Football: City are saved by Sheron's late strike

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Manchester City. . .1

Reading. . . . . . .1

MANCHESTER CITY bludgeoned their way to the sanctuary of a third- round replay which, for a spell of this raw, tension-filled afternoon, seemed beyond their wit and capabilities. In truth, it was rather more a cause of City being reduced to Reading's modest Second Division status than the visitors elevating themselves to Premier League standard.

Reading were by no means flattered by the scoreline and City will be relieved to have another chance, courtesy of Mike Sheron's 74th-minute equaliser.

But for Gary Flitcroft, parity might have been beyond City. Their manager, Peter Reid, said afterwards: 'I don't normally single out players but today I thought Flitcroft was brilliant.'

Too often devoid of ideas, City resorted to a series of hit and hope balls which served merely to bolster Reading's confidence.

That crucial ingredient is patently missing from David White's game and, without his blistering assaults, City's attack is woefully impotent. Reading, tidy and composed if less than spectacular, maintained their shape and the constant menace of Jamie Lambert and Jimmy Quinn up front.

Much of City's early momentum was generated by Niall Quinn. Alas for them, he was usually the provider, rather than the recipient, of penetrating crosses. When, at last, he was supplied in a striking position, just outside the area, he delivered a side-foot shot with commendable accuracy only for Steve Francis to turn it away.

Lambert gave the first demonstration of skills acclaimed all the way to Monaco by wriggling free of two defenders to create an opening but the shot was well wide. Rick Holden was unable to profit from White's aggression on the right and City were to pay for their waste two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the first half. Lambert's cross from the left eluded the leap of Jimmy Quinn yet also a posse of City's defenders. It fell to the unattended Taylor, who kept his nerve and planted the ball in the far top corner to give Reading the lead.

City's fate could have been sealed in the 58th minute when Reading's Quinn swung out another cross from the left but the ball cleared the crossbar. City propelled themselves into retaliatory action and, at the height of the siege, White's centre reached Flitcroft in the heart of the penalty area. Although his shot comprehensively beat Francis, it cannoned from the inside of a post into the goalkeeper's grasp.

Flitcroft's commitment was rewarded 16 minutes from the end. He took the ball from David Brightwell, on as a substitute for his injured brother, Ian, and pushed it forward for Sheron to collect and claim the equaliser.

Manchester City: T Coton; I Brightwell (D Brightwell, 56 min), T Phelan, S McMahon, K Curle, A Hill, D White, M Sheron, N Quinn, G Flitcroft, R Holden. Sub not used: P Reid. Player-Manager: P Reid.

Reading: S Francis; M Gooding, J Hopkins, K McPherson, A Williams, P Parkinson, M Gilkes, M Holzman, J Quinn, J Lambert, S Taylor. Subs not used: S Lovell, L Barkus. Manager: M McGhee.

Referee: R Gifford (Mid Glamorgan).

Goals: Taylor (0-1, 45 min); Sheron (1-1, 74 min).