Football: Flitcroft makes Lee feel at home

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . .2

Griffiths 32, Flitcroft 73

Ipswich Town. . . . 1

Marshall 16

Attendance: 28,188

THE theme was set for the day by a huge banner across the centre circle. 'Welcome Francis,' it read, and Manchester City's supporters did yesterday, giving the man who had bought the club 14 hours earlier an ovation worthy of someone they had already identified as a saviour.

Francis Lee, the new chairman, accepted the plaudits and then saw the extent of the work required as City made hard work of gaining the three points required to temper the threat of relegation. Finding a new Blue Heaven was never going to be easy, and going behind yesterday did not help, but Gary Flitcroft pointed everyone in the right direction with his 73rd-minute winning goal.

He made amends for his first-half error when his hopelessly misdirected back-pass let in Ian Marshall for Ipswich's goal. 'Gary was the most relieved man in Manchester when the winner went in,' Brian Horton, his manager, said.

His chairman probably ran him close. Lee completed his takeover in the early hours of yesterday, buying 29.9 per cent of the club's shares from Peter Swales and Stephen Boler. He immediately promised the purchase of two or three players and to conform to managerial wishes when it comes to interference. 'I've told Brian Horton I'm there for him,' Lee said. 'If he wants me to go in the dressing-room I will. If he doesn't I won't'

The portents at the start were promising. Ipswich's back four began as if they and not Lee had the worry of parting with pounds 3m and John Wark, with a badly directed back-pass, and the goalkeeper Craig Forrest, with a worse clearance, presented the home team with good opportunities. Carl Griffiths pulled his shot wide, however, and Carl Shutt was so surprised to have an open goal to aim at, albeit from 40 yards away on the touchline, that his shot was sliced for a throw-in.

The defensive disease spread to Flitcroft and as Marshall put Ipswich ahead the urge to recall Lee's most famous comment from his playing days - 'If there was a cup for cock-ups we'd win it every year' - was irresistible. But City pulled themselves together to equalise 14 minutes later when David Rocastle bewitched two defenders by dragging the ball back with the sole of his foot and then crossed low into Ipswich's six-yard box. Griffiths supplied the decisive touch.

Michel Vonk was wide with a header after 59 minutes but just when it was dawning that this might be City's best and last chance they scored again. A free-kick on the left was headed back across goal by Vonk and Flitcroft slid the ball in.

The goal gave City their second win in 17 matches and a beleaguered manager hope. 'I know I'll be judged on results,' Horton said, 'but if the team continues to play and fight like this I'll be all right.'