MATCH REPORTS 1996/97
Goals: MC: Brightwell (31), Kinkladze (81 pen). QPR: Sinclair (22), Murray (30)
Line up: Dibble, McGoldrick, Brightwell, Symons, Wassall, Summerbee, Clough, Kinkladze, Lomas, Dickov (Kavelashvili), Rösler
Report by: Piers Pennington
The ticket, costing eleven quid, said 'Partially Restricted View'; and it wasn't lying. What it didn't say was 'Seat Impossible for Adult Human Being to Sit In', being not only impossibly narrow but also having no space in front of it to put your legs. Like most of the other City fans, I stood firstly in front of it and then on it (not all of us on the same seat, of course).
Anyway, to the match. We seemed to be playing 1-3-4-2 with McGoldrick sweeping behind Wassall, Symons and Brightwell; Summerbee, Clough, Lomas and Kinkladze in midfield; and Dickov and Rösler up front. It all started smoothly enough, with City having the best of the possession; we should have gone ahead when Dickov was put clean through in the right-hand side of the area. He tried to take the ball round Sommer and fell over him; the penalty appeals looked a bit half-hearted from the far end of the ground. McGoldrick's calming influence at the back was evident - and it was a shock when after 20 minutes he suddenly gifted the opposition a goal with a mistimed back-header. Dibble did well to beat the on-rushing QPR forward to the ball outside his area and head clear but the ball was volleyed back by Sinclair from about 50 yards straight into the top corner giving Dibs no chance to get back.
There followed an awful ten minutes of disarray similar to the Palace game. McGoldrick and Dibble had a screaming match when they left the ball to each other; McGoldrick finished up passing the ball past Dibble's left hand, and he had to scramble back to hook it clear. Then Dibs, clearly unnerved by this, failed to call for a cross, leaving McGoldrick to head just wide of his own left-hand post - Symons had to separate them. Defenders were also slipping on the lush green pitch with worrying regularity; and McGoldrick fell over once too often as a harmless looking punt down the middle was headed on, leaving Murray unmarked to shoot past Dibble's right hand.
We all feared another disaster but luckily QPR lost concentration, allowing us straight back into it. Lomas chased a hopeful ball down the left to the bye-line and looked to have been shepherded out of harm's way towards the corner flag. Somehow he managed to turn and deliver a perfect left-foot cross to Brightwell, ten yards out and unmarked. His volley thundered against the underside of the bar, bounced down and up into the roof of the net before anybody had time to worry about whether it was over the line or not. City instantly recovered their poise; and Gio was beginning to boss the midfield from deep positions. One superb ball down the left touchline curled over Rösler's left shoulder and fell right into his stride; if Hoddle had delivered it ten years ago we'd already have seen it replayed ad nauseam. Lomas was putting it about to great effect, giving Gio the protection he needs and at one stage goading what looked like the whole QPR team into throwing punches at him. We were unlucky not to be level by half-time as QPR somehow survived an almighty goalmouth scramble just before the whistle.
The second half was a wonder to behold as City launched attack after attack towards their own supporters. At first there were still some irritations - Clough had a terrible five minutes when he presented QPR with the ball three times in succession and then screwed a pass, unchallenged, into touch; Summerbee had the crowd on his back for continually failing to react quickly enough to what was happening around him. However, even they began to be caught up in what became a thriller, with Gio at his brilliant best. Everywhere he went, three or four defenders would gather round him and he would either skip through them all or thread the ball to a City player in space. Brightwell in particular was giving him support down the left; and the chances started to come thick and fast. Rösler had time and space on the edge of the box but sliced the shot well over; then Rösler again, at the far post, had his header back across goal obviously handled. When no penalty was given he sank to his knees and thumped the pitch in frustration - but was soon using his strength down the right (yes, really) to fire a shot against the near post. The rebound rolled across the goalmouth, Lomas hurled himself full length but was just beaten to it. Then Dickov, whose shirt had been in Ready's hands all game, turned in the box and was clearly hauled down. As we all screamed for a penalty again, Dickov managed to get his shot in anyway; it bounced back off the post, the rebound hit Rösler on the hip and flew wide, and the referee gave - a corner! Next it was Summerbee popping up on the left and firing a shot just past the far post. A corner saw Symons' header clip the top of the bar; and just as we began to think it would never come, Gio stormed into the box, left Ready for dead, re-enacted his Southampton shuffle to get Sommer to dive and chipped for the top corner. Impey palmed it round the post and not even this referee could fail to spot that one. Impey got the red card, Gio sent Sommer the wrong way from the penalty and the celebrations were heartfelt. City kept pressing for the winner but apart from a neat interchange between Gio and Kavi (who had replaced Dickov), we didn't really come that close. Gio began to tire, giving the ball away a couple of times and setting up anxious-making QPR breakaways; and not many people apart from me were that sorry to hear the final whistle (I had us to win 3-2 at 25-1).
