards out from the goal line. With Palace's forwards massing in the middle, he hammered a shot into the roof of the net from his wide angle as Dibble spread himself in vain. Another tremendous finish from the side that can't score goals in the league!
City were looking shell shocked now; Gaudino wasn't making much headway and when he did manage to carve out an opening for himself, couldn't produce a decent shot. When he was signed, City were scoring goals from the flanks and were just missing a bit of variation in the centre. The situation now is that we can hardly threaten our opponents at all and a different type of player, somebody who can hold the ball up and make space for himself in the middle of the field before delivering a penetrating ball (to a City player!) is in order. Maybe he can do the job for us, but he needs to get accustomed to the English game quickly as we're in desperate need now.
The atmosphere in the stands was changing too. There was a tussle right in front of the City fans involving Summerbee and Ndah (I think) which led to at least two fans coming onto the pitch. One was arrested (proper thing too) and Kernaghan came over to signal to everybody to calm down. Many City fans had left already and there was an air of antagonism towards the Palace supporters, separated by only a gangway and a few policemen and stewards. A couple of lads clambered past me from the next block of seats towards the nearby home fans. I thought for a while that it was going to 'go off' but fortunately it didn't. What is it about these Cup games that attracts moronic scumbags to follow us? There was a similar situation at Cardiff last season where only the brute strength of a dozen or so policemen managed to keep a gate closed and prevent a sizeable group of lunatics from the City end attacking the Cardiff fans on the pitch after the game. Then there were the disgraceful events of the quarter-final against Spurs two years ago. I just wish these people would take up boxing or something similar so they could take out their aggression on some like-minded imbecile and leave us football fans to watch the beautiful (or not in City's case these days) game.
The final goal came from the former Stockport striker, Andy Preece who collected a flick on from Salako and hit another unstoppable shot in off the post from 20 yards. The Palace finishing was truly superb in the second half and they fully deserved their victory. City's performance was similar to that at Coventry last season, an appalling collapse in the last few minutes having played poorly but remaining on level terms in the first half.
What's wrong with City? Well, when things were going well earlier on in the season, City's main supply of goals was from the flanks. Neither Beagrie nor Summerbee are getting to the bye line and crossing the ball much these days; Beagrie's cutting inside virtually every time now and Summerbee is usually in a more withdrawn rtle. When he does get forward, he sometimes puts in a great cross but more often it's very disappointing. Beagrie and Walsh were linking very well earlier on (particularly the Spurs game) but this doesn't seem to be happening any more. We have to be able to cope with sides that close us down in midfield; otherwise we've got nothing but a long struggle against relegation to look forward to in the rest of the season. If you don't believe me, just look at the league table. While you're at it, look at who we have to play in the last 5 games. I'm already worried. The murmurs about Brian Horton's job security are getting louder and it's time the proverbial finger was pulled out.
Man of the Match: Alan Kernaghan (head and shoulders above the rest, becoming a bit of a cult hero these days!)
Final Score: Palace 4 City 0. Winners to play Liverpool in the semis.
Thought for the day: "Wembley, Wembley, It's a shitty ground in London That we're never going to see..."
Line up: Dibble, Summerbee, Phelan, Curle, Kernaghan, D.Brightwell (Simpson), Flitcroft, Gaudino, Walsh, Rösler, Beagrie
Report by: Martin Ford
For the first time this season City failed to score at home, which was an immense disappointment. This should have been the game to bounce back after the Palarse defeat and inject a bit of life into the season after City's recent run. Coventry should have been there for the taking, afterall they aren't exactly one of the teams to be frightened of. Alas it wasn't to be!
So onto the match, with the worries over the midfield somewhat eased with the inclusion of flipper, it looked almost like the team from earlier in the season, with the exception of Buzzer junior playing a more withdrawn role.
City appeared to start the game with a 5 man defence, obviously to try and stem the recent flow of goals. Which against Coventry seemed to hint at desperation. As it turned out it did work quite well at first with Coventry being somewhat inefective. City on the other hand were creating some chances, but unfortunately most were easily saved by Ogrizovic or just plain missed. Gaudino seemed to settle into this game much easier than his previous efforts and managed to spray a few good balls around (most seemed to go to Uwe, some sort of fellow countryman allegience?;-) Coventry did threaten on a few occasions, especially through Ndlovu, but their finishing was poor. So both teams went in all square, surely this would be the time for Horton to inject a bit of life into the team.
