Goals: MC: Rösler (63). AV: Ehiogu (9)
Line up: Burridge, Edghill, Phelan (Beagrie), Curle, Kernaghan, Summerbee, Flitcroft, Simpson, Walsh, Quinn, Rösler (Gaudino)
Action shot: Goal.
Report by: Paul Howarth
We travelled south for this much-rearranged game in much better humour than we could have possibly envisaged before Easter; this looked like being a do-or-die game, our best chance of 3 points in the run-in. However, following City's resurrection there was a much more carefree attitude amongst the fans who were determined to enjoy this game on what was a lovely, warm, sunny day. Arriving a little after 5:30pm, there was plenty of time to have a wander round the ground and take a closer look at the new Holte End. With more seats than the new Kippax, this two-tier stand is an impressive replacement for one of the most famous "kops" in the game. Not only is the capacity huge, the time taken to erect it was also surprisingly short; it's been rebuilt from the bottom up, using none of the old terrace that it replaced. Tour completed, we made for the Witton Arms, about 150 yards behind the North Stand, where most of the City fans would be seated.
City lined up with John Burridge replacing the injured Tony Coton, Edghill at right back, Phelan at left back, Kernaghan and Curle in the middle, a midfield of Flitcroft and Simpson, Summerbee wide on the right, Walsh between the midfield and front pair (mainly on the left) and with Quinn and Rösler up front. On the bench were Beagrie, Gaudino and Margetson (recalled from his loan at Luton). City started well enough, taking the game to Villa who threatened little in the first 5 minutes. The Villa fans were in good voice and had a loud appeal for a penalty turned down in the 7th minute when the ball struck Kernaghan's hand as he lay in the penalty area after an aerial challenge. No way was it deliberate; referee Stephen Lodge waved play on. Two minutes later Villa were ahead. A corner wasn't properly cleared and when the second cross came in, Ehiogu rose above everybody and appeared to palm the ball over Burridge and into the net in classic "hand of God" style. Just about everybody but the referee and linesman seemed to spot it but despite the protestations, the goal stood. That could be just the sort of luck Villa need to keep themselves in the Premiership!
The game continued with City having more of the possession but creating little. The options seemed to be to play it down the wings or hoof the ball straight down the middle. Villa defended the crosses well, having men coming out from near post areas to head clear; the punts forward had their usual effect i.e. virtually none. At the other end, Villa put in some decent long shots but Burridge's positioning was good and he wasn't unduly troubled. A second Villa goal nearly came after good work from Taylor down the left wing. He got behind Edghill, cut inside and pulled the ball back just behind Dean Saunders who turned sharply but hit his shot straight at Burridge. On the half-hour mark, Burridge picked up an interception- cum-back-pass from Richard Edghill under no pressure whatsoever but either the referee didn't notice or didn't consider that an offence had been committed.
Overall, City had much of the first-half possession but little in the way of clear-cut chances to show for it. Summerbee whipped in some excellent corners from the left side but nobody could get the vital flick on. There was little creativity in the middle and I'd say Villa just edged the first half. At half time, Phelan was replaced by Beagrie, with Summerbee moving back to right-back and Edghill switching to left-back. Beagrie started off on the right flank where Summerbee had been, presumably to give Staunton something to occupy himself with instead of charging down into our half and sending in those great crosses that he's inclined to do. Part-way through the second half, Beagrie swapped over to the left side and Quinn but Rösler's near-post effort flew just wide. A good build-up down the left side ended with Flitcroft shooting just wide of the other post from 20 yards. Then Simpson went close with a snapshot after a poorly-cleared corner.
I remember thinking to myself "we can win this", which is usually the cue for the opposition to go down the other end and pop another goal in. This time it was different; Quinn robbed Staunton, charged into the penalty area and pulled the ball across the 6-yard box to Rösler, who completely mis-hit his shot; this wrong-footed Bosnich who could only get a hand to the ball and it trickled slowly towards the goal. Just as it was crossing the line, a Villa defender hacked it clear. Was it over the line? We all started celebrating - a goal had been given! My view (from behind the goal) was that it didn't look completely over the line but this seemed to be a minority opinion amongst the City fans and to be fair, the Villa players didn't appear to be complaining. In any case, justice was done for the handball which led to their goal.
