Football: `Abysmal' City plumbing new depths

Stockport County 3 Manchester City 1
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The Independent Online
Like Manchester City, there were little turning points in football history all over the place at Edgeley Park. It was Stockport's first victory over their near neighbours in a serious match, but perhaps more significantly it was the day on which City lost all claim to being a temporarily displaced Premiership club.

City, the side with all the history and tradition, were awful during the first half. Frank Clark's description of them as "abysmal" erred only on the side of generosity. If they improved afterwards, it was - as a manager looking hangdog even by his standards observed - only because they could get no worse.

With Georgi Kinkladze blunted by the constant attentions of Tony Dinning, City had nothing to offer in attack. "It was a decision I took about three months ago," said Stockport's manager, Gary Megson. "He's the best dribbler in the world if you let him be."

He was never allowed that leeway and, worse than that, City seemed unwilling to compete for the ball in their own half. A three-goal deficit at half- time was a modest reflection of their inadequacies.

Their famously long-suffering supporters were booing them off the field. There were even reports that Curly Watts of Coronation Street had left his seat in disgust.

"If they can't take the pressure of coming to play Stockport County, then we really have got problems," said Clark, unwittingly echoing the general assumption that City should be able to take such minnows in their stride.

But the fact is that Stockport are a much more cohesive and purposeful team than City. In Brett Angell and Alun Armstrong, they have two strikers who not only work hard but work together; City must already be into double figures with the different combinations they have tried.

The scale of their failure at Edgeley Park should surely have shown all of them that talk of a new year dash for the play-offs is like whistling "Blue Moon" in a howling gale. It is the trap-door at the other end of the First Division table that will be their concern.

Goals: Cook (6) 1-0; Armstrong (8) 2-0; Angell (30) 3-0; Brannan (49) 3-1.

Stockport County (4-1-3-2): Nixon; Connelly, Flynn, McIntosh, Searle; Dinning; Gannon, Bennett, Cook (Byrne, 75); Armstrong, Angell. Substitutes not used: Cooper, Nash.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Margetson; Edghill, Symons, Wiekens, Vaughan; Russell, McGoldrick (Brown, 67), Brannan, Horlock; Kinkladze, Dickov. Substitutes not used: Greenacre, Van Blerk.

Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).

Bookings: City: Symons, Edghill.

Man of the match: Cook.

Attendance: 11,531.