Football: City show ability to cope with higher class

Manchester City 0 Southampton 0
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THE MAJORITY of the crowd at Maine Road last night will have left wondering how they failed to see a goal, but were encouraged by City's ability to hang in and match Premiership opposition.

City, a club once more full of dreams and aspirations fuelled by the rather slender evidence of second place at this early stage of their First Division campaign, had to absorb a good deal of pressure from their visitors in this Worthington Cup first-round tie.

But it was to their credit that they finished the stronger and could easily have taken a lead to carry into the second leg at The Dell next week during a frenetic last few minutes.

Much of that late action revolved around Shaun Goater, a player who makes up for his technical rough edges with his willingness to keep seeking out work.

As City began to dominate in the closing stages, he got his head to a cross from Mark Kennedy that bounced across the penalty area, only to put it wide.

With eight minutes to play, he met another left-wing cross but volleyed straight at Paul Jones and then, as time ran out, it was Goater who set up Kennedy for a fierce angled shot that had to be clawed out by Paul Jones, the Southampton goalkeeper.

Considering their earlier problems, City had done remarkably well to still be in contention at that late stage. They lost their influential captain, Andy Morrison, with a leg injury early in the first half, forcing Richard Edghill, who hardly had the inches for the job, into the middle of the back four.

Southampton had their own problems, with several players affected by a virus going through the club, but they should still have had the tie sewn up in the first half.

Marian Pahars, one of those short of full health, put one shot against the bar and another wide after being sent by Klaus Lundekvam.

Nicky Weaver, City's highly rated young goalkeeper, made an astonishing double save with his feet and legs from Southampton's leading scorer, Hassan Kachloul, but Trond Soltvedt should still have given them the lead when put through by Matthew Oakley.

"The longer it went on the more likely it was that City were going to come into it with their home crowd behind them," said the Southampton manager, David Jones.

"City kept plugging away and full credit to them, but we have several players feeling under the weather and Pahars could well have won it in the first half."

Southampton may feel now that they have weathered City's best efforts, but the First Division side showed, especially when Kennedy could get into the game, that they are capable of effective counter-attacks, even against teams threatening to sweep them away.

"But we have to be confident now, because we're at home," Jones said. "Just as City would have been