Villa, deep in relegation trouble, now started to look very nervous and the referee gave us a few contentious decisions which rather upset the home fans. Bosnich made a great diving save from an 18-yard Beagrie effort after he'd cut in from the left. City were turning on the style, playing a good short-passing game and carving out a few opportunities. Villa then started to come back at us; a corner swung in from the left seemed to hit the far post and bounce out for a goal-kick. Maybe some forward got their head to it? Our luck was in for once. Villa continued to press forward and Burridge looked distinctly suspect on high balls. On 78 minutes Rösler limped off after a collision in midfield. A minute later Gaudino came on to replace him; between these events the final score came through from Southampton, where the some side had beaten Palace 3-1. This went down very well.
Gaudino's trickery and passing ability threatened to open up the Villa defence for a City winner; Quinn was well on top in his battle with Staunton too but it was an in-form Beagrie who came closest to creating a winner when his cross was headed against the bar by Flitcroft with Bosnich well beaten. Flitcroft must be wondering just what he has to do to score! The last few minutes were quite frantic as Villa surged forward looking for a desperately-needed winner. Budgie saved well at the foot of his near post in the 89th minute but that was the closest Villa came to scoring again. So, it finished 1-1 which was a fair result over the whole game. Either side could have won it but the chances weren't converted. The result leaves us on 49 points with 2 games to go and we still aren't mathematically safe. However, Norwich can no longer catch us and if Villa fail to beat Liverpool on Saturday, they won't be able to either. Palace are 2 points behind Villa and have a game in hand. I think I'd rather have the points at this stage.
Goals: NF: Collymore (18)
Line up: Burridge, Summerbee, Kernaghan, Curle, Edghill, Flitcroft, Simpson, Walsh, Gaudino (Thomas), Beagrie, Quinn.
Report by: Paul Howarth
The hot, sunny weather at the Villa match continued right through to Saturday so it was a great day for Forest's last home fixture of the season, one in which a win would clinch them a UEFA Cup place in their first season back in the Premiership. City still weren't mathematically safe from relegation, requiring one more point to achieve this. Alternatively, a defeat for Crystal Palace (at home to West Ham) or anything but a win for Aston Villa (at home to Liverpool) would see us safe regardless of our own result. We arrived at the ground ninety minutes before kick-off and found several people still seeking tickets; Forest had declared the match a sell-out earlier in the week and it was in fact their biggest crowd of the season, no doubt helped by the presence of around 5,000 Blues.
Walking around the back of the new Trent End, we heard the distant chanting of 'Uwe, Uwe Rosler' and various other City songs. It turned out to be coming from The Aviary, the pub at the other end of Trent Bridge, the one mentioned by Chris Holt in MCIVTA 80. The pub and its beer garden were already packed with Blues and quite a few Forest fans having a darn good sing-song. A wide repertoire of songs were aired, including a number of older ditties that I'd never heard before!
Just before the game started, a presentation was made to Forest's player of the year. Rather surprisingly, neither Collymore nor Roy, arguably Forest's biggest two names, made the top three. The winner was Steve Stone, followed by Mark Crossley and Steve Chettle. Maybe Collymore's exclusion was due in part to his apparent desire to leave the club? The City fans were in no doubt, taunting their Forest counterparts with chants of 'Bye bye Stanley', 'Stanley wants a big club' etc. before and during the match.
Uwe failed his fitness test, so City lined up with Burridge in goal, Summerbee at right-back, Edghill at left-back, Curle and Kernaghan in the centre, Flitcroft and Simpson is defensive midfield roles, Walsh, Gaudino and Beagrie as attacking midfielders and Quinn as lone striker. Included on the bench was young winger Scott Thomas.
Soon after the game started it became clear that Forest were a class above City. Their forward pairing of Collymore and Roy were particularly impressive, working hard to close City players down as we attempted to build from the back and making good runs when moving forward themselves. Roy was proving to be a tremendous handful, pulling the left side of our defence out of shape which led to gaps for Collymore to exploit. City's defence looked shambolic although it was at least organised enough to catch Forest offside several times. On a couple of other occasions Summerbee had to come inside and act as a last-gasp sweeper, which he did with aplomb.
