Ball bearing fruit

Manchester City 2 (Clough 25, Symons 50) QPR 0 Attendance: 27, 509
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The Independent Online
QUEEN'S Park Rangers are a side increasingly dependent on one player, Trevor Sinclair, and that is not a formula for Premiership survival. Manchester City were the latest beneficiaries of another glaring handicap - the capacity to self-destruct.

Ray Wilkins recognises his side's deficiencies. "I am confident we can get out of trouble - but I'm not playing," said the manager. "It's difficult to get players believing in themselves if they keep losing games as they did today."

Both sides have stuck to admirable footballing principles in adversity but, while City appeared to be slowly binding together the personnel necessary to turn theory into effective practice, Rangers remain short on quality and confidence.

The Manchester City manager Alan Ball put the comprehensive win into perspective: "It is such a monumental transitional season for this club. We are still bringing people in during February and still having to compete in the Premiership."

Sinclair was afforded a flexible role, switching flanks and pushing forward when chasing the game. As his side's desperation grew, so did his determination to go it alone. Wilkins substituted both first-choice strikers, Mark Hateley and Bradley Allen, who were hampered by precious little inventive service.

One replacement, Daniele Dichio, was sent off, the victim of an officious refereeing display by Mr Graham Poll, who booked 10 players before dismissing the striker for a second offence. "I thought there were far too many men booked," said an angry Wilkins. "It's got to the point where you can't touch people."

Ball also deployed a fluid formation, Georgi Kinkladze benefiting from the free role. With home debutants Michael Frontzeck and Nigel Clough adding defensive solidity and offensive intelligence respectively, another new face, winger Martyn Phillips, added a valuable outlet on the flank.

City's best move of the first half resulted in Phillips side-footing on to the far post. He was also instrumental in the first goal, Jurgen Sommer flapping at the winger's cross, Clough pouncing on the rebound to dribble a shot through retreating defenders.

The second goal, a header by Kit Symons from a Kinkladze cross, squeezed past Sommer and Adam Holloway.

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