Football: Brightwell the bold

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . 2

Walsh 33, D Brightwell 48

Newcastle United. .1

Sellars 19

Attendance: 33,774

MANCHESTER City's increasingly confident surge towards Premiership safety is producing some unlikely heroes. Alongside players the Maine Road faithful had hardly heard of a few weeks ago, a few they could have been excused for having forgotten are producing crucial contributions.

David Brightwell, well down the pecking order as a central defender earlier this season, has proved an unheralded asset at left back since coming in for the injured Terry Phelan.

Yesterday he not only kept the expensive Ruel Fox on the tightest of leashes, but also came up with the goal that gave a positive and enterprising City a richly deserved third victory in eight days. The wins will have salvation writ large all over them on the calendar of their season.

City went behind to a Newcastle side who frequently looked every bit as dangerous as should be expected of an outfit with their European aspirations. Andy Dibble failed to make a sufficiently decisive move for an early cross from Mike Jeffrey, a pounds 60,000 signing from Doncaster who was filling in amid an injury-hit midfield and his delay allowed Scott Sellars in to stab home at the far post.

A team without City's rediscovered self-belief could have been flattened by such a blow. Instead, they continued to move forward with purpose and balance.

Whether by luck or judgment, an apparently ill-assorted collection of newcomers hastransformed the mood at Maine Road. It was entirely fitting that two of those new faces should combine for the equaliser, Peter Beagrie angling in a cross which Paul Walsh, breaking away from the matching Seventies haircuts in Newcastle's defence, squeezed neatly below the bar with a glancing header.

Newcastle warned of the quality they were capable of summoning up when Peter Beardsley slid an immaculate pass into the stride of Andy Cole, only for his prolific partner to clip his shot against the underside of the bar.

Four minutes into the second half, however, the decisive breakthrough fell to City. Beagrie's corner appeared to have been cleared beyond danger, but Michel Vonk won the ball and steered it to yet another newcomer, Steffen Karl. His cross ran loose under pressure from his German compatriot Uwe Rosler at the near post, and the unexpected figure of Brightwell was there to claim his first goal of the season.

City could have added substantially to that one-goal lead, some approach work of real assurance producing chances for Karl and the irrepressible Beagrie, who was singled out for special praise by the Manchester City manager, Brian Horton, afterwards.

'We have a brand new front four. We are scoring goals and winning matches,' he said. 'We are looking a lot better, even though Newcastle today were the best side we have played for a long time.'

To have beaten them in such style is the mark of City's startling improvement.