Football: Allsopp starts recovery

Manchester City 2 Goater 8, Allsopp 85 Burnley 2 Payton 34, Cooke 54 Attendance: 30,722
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The Independent Online
IF MANCHESTER City fail to fulfil what their supporters see as their manifest destiny by getting out of the Second Division at the first attempt, they will surely look back on these as the sort of dropped points that kept them in their reduced station in life.

A match they should have won with some comfort was salvaged as a draw only by a late goal from the young Australian substitute, Danny Allsopp. Even with his equaliser, it hardly qualified as a tonic for City's manager, Joe Royle, in hospital recuperating from a hip replacement. You could say that City as a club are in the process of recuperation. On this showing it is an uneven business with as many relapses as recoveries.

They started full of vigour and promise, with the front-running of Shaun Goater and Lee Bradbury threatening to take Burnley apart. If Bradbury's pass to Goater for the first goal looked suspiciously mis-hit, that hardly seemed to matter. City looked like they would add to that early breakthrough.

However, Gavin Ward, on loan from Bolton, kept City at bay and the home side gradually lost their way. They also lost their lead - or rather threw it away - 12 minutes before half-time. Nick Fenton, a young central defender of whom City have high hopes, was largely responsible. He failed to control the ball and then hopelessly under-hit his back-pass to Nicky Weaver, Andy Payton accepting the obvious invitation.

Bradbury had a couple of chances to restore City's lead before the break. Instead, they went behind, against the run of play, on 53 minutes. Paul Smith, virtually anonymous on the left for Burnley, suddenly produced the sort of cross that begged for any touch to put it into the net. Andy Cooke, who had already seen what looked like a good effort disallowed in the first half, arrived and obliged.

That triggered a predictably frantic charge from City, who responded by bringing on Allsopp for his fellow Australian, Danny Tiatto. This was not popular among the increasingly restless Maine Road natives, as Tiatto had been one of City's better players, but with time rapidly running out Allsopp got the vital touch to Goater's header from Kevin Horlock's pull-back. Royle was at least spared the news that his team was in worse shape than him.