Just as City seemed to be getting to grips with Forest and causing them a few problems of our own, they scored. Curle and Collymore chased a through ball; Curle got there first and needed all of his strength to hold off Collymore and shepherd the ball back to Burridge. However, Burridge misjudged the bounce of the ball and Collymore managed to stick out a leg and poke the ball towards goal. The ball bounced off the inside of the post and bobbled along the goal-line before Kernaghan cleared it into touch. It was too late though, the referee had given a goal. This was an even closer decision than Uwe's goal on Wednesday and I still don't think the ball was completely over the line even after seeing the TV replays. The referee was well-placed to see the incident though and there were no real complaints from the City players.
Within a few minutes it was nearly two-nil. There was a two-against- two break, Collymore squared the ball towards Roy and Burridge charged bravely out to black, injuring himself and Roy in the process. Play stopped for a couple of minutes as Roy received treatment and he continued for a while but had to be replaced on 29 minutes by Jason 'stupid haircut' Lee. Roy's raids down the right flank had been causing City a lot of problems and his replacement was no mug either. Tall and extremely quick, he looked very impressive for the rest of the first half. City had a lot of possession in the last 15 minutes of the first half but didn't really trouble Crossley in the Forest goal. Beagrie seemed unable to beat right-back Des Lyttle and most crosses came from fairly deep positions which were easily dealt with by the Forest defence. All we had to show from the first half were a few long shots from Fitzroy Simpson.
City looked a bit more purposeful in the second half and could have equalised in the 48th minute but Quinn's far-post header only found the side-netting. There was little real passion from either side now though and it was looking like a meaningless end-of-season game even though both sides still had plenty to play for. City looked jaded and it was a popular decision when Scott Thomas replaced Dino on the hour. The youngster started off on the left wing, with Beagrie moving over to the right. He certainly wasn't overawed by the occasion and had some good touches. As the game went on, there was a buzz of excitement from the City fans whenever he received the ball. The next near miss was at the City end though as a deflection took the ball just over the crossbar for a corner.
Quinn got on the end of another cross but this time his header was weak and straight at the 'keeper. Simpson was battling well in midfield and set up a neat move where Walsh did a one-two with Quinn but mis-hit his shot from 20 yards. Back at the other end Stone missed a sitter after doing the hard work with a good run right through the City defence. On 75 minutes Beagrie and Thomas swapped over to their usual sides but in spite of having large chunks of possession we were unable to seriously trouble the Forest defence. Despite losing to a controversial goal, there can be no doubt that the better side won.
Frank Clark made a plea in the programme, which was repeated over the impressive PA system, for supporters not to invade the pitch at the end otherwise the players would not do a lap of honour after the game. It wasn't heeded. Amongst the Forest fans on the pitch were a number of people wearing United shirts who took the opportunity to gesture at the City fans. And they call us bitter!
Saturday's other results leave us still needing a point to be mathematically safe, though results in the midweek games may make this unnecessary. I'd rather not have to go into the last game needing a point to be sure (as in 1983, 1989 and last year) as the resulting tension would undoubtedly detract from the end of season party. We must stop doing this to ourselves.
Goals: MC: Quinn (29), Curle (80 pen). QPR: Ferdinand (13,89), Dichio (77)
Line up: Burridge, Edghill, Phelan, Curle, Kernaghan, Summerbee, Flitcroft, Gaudino (Simpson), Walsh (Thomas), Quinn, Rösler
Report by: Martin Ford
This was decision day for the Premier title, everything hung on the results from Anfield and Upton Park. On the City front I was in some confusion, the MEN had proclaimed the game was a near sellout, with every ticket for the Kippax sold while elsewhere in the ground there were some 1700 tickets left. Just how did City know every seat in the Kippax would be taken? I was under the impression that it was personal choice whether you wanted to take up your seat there or your temporary seat elsewhere in the ground. Typical City.