All the players came over to applaud the fans, who again had been superb - I'm still hoarse. It's only one game, and QPR are a poor side - they'll need to spend the Sinclair money wisely even to finish in mid-table on this performance. Even so, it's a long time since I've seen City dominate a game so completely and look so full of invention and good football. Whisper it - they looked like promotion material.
Goals: R: Nogan (35, 67)
Line up: Dibble, McGoldrick, Wassall, Symons, Brightwell, Summerbee (Frontzeck), Clough, Lomas, Kinkladze, Dickov (Kavelashvili), Rösler
Report by: Paul Howarth
They're a strange bunch, Reading fans. It's a Tuesday night in October, we've sold our entire allocation of tickets and swelled the crowd to 11,724 (that's 3,000 more than their average so far this season) and yet they have the nerve to chant "Is that all you take away?"! Not only that but they maintain that quaint old custom of yelling "You're s**t... aargh" when a goal kick is taken, something that went out of fashion several years ago everywhere else. Maybe they'll join the rest of us in the nineties when they move to their new £30 million, 25,000-seat stadium 18 months hence.
Outside the ground a couple of guys from the Georgian embassy were waiting to chat to Gio and Kave as they got off the team coach. Once again Kave had to sit out most of the match as City started with the same side that played at QPR on Saturday. After that second half performance I was confident that we'd be returning home with three points; I really should know better after watching City for all these years.
Right from the start it looked more like the City of Alan Ball's reign. Little movement up front, scant support for the forward players from midfield, no crosses from the flanks, just a lot of passing the ball around in midfield interspersed with defensive panic situations. Eddie McGoldrick's future at City looks like being a short one if Steve Coppell bases his decision on his last two performances; on more than one occasion sloppy passing gave Reading good chances which fortunately were spurned.
Reading's approach was different, more entertaining and more effective. They would run directly at City's defence, get the ball forward quickly and try to exploit the pace of Gilkes against our sloth-like defenders. The opening goal came ten minutes from half time following a good run by James Lambert after Dickov had given the ball away. On reaching the edge of the penalty area, the ball was poked through for Lee Nogan to score with a low, angled drive that seemed to pass under Dibble's outstretched hand. Nogan had a chance of a second with a race against Wassall but the City man managed to knock the ball back to Dibble. Nogan then fell over and Reading were awarded a free kick! Not the only debatable decision Mr. Pierce would make.
At half time I was still optimistic that we could recover and go on to win the game. However, things got worse rather than better in the second half. City got more and more disorganised and at one point Gio was left as the only City player chasing back after Gilkes on a quick break. The Georgian hit Gilkes with a solid shoulder charge and was booked.
Another quick break by Gilkes resulted in Reading's second goal. He scampered down the left wing, cut inside and then squared the ball past Dibble for Nogan to tap into the empty goal. With City clearly needing something to change up front, Michael Frontzeck came on in place as Nicky Summerbee. Actually, this wasn't as daft a move as it might sound. Frontzeck played as a sort of left wing-back and McGoldrick moved out to the right wing in an attempt to provide a supply for the forwards. Soon afterwards Kavelashvili came on in place of Dickov. The midfield started to support the forwards a bit more and City did carve out a few chances but it was too little, too late.
