Football: City ease away from trap door

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Horlock og 25, Rocastle 50

Swindon Town . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Fjortoft 7

Attendance: 26,360

IT looked bleak for Manchester City. They went one down and could have been two down after 10 minutes. It can't have been easy viewing for Brian Horton - if you lose at home to this Swindon side, you won't stay in the Premiership, let alone maintain what has become a rather tenuous hold on your job.

But City at least showed spirit, at best they showed some fine moments of skill and, most importantly, they put three points between themselves and the drop zone.

City's problems would perhaps have been alleviated further had Horton's bid to buy Ian Rush not foundered last week. 'If we'd have been ninth or tenth from bottom, I think Rushie might have come,' the manager said afterwards.

Horton was dealt another blow when City conceded a goal in the seventh minute. It originated from an uncommon occurrence - Steve McMahon being pushed off the ball - and ended with an increasingly common one - Jan Age Fjortoft tucking the ball away in style. In between, a fine pass had Andy Mutch running between Michel Vonk and Alan Kernaghan, checking and passing left to Fjortoft. The Norwegian sidestepped Vonk, feigned to shoot, committing Andy Dibble, before finishing a rather classy goal.

City's problems were nearly compounded three minutes later when Fjortoft headed into the net yet was penalised for excessive use of his arms. John Gorman, the Swindon manager, complained bitterly that this was a clean goal, but thereafter Swindon lost their grip, City fought back with impressive punch and won themselves the lion's share of the game.

There was a certain lack of polish to their approach, but with David Rocastle cutting in effectively from the right Swindon were reduced to a disrupting role. And even though City found Swindon's back four hard to pierce, Carl Griffiths volleyed against a post and Vonk forced a magnificent save from the fit- again Fraser Digby.

The inevitable equaliser eventually came through a move initiated and finished by a Swindon player. Poor Kevin Horlock conceded a corner and when a low cross was rifled into a crowded penalty box it struck Horlock's shin and flew in.

Thereafter City went all out in search of a winner. Griffiths could have found it with a free near-post header but it arrived six minutes after half-time via some virtuoso skill from Rocastle. Fed by Griffiths and given an embarrassment of space, Rocastle ran into the box, rounded Terry Fenwick and sidefooted home.

The Kippax loved it and showed their appreciation with a wealth of applause when Rocastle hobbled off eight minutes from time. By then, Griffiths had miskicked a chance to double the lead and City had opted to close up the game. This they did, but only just, two headers from Mutch in the closing action very nearly denying City.

Manchester City plan to rebuild Maine Road from scratch and create a pounds 50m, 47,000-seat stadium. On 7 March the club will request permission from the Football Licensing Authority to shelve any redevelopment plans for a year.

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