Stockport achieved their first ever victory over City in a competitive match, partly thanks to their own enthusiasm and ability, but mainly due to a performance from the visitors that Frank Clark called "abysmal". And the City manager was justified in being disgusted by the way his team handed the points to Stockport during the first half at Edgeley Park.
"We played as though we just had to turn up and win," he said. "We had chances to get something out of the match in the second half, but we didn't deserve it. You can't play like that for 45 minutes and expect to win a match at any level of football."
When optimistic City supporters predicted that they would soon be playing local derbys once more, the seven-mile trip to Stockport was not what they had in mind. City's players went about the fixture in the first half as though it was below their dignity and got precisely what they deserved.
Two goals within the space of two minutes set them on their way to a defeat that keeps them precariously close to the foot of the table. The first was a beauty, struck from well outside the area by the educated and powerful left foot of Paul Cook after the Stockport front-runners, Alun Armstrong and Brett Angell, had wrong-footed the City defence.
The second was largely the product of woeful hesitancy, City failing to clear Cook's corner as it bobbled around at their near post and allowing Armstrong to hook it into the net.
Stockport had a string of other chances before they went three ahead on the half-hour. Sean Connelly found Angell in the box and he lost any prospective markers with contemptuous ease and hit his shot under the body of the advancing Martyn Margetson.
"We were cruising at half-time, but we knew it would be a different game in the second half," said the Stockport manager and former City player Gary Megson. "I asked the players to keep everything exactly the same, but it's difficult to keep the same mental approach."
That word "abysmal" must have featured heavily in Clark's half-time analysis and his team did at least lift its efforts. "It couldn't have been much worse," he observed ruefully.
After their liveliest player, Paul Dickov, had made one chance and had it saved by Eric Nixon, Ged Brannan scored a goal as spectacular as Cook's opener, dipping his powerful shot over Nixon from over 30 yards out.
City had other chances after that, notably to Kevin Horlock and Georgi Kinkladze, but as Clark admitted they were not worthy of the touch of good fortune that could have brought them a second goal.Reuse content