Both teams came out and created more chances. Rösler was having an off day and missed every single chance that fell his way. None of the other players could provide a breakthrough either. It was so frustratinf watching chance after chance go begging, I'mm sure any other day City would have easily won. At the other end Coventry were creating several chances and it was left to Dibble to keep City in the game, with several crucial saves.
Gaudino could have sealed a win for City after a Rösler effort had been blocked by Ogrizovic, with the goalie floored Gaudino could have shot first time but decided to control the ball and the chance was snuffed out.
Coventry had an appeal for a penalty late on in the second half turned down. Curle appeared to floor a Coventry player in the box, but play was waved on. To be honest from were I was sat it looked a blatant penalty, but I was relieved it wasn't given. Dibble still had time to make an outstanding double save to keep City undefeated. So the game finished 0-0.
It was just one of those days were nothing would go in, whether it's down to lack of confidence or just bad luck I don't know, but hopefully the strikers will get back into scoring ways pretty soon.
This was a game where enough City chances were created to have won at a canter, however Coventry created some chances to have won the games themselves, so I suppose we should be happy with the point.
Goals: MC: Rösler (7,37,57,81), Gaudino (44). NC: McSwegan (10), Matthews (61)
Line up: Dibble, Summerbee, D.Brightwell, Curle, Kernaghan, I.Brightwell, Flitcroft (Simpson), Gaudino, Walsh, Rösler (Quinn), Beagrie
Report by: Kevin Duckwort
After the poor performances in the last few games, I like many others had second thoughts on whether to go down to the game. However, my mind was made up when I received a telephone call from clients inviting me for a prematch meal in the Joe Mercer suite and free tickets to the game.
It cetainly beats standing in the Kippax on a freezing cold night. The suite holds around 100 guests. We went in at 1830 hrs to be greeted by a doorman who gave us all a program and took us to our seats. The meal was a superb carvery washed down with red wine.
As the place is called the Joe Mercer suite, you can imagine it is dedicated to the team of the 60s. It was rather embarassing though explaining to my host- a nouveau Irish blue that the photo above us was not Tony Book but Malcolm Allison.
After placing a bet on City to win at 3-1, Flitcroft scoring the first goal, we made our way into the mainstand. My immediate impression (after realising how cold it was) was the lack of atmosphere. In fact I believe there were only 15,000 there.
City set off as if they were going to tear County apart and after 7 mins a lovely chip from Walshie put Uwe through. From then on we knew it was going to be party night---- silly aren't I. A few minutes later Notts got the ball outside city's penalty area. Brightwell(playing midfield) sent Buzzy out to close them down. Fair enough, but surely Brightwell should have taken responsibility for the right back position. The ball was crossed, knocked back across goal, leaving their leftwinger totally by himself. 1-1.
From then on the crowd started getting on City's back.--This has never helped anyone. Fortunately Uwe scored again and Dino made it 3. He was having an outstanding game. He has an abundance of skill and is difficult to knock off the ball. What he needs to do is develop an understanding with the rest of the players, which will come.
Halftime we went back to the JM suite for soup, me wondering, if no more goals are scored, how much I will win. City's 2nd half carried on in the same vain and when it became 4-1-----PARTY!!!. why is it, city 4-2 up with 25 mins to play vs a team bottom of the 1st division, have us biting our nails?. County should have had a pen, but the ref said it was outside the penalty area. Walsh had a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside. Altho' city deserved to win, I think 5-2 was a bit unfair on County.
Fulltime went for a pint in JM suite, met Nelly Young and Tommy Booth.
My performance tables out of 10--
Dibble 6 (losing a lot of confidence - I think too much sh__ging!) Summerbee 7 (not his rightful position) Curle 8 (always in control although didn't like marking Devon White- calls him helicopter coz of his arms) Kernaghan 9 (brilliant could be another Pallister). D Brightwell 6 (doesn't like the football). I Brightwell 6 (difficult to suddenly change from defence to midfield). Flitcroft 7 (some good runs) Gaudino 8 (best game so far) Walsh 8 (after the game Uwe expressed his thanks to Paul for the work he does) UWE 10 (has to be) Beegrie 6 (County handled him well, not his best game, but lovely cross for the 5th goal)
Finally one nice gesture. When Uwe scored his 2nd, he ran to Horton on the bench pointing at him and shouted, "that's for you".