With about 10 minutes to go, Steve Lomas put in a hard challenge on Phil Parkinson, won the ball, got up, ran a few steps with the ball and was then sent off. At first I thought it was for a two-footed challenge (like the one Dibble got sent off for at QPR a couple of years ago) but it seems that it was for stamping. I didn't see a stamp but I'd have to say the referee was much nearer the incident than I was.
So, honeymoon over. City are now perilously close to the relegation zone and Steve Coppell will now have a much better idea of the size of the task ahead of him. City were poor (though not as poor as we were earlier in the season) and were well beaten by a very ordinary Reading side. Clough had another poor game, misplacing passes and not getting forward in support of the front pair, neither Rösler nor Dickov looked at all like scoring and our ponderous build-up gives ample time for teams to defend in depth. Summerbee was withdrawn after having virtually no success against Paul Bodin; I wonder if Coppell will now drop him?
City's best players were Gio (again), though it wasn't one of his better performances, Ian Brightwell (who was solid and tried to support whenever he could from his defensive role) and Steve Lomas, who despite his sending-off, showed some good touches, plenty of commitment and solid tackling.
Things must change. Quickly.
Goals: MC: Clough (31), Dickov (54) NC: Scott (88)
Line up: Dibble, McGoldrick, Summerbee, Wassall, Symons, Brightwell, Clough, Lomas, Kinkladze (Jeff Withley), Dickov, Rösler
Report by: Ken Foster
"Dawn of a new era?"
After the managerial circus, SC's first home match was more a case of 'After the Lord Mayor's Show'.
Introduced to the crowd with a minimum of fuss the new manager sat out of the spotlight in the directors box. The same could not be said of Phil Neal, however, who spent much of the first half stood exhorting his instructions from the touchline.
For the first 20 minutes Norwich were sublime, with a quick one touch passing game and some genuine pace in the form of Eadie and O'Neill. Dibble looked a little unconvincing in his judgement of when to make a claim for the ball, but kept us in the game with a couple of good saves. After we settled, the defence began to look a little bit more solid and we started to make inroads into the Norwich half. Dickov and Uwe looked sharp (yes, the extra training is paying off already) but our goal came from a good break by Summerbee who picked out Clough in an acre of space who took an eternity to shoot and was fortunate to see the ball go in off a defender.
I thought City controlled the game comfortably in the early stages of the second half, without ever looking as though we were completely dominating proceedings. A second goal deservedly went to Dickov whose pursuit of lost causes paid off when a defensive lapse let him in for a one on one and a delicate chip over Gunn into the corner.
City sat back and although Norwich had most of the play, they never looked like scoring against a defence which looked more commanding by the minute. Something was definitely wrong, City were cruising to a comfortable win. My thoughts must have telepathically found their way into the players' concience because a horrendous mix up at the back saw Norwich score and condemned us to the usual finger biting climax. Nevertheless, we held on and I think it's fair to say that I was optimistic again for the first time in ages.
A few minor beefs:
The programme informed us that development was under way on the 2 empty corners and that a scoreboard would be situated in each. I hope they hurry up because Windy Corner was beginning to feel a bit Siberian.
Although we had over 28,000 fans at the game, it sounded like a home match for Norwich. I was particularly impressed with their anthem 'On the ball City' which started off with a sort of Barbershop quartet feel before developing into a full choral masterpiece. Although the Norwich fans chant of 'Worst support we've ever seen' was a bit harsh, I could see their point.
Having read Bryan Brett's report in the MUEN, I think he must have been at a different match as he had City all over Norwich for the first 30 mins!
The booing of Clough and Summerbee at the start was childish and pointless.
Our reputation of being a humorous and innovative set of fans, certainly isn't showing itself at home games.
