Ball is silent on City limits

Nottingham Forest 3 Lee 10, 46, Stone 82 Manchester City 0 Attenda nce: 25,620
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The Independent Online
ALAN BALL last night refused to admit that the pressures of managing beleaguered Manchester City were getting to him. Indeed he refused to admit anything. For the first time since he succeeded Brian Horton at Maine Road, Ball declined to attend the post-match press conference, but until his team can reverse the nosedive into which they are currently locked, his job will continue to be perceived as the least safe in the Premiership.

Seven league defeats in a row - the worst such sequence in the club's history - has condemned Ball's team to a struggle against relegation with the season barely into its stride. And there is so much still for Ball to do, assuming that he stays. Although they were not helped by the loss of defender Ian Brightwell, sent off before half-time, there was so little cohesion about City's play that their league position looks authentic beyond argument.

Perversely, City might have claimed a fourth-minute lead, only Stuart Pearce's intervention denying Gerry Creaney an open goal. But from the moment Forest went ahead in the 10th minute, the outcome seemed so certain that the only threat was their own complacency.

Indeed, Forest surrendered the initiative for long periods before half- time, but City did little to suggest they could capitalise and the dismissal of Brightwell, cautioned twice in the space of 60 seconds, must have convinced Ball that nothing was going to go right for him.

Even in a low-key performance, Forest produced the better openings, but Bryan Roy, for all his impressive touches, let himself down with his finishing. It was no surprise, however, that the second half saw a refocusing of their ambitions. Within three minutes of the restart they had doubled their lead and they had enough in hand to add a third goal eight minutes from time.

The occasion was a milestone of sorts for Jason Lee, the man originally hired as a pounds 200,000 understudy for Stan Collymore. He has had a long wait for an extended chance to claim a leading role. Lee scored the first two goals and although neither could be called spectacular, there is nothing better for a striker's self-esteem than to see his name on the scoresheet. Steve Stone, exchanging passes with Ian Woan, finished City off with the tidiest goal of the three.

City at times looked more comfortable with ten men than with 11 and Uwe Rosler twice went close with second-half headers, but they could not dissuade Ball from holding a prolonged inquest, from which he emerged to say: "I'm not talking to the press. They've been making things up all week, they can make them up again now."

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