Final score 5-2
Goals: LC: Robins (69)
Line up: Dibble, Summerbee, D.Brightwell, Curle, Vonk, I.Brightwell (Quinn), Flitcroft, Gaudino, Beagrie, Walsh, Rösler.
Report by: Paul Howarth
As I set off for the game I had my doubts as to whether it would be going ahead; steady, though not torrential rain had been falling continuously since mid-afternoon, the Maine Road pitch isn't what it used to be as regards drainage (a reserve game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch a couple of weeks ago) and Saturday's fruitless trip to London served as a warning that fixtures may be postponed late in the day. A Leeds-supporting friend who went with me to the game had travelled over the Pennines from Doncaster that afternoon; his usual route over the Woodhead pass was blocked by lorries unable to make the final ascent due to heavy snow and he'd had to go back to the M1 and go over the M62, which was only just passable. The journey took 3 hours, three times as long as usual. Later on there was a 5,000 car jam on the M62 and later still it was closed. The weather probably accounted for the low attendance (a large group of Leicester fans arrived with only ten minutes of the second half to go) and it certainly had a significant bearing on the result.
As the game kicked off the pitch was definitely playable, with no obvious puddles and only the corners wet enough to hold the ball up significantly. Both sides came into the game with little form to speak of: City hadn't won a league game since 3rd December at Ipswich and Leicester hadn't won an away game all season, their best result being a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford over Christmas. Mark McGhee, the Leicester manager, was still to see his new side win although he quipped before the game that he'd never lost a game at Maine Road. Making his debut for Leicester was their million pound signing, Mark Robins, the former Junior Blue and ex-United player who scored two goals on his debut for Norwich City.
The first half was completely dominated by City, attacking the Platt Lane end. The ball hardly entered our half so I didn't get to see a great deal from my vantage point near the back of the North Stand. City were playing well, causing Leicester all sorts of problems. Walsh and Summerbee linked well on the right, leading to many decent crosses from Summerbee and a number of jinking runs in and around the box by Walsh. Beagrie was also tormenting the Leicester defence though his tendency to beat players several times before attempting to get a cross in is beginning to irritate. Orchestrating the whole show was Gaudino, who looked to be 'in the mood' and was unlucky when his fierce shot cannoned back off the angle of post and crossbar in the 30th minute. Leicester for their part were defending doggedly, throwing men in to block shots and getting in some excellent last- ditch tackles, much as City had done at Newcastle. Still, it looked like it was only a matter of time before City would score.
The rain continued to pour throughout the game and the playing surface gradually deteriorated, notably down the Main Stand side, where the ball would frequently stop suddenly and make back-passes very dangerous things to attempt. I felt sorry for the poor souls in the still-uncovered Kippax Street Stand and was actually glad on reflection that Saturday's game had been postponed, saving me from a similar soaking. City continued to carve out chances and miss them, Uwe being one of the chief culprits as he had been against Coventry. As half-time approached I thought that the most likely sequence of events would be that City would take the lead and then the match would be abandoned.
During the half-time period there were a grand total of three ground staff making a token gesture to improve the state of the pitch. Still it continued to rain. After the 15 minute break the teams came out and the game continued in the same vein as the first half, with City well on top. The middle of the pitch was now becoming very heavy but still City kept pushing the ball out to Beagrie on the left wing, the worst part of the pitch. Beagrie would try to run with the ball but it would hold up between his feet and he couldn't get away from defenders after he'd beaten them with his customary trickery. The right wing, in contrast, was still eminently playable and the ball moved easily on the few occasions it was sent out there.
As the half wore on and we reached the hour mark, Beagrie and Gaudino looked to be worn out, their commendable efforts having got us nowhere. Walsh intercepted a back pass (stupid thing to try) but as he struggled to make headway through the water towards goal he was brilliantly tackled, one of a number of excellent tackles made by both sides during this entertaining game. There followed a series of ludicrous penalty claims by City fans in the space of a few minutes, all for handball against defenders who had had shots blasted straight at them at close range. Leicester realised that the ball just wasn't going to go in for City and started to assert themselves. After a period of about 5 minutes where they were on top, including an amazing 6-yard box clearance when they looked certain to score, they did score. Draper's chipped ball into the corner looked to be going out of play but it stopped dead about two yards from the line and Joey 'stupid haircut' Lawrence had plenty of time and space to stop running, have a good look into the box, step back to give himself a decent run up and finally drop a perfect cross onto Mark Robins' head at the edge of the 6-yard box. Robins got in front of Curle and his careful header beat Dibble at the near post.