Dibble 7 Some good saves. This man needs a goalkeeping coach. Brightwell 6 Looked a little lethargic at times. Wassel 7 Impressive. Tried a couple of inadvised dribbles on the edge of his own box. McGoldrick 7 Shaky start. Made a point of letting every City fan in the stadium know that he is going to die (metaphorically) for the cause, after the final whistle. Symons 7 Dependable as ever. Summerbee 8 A revelation. Coppell must be putting something in his tea. Kinkladze 7 Our luxury player doesn't get involved enough. Lomas 6 Hard working. Close control let him down. Clough 7 After reading the match reports from QPR and Reading, I was quite surprised to hear SC say that Clough had been a 'Rock' for him in midfield during his 3 games in charge. Rösler 8 A revelation. Coppell must be putting something in his tea. Dickov 7 Busy and linked quite well with Rösler.
Goals: WW: Bull (77)
Line up: Dibble, Summerbee, Frontzeck (Ingram), Wassall, Symons, Jeff Whitley (Kavelashvili), Clough, Kinkladze, Lomas, Dickov, Rösler
Report by: Ashley Birch
Not quite a sell-out, probably because of the peculiar kick-off time and the fact that it was 'live' on SKY. There were two changes to the City line-up, it was back to a flat back four with Frontzeck in for Brightwell and Whitley for McGoldrick (midfield). Apparently both players are injured and didn't train on Friday.
A minute's silence preceded kick-off for City's recently deceased director, the Guatemalan tragedy and of course, Matthew Hardman. City started off as they were destined to play the whole match - on the attack. Within a minute Rosler turned on the touchline and crossed in for Lomas to miss a virtually open goal, side-footing just wide; the challenge by the defender may just have had a bit to do with this.
Wolves strung together a few attacks but these were mainly aimed at the marked Bull. In fact, Wolves didn't have a single attempt on the Blues goal during the entire first 45 minutes. We were robbed of a sensational goal when an absolute steamer from Whitley, all of 30 yards, beat the goalie only to crash back off the post, and across the goal with no one to slot it in. Buzzer also had a good effort just wide when he neatly turned in the area. Kinky was doing his stuff, humiliating the defender with a series of dummies. How we didn't score is beyond me.
We expected more in the 2nd half but it started scappily. After a while though, City once more returned to the earlier flowing football. Wolves had no idea what to do and just resorted to booting the ball aimlessly out of defence, a tactic recently on show to poor effect at Maine Rd, as we all know. There was a period of several minutes which were spent almost entirely in the Wolves penalty area, the succession of blocked shots and attempted clearances was almost comical. City had what seems a good penalty shout turned down when Kinky appeared to be tripped in the area. A goal was also turned down after a corner was headed home, apparenlty for impeding the goalie?
The travesty occurred with about 12 mins to go; a hopeful punt upfield from the Wolves leftback was either horribly misjudged by Symons or, he slipped whilst attempting to head the it safety. Whatever, this left Bull one and one (no cover) with Dibble who he easily beat with a low drive into the corner. In fact, he'd just missed with a dipping shot 5 mins earlier. City piled on the pressure and had another penalty turned down when a Wolves defender appeared to block a goal-bound shout with his arm. Kave and Ingram came on for Whitley and Frontzeck but it was too late.
We ended up with nothing from a game we totally dominated; Wolves looked almost clueless at times as City ran circles round them and mopped up what attacks they could string together. Hand on heart, this should have been 4-0! So, we can at least be heartened by this display, Wolves are apparenly one of the best teams and at times, they were made to look like they were 2 leagues below us.
To add injury to insult, the SKY idiots awarded the MotM to Bull, who spent most of the match gesticulating at his midfield who consistently failed to come up with anything more than a punt upfield. Lomas would have had my vote, he was excelent, running everywhere, calling and surging forward, we'll miss him. In fact Buzzer looks to be coming out the other side!
We'll have to put this one down to experience, if we play the same at Southend, I shan't complain. Just let us see Kave instead of Rosler for once.