I was quite looking forward to taking up my seat in the Upper tier of the Kippax, to finally see what I'd been promised all season. I must admit that although I didn't particularly like the outside of the Kippax, once inside the perimeter wall the stand looked much better. The dissappointing thing about the stand is that it's still nowhere near complete. The outside and inside still needs alot of work to get it upto scratch! So having climbed up about four flights of stairs I emerged out onto the top tier. The view was pretty good, it was surpassed when I eventually got to my seat, Block FF (Umbro end), Row 52 (very back row) Seat 172. I could see over the Main stand toward St*****rd, I could see the City centre and out towards Cheshire, very impressive. As for the pitch view, although high up it still afforded a good panoramic view of the pitch, it's a different perspective that high. The one complaint about the stand, is due to the altitude it was flaming freezing, I dread to think what it will be like in the middle of winter, however that may be due to the wind whipping through the holes in the stand. Sorry I digress, now the game.
City came out with what appeared to be the usual formation of four attacking players (Rösler, Quinn, Walsh and the take your pick of either Dino or Buzzer) and the rest of the team were the usual formation, including Budgie in goals. Although City knew there was nothing to play for I still expected them to show some pride and award the fans with a good performance. However as soon as the game kicked off it became clear that City just weren't interested, they just didn't appear to want to know. The crowd was also very subdued with most more interested in events elsewhere. QPR showed all the early endeavour and Ferdinand, Sinclair and Impey were a constant thorn in City's side. After 13 minutes QPR took the lead, with another comical goal. City just didn't defend a through ball and eventually an out of position Budgie pushed the ball out wide to Curle who let it slip under his foot, before they could make amends the cross had been flicked inside the far post be Ferdinand. City had fallen behind to a soft goal and to perfectly honest it was about all they deserved. Still City were very lazy in their play and didn't wake up. After 26 mins City were on level terms when Quinn controlled the ball, turned on the edge of the box and hit a screamer into the roof of the net. At last a bit of skill the game had been waiting for, maybe now City would wake up. Unfortunately the game drifted off again. The crowd however had some good news and their spirits lifted when first the news came through that Shearer had scored at Anfield and then Michael Hughes had scored for the Hammers. It certainly brought joy to the fans however it did little to improve a pitiful game.
The second half wasn't much better, City were very poor, but at least QPR looked like they wanted to win the game and showed some commitment! Still the crowd wouldn't get behind the blues and were far more intent on listening to how the RAGS were doing, and to be fair it was far more interesting. The unthinkable started to materialise when the RAGS and Liverpool both scored equalisers, which meant that the atmosphere grew more suppressed. The game seemed to be drifting further away from City when Ferdninand took advantage of a Kernaghan slip (after my praise for him, it just had to be the kiss of death), and squared the ball to enable Dichio to score for Rangers. It was once more deserved, Rangers had really looked the most likely to score. Once again though City managed to scrape themselves back into the game after Dino was fouled (?) in the box, about all he did all game. Curle took responsibility for the spot kick and drilled it against Roberts legs, however he reacted quick enough to prod the rebound home and get City back on level terms. This did very little to incite the crowd or the players and once more the game settled into the tedium of before. City made a double substitution and replaced Walsh and Dino with Simpson and Thomas, even this move did little to inject some life into the game. As Dino went off Rösler said something to him, he was warmly applauded off and he waved to the crowd in response, personally I think that was his final game as a City player. Just as the game seemed to be heading for a 2-2 draw, up popped Ferdinand to score the winner in the 89th minute. However this seemed to have little response on the fans who were still awaiting news from Upton Park. That came slightly after full time at Maine Road. The City players were given some boos as they tried to do a lap of honour (which to be fair was deserved), then the news of the RAGS draw came through and the atmosphere lifted, the fans started singing and clapping. Of the players only Quinn went on a near lap of honour the rest mulled around before trooping off.
So City finished the season with a very poor performance and very little pride shown in the 3-2 defeat against QPR (and as it later transpired it indirectly ? meant the end of BH as manager). Once more City fans were left contemplating what might have been. The only thing we were left to smile about was the fact that United blew the title, once again our only celebration is at their downfall. When are we going to be rewarded for our own endeavours?
So we're left with very little success to look back upon, does it inspire confidence for next season, well we'll just have to wait until August to see how everything turns out.