Quinn replaced Ian Brightwell to give us some height to take advantage of the steady stream of balls flowing into the Leicester penalty area and it almost paid off immediately. Summerbee floated a ball in from the right wing and Quinn's flicked header was heading for the bottom corner but dropped into the mud, slowed down and was cleared by a mixture of defender and post. This was City's last real chance because after this, they decided either to knock the ball directly up to Quinn who was well minded by at least two defenders, or to play the ball out to Beagrie, swimming down the left wing. If only Billy the Fish played for City, things might have been different.
If anything, Leicester looked the better side in the closing period and only a brilliant save by Dibble from a shot that looked to be heading for the top corner kept the score down. The visitors kept possession well, denying City the chance to save a point. At the final whistle, boos rang around the ground but to be honest it wasn't that bad a performance in this entertaining game in which both sides had played good football. A great many chances were created but Leicester managed to block them or save them or they'd go wide or hit the post etc. etc. The main bad point about the performance was the apparent lack of intelligence in dealing with the conditions; the right flank was the only decent part of the playing surface in the last half hour but only rarely was it used. The result leaves City in a perilous position, only 4 points above the relegation zone (albeit not as bad a position as Leicester, even after this result) and with four to go down and a dreadful last few games in the run-in, our season is reaching a crisis point.
Final Score: Manchester City 0 Leicester City 1
Goals: MC: Walsh (7)
Line up: Coton, Summerbee, D.Brightwell, Curle, Vonk, I.Brightwell, Flitcroft, Gaudino, Beagrie, Walsh (Quinn), Rösler.
Report by: Paul Howarth
There was a pitch inspection at 9:30am after a heavy (for Manchester) bout of snow and sleet the previous day but there was never really much chance of this game being a victim of the weather. The morning was bright and sunny, only clouding over and raining lightly well after the match was under way. Villa were on a roll after only two defeats since Brian Little took over and a good performance midweek against Spurs. A large contingent of Villa fans, occupying 80% of the Kippax, resulted in a noisy atmosphere; football needs a big away following to help generate this, a lesson that will hopefully be heeded by those clubs who currently give small ticket allocations to visiting supporters. There was a big contrast in the receptions given to the two goalkeepers; Bosnich, in goal for Villa, was roundly booed by the City fans in a show of solidarity with the Germans - his appalling challenge against Jurgen Klinsmann on Wednesday had gone unpunished by the referee despite the fact that he missed the ball and knocked Klinsmann out cold. The Villa fans booed Klinsmann, accusing him of taking a dive; maybe these were the same Villa fans that sang "let him die" back in September 1990 when Paul Lake suffered the first of his career-threatening knee Injuries? At the other end, Tony Coton was back in goal for City and he received a rapturous welcome with a chorus of "England's number one" echoing round the ground. Coton had only been back in training for a few days and had had no match practice in the reserves but was still preferred to poor old Andy Dibble, the hero of so many of the games in TC's absence. Dibs must be wondering just what he has to do to keep his place. The goalkeeping position was City's only change from the Leicester game, so we lined up with Summerbee, Dave Brightwell, Curle and Vonk at the back, Gaudino, Flitcroft, Ian Brightwell and Beagrie in midfield and Walsh and Rösler up front.
The referee was Joe Worrall, regarded by many as a United fan. He was wearing all black which clashed badly with Villa's horrible black and green striped away kit, though the players didn't seem to have any problems distinguishing between the two. He and the linesmen missed what appeared to be a number of foul throws by Villa players and a neck-high challenge by Fashanu in the first half also went unpunished. In his defence, he let the game flow, playing advantage whenever possible and he didn't book anybody, not even when a long sliding tackle by Curle took Yorke and not the ball during the second half.
Villa had a great chance to score almost straight from the kick off (sound familiar?). A terrible ball out by Vonk went straight to a Villa player; the ball reached Taylor, who put Yorke through but his snapshot flashed just wide of the near post. Shortly after that, a long ball down the left from Staunton was flicked on by Fashanu to Taylor, whose weak shot was easily held by Coton. Staunton's distribution was to cause City problems all afternoon but to their credit they tried to close him down and let Ugo Ehiogu play the ball out instead; good player that he is, like Curle, his distribution left a lot to be desired. Anyway, five minutes gone and City could easily have been 2-0 down.