Final score 0-1
Goals: MC: Rosler (43), Kinkladze (59, 72 pen). SU: Williams (73), Rammell (84)
Line up: Dibble, Summerbee, Frontzeck, Wassall, Symons, Jeff Whitley, Clough, Kinkladze (Brown), Rodger (Ingram), Dickov, Rösler
Report by: Paul Howarth
This was my first "new ground" of the season and I must say it was well worth the visit for this, the first-ever League meeting of the two clubs. The stadium itself is rather like a smaller version of Loftus Road with four neat stands of roughly equal height giving a total capacity of around 12,500. The attendance of 8,707 was around double the average and 3,200 higher than the previous best, the visit of Wolves on Sunday 13th October. This was despite the fact that we (disappointingly) didn't sell our full allocation of tickets, though it's a long way to go to Southend on a cold Tuesday night. However, the 1,000 or so Blues that did make the trip certainly made up for the lack of numbers by giving the lads very vocal support throughout.
The only team change from the Wolves game was the inclusion of loan signing Simon "Jolly" Rodger in place of the suspended Lomas. The game was open right from the start, with both sides committed to playing a passing game and attacking their opponents. City had the edge in terms of possession and chances, with Dickov denied a first- half hat-trick by Simon Royce in the Southend goal. One of these chances came by way of a glorious 40-yard pass by Kinkladze which left Dickov one-on-one with Royce but he couldn't match Steve Bull's finish from Sunday. Southend had one decent chance when Jeroen Boere beat Dibble to a loose ball and managed to flick the ball over the goalkeeper. Fortunately the ball sailed wide of the post.
City took the lead 2 minutes before the break and once again Kinkladze was the creator. He went on one of his trademark runs, taking on three or four defenders before threading the ball through to Rösler who rounded Royce and drove the ball home from a tight angle with his left foot. Both Rösler and Dickov had been caught offside on numerous occasions so it was very pleasing to see a good finish when the trap was beaten.
Half time came and it was time for us to sit down for a while; we had all stood throughout the first half because as there was a fence(!) blocking the view from the first few rows of the seats. It was back onto our feet for the second half as City attacked our end and we watched as time and again we created openings through the home defence. It seemed only a matter of time before we increased our lead and sure enough, the second goal came in the 59th minute. Some short, tidy passing between Dickov, Rösler and Kinkladze led to the Georgian facing a one-on-one with Royce; a nonchalant flick with the outside of the left boot rolled the ball past the 'keeper and into the net, just before a defender could catch the ball and clear it.
There was now a bit of a swagger in City's play and a few party-piece back heels and flicks were employed. A third goal came in the 72nd minute, this time from the penalty spot (last time we scored 3 in a competitive game - February 24th against Newcastle...). Dickov turned his marker and was tripped for a definite penalty. Gio stepped up to put away the spot-kick; such is our confidence in him that many of us were celebrating before he kicked the ball. A chorus of "Jingle Bells" was aired before the majority of the Blues managed to "Shhh" the culprits. We were soon to find out that a three goal lead with 18 minutes left will not necessarily lead to a comfortable victory.
The third goal seemed to spark some life into Southend (or maybe it was the introduction of substitute Andy Rammell?) and within a minute a goal had been pulled back. Rammell's shot was saved by Dibble (who had until this point had a good game) but he let the ball slip from his grasp and Paul Williams was there to fire the ball home. City were still two up and looking comfortable but signs of tiredness were creeping in, balls were hacked away from the danger area instead of being played out. Southend were getting to all of the 50-50 balls first and the home crowd (until this time quieter than the library that is Maine Road this season) started to get behind their team. With 6 minutes left, Southend scored a second goal. This time Dibble couldn't keep out Rammell's low drive and the ball went in off Dibble's hand and the far post.
The last few minutes saw City hang on desperately for the three points. Crosses and shots were coming in from all angles and we all had visions of the Bournemouth match in 1989 when we last let a three-goal lead slip. Ingram replaced Rodger and Brown replaced Kinkladze (who took a bit of a knock) but even with this more defensive-minded side we couldn't calm things down. Several chances came and went, shots flashing past the post, Summerbee clearing off the line, panic stations all round. Finally, in the 5th minute of injury time, the final whistle came and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. A good performance for 70 minutes and a cracking game for the neutral, but not one for those Blues of a nervous disposition!