However, it wasn't all doom and gloom; City were playing some good football themselves as they had in the first hour on Wednesday. Walsh, Gaudino and Summerbee were combining well down the right, exploiting an out-of-position Shaun Teale, pushed wide by the form of McGrath and Ehiogu in the middle. It was Ian Brightwell who unlocked the Villa defence in the 7th minute with a well-judged lob over the left side of Villa's square back four. Walsh ran onto the ball and hit it first time on the half-volley past Bosnich to delight the home fans.
Straight from the kick-off, Villa attacked down their left flank with Staunton, who fired in a low cross-cum-shot which TC just got his fingertips to. The ball went out for a corner, passing inches in front of the outstretched leg of Saunders. Villa went on to dominate the possession in the remaining 80 minutes of the game but the three chances missed in the first 10 minutes were to be the best they'd come up with until second-half injury time. Whilst we were soaking up the pressure against Newcastle, the magpies looked like they could score any minute but this time there wasn't the same threat. The presence of Coton seemed to settle the defence a little (or maybe it was just me feeling more confident about our ability to defend a lead these days?) and it was City who looked more likely to score on the break. A good move involving Summerbee and Walsh down the right sent Gaudino through; his shot from a similar angle to that from which Walsh scored beat Bosnich but flew just past the far post too. Rösler was furious with him for not squaring the ball but Gaudino was right to shoot.
Villa continued to keep the ball during the second half, firing in crosses from all angles which were fairly comfortably dealt with by the defence and Coton. City's main threat came down the right flank on breaks, the left flank being unusually unproductive due to presence of the more defensively-minded Dave Brightwell at left back and Beagrie's visible lack of energy. Running through ankle-deep water throughout the second half on Wednesday must have taken its toll on him. Hopefully he'll have chance to recover this week as the team have flown out to Portugal to recuperate. City's next chance came when a Villa corner broke to Gaudino on the edge of his own area; he ran straight through the middle, Walsh made a great run off the ball down the left flank taking out a defender and Gaudino hit the ball out right to Flitcroft; he played the ball back into Gaudino's path and with only Bosnich to beat he smacked the ball towards the near post this time, instead of going for the bigger gap at the far post. Bosnich saved well but Gaudino should have scored. If he can improve his finishing he'll be a tremendous asset to the club. Alan Hansen singled him and Walsh out for special praise on Match of the Day and well-deserved it was too.
The rain came down during the second half and the Villa fans were not impressed. "It's just a poxy s**t-hole", they sang, to which the retort was "if you can't speak proper [sic], shut your mouth." During the first period there were repeated attempts by the stewards to get the visitors to sit down but there's not much point really. The only way in or out of the stand is from the front at the moment, so there's a constant stream of people walking along the front, going to the toilet, getting a hot-dog etc. during the course of the game. Hence the people at the front have to stand up to see what's going on and with the shallow rake of the lower tier, that means that everybody behind them has to stand up too. There were a couple of announcements over the PA that standing up was a breach of the safety regulations and that people would be ejected if they didn't comply. It occurred to me that no such warnings are given in the West Midlands.
Villa had what looked like a good chance to equalise when a low cross by Saunders found its way to Taylor after Vonk had slipped but TC charged out to block his shot brilliantly. As it happened, Fashanu was stood on the goal-line and was given offside, so it wouldn't have counted anyway. Another good move by Walsh and Gaudino, who seem to be developing a good understanding, led to a cross by Gaudino which was just too high for Walsh to convert. With five minutes to go, Quinn came on for Walsh which seemed a strange substitution; Beagrie was clearly knackered whereas Walsh looked fit as a fiddle. Quinn was used in defensive mode, adding presence in our own box as Villa flung everything they had at us. With Foster, a regular centre-back, on the bench it seemed a peculiar move.
Deep into injury time, Tommy Johnson, on for Yorke (who had been facing the might of David Brightwell ;-)), floated in a deep cross that deflected off Curle's head. Coton flung himself to his right to push the ball away but it fell to Staunton who fired another shot in towards goal. The ball cannoned off Coton's chest and onto the near post and was then knocked out for a corner by Summerbee. That was virtually the last kick of the game and so it's City who face another trip to St. James' Park for the 5th Round.
As the Villa fans filed out of the ground, a group of them kicked over some hoardings and looked to be heading for a confrontation with the City fans at the front of the North Stand. I didn't hang about to find out what happened but I suppose it would have been on the news if there had been any serious clashes. It's sad to see that some people still can't take defeat and, remembering the Palace game, that applies to our fans as much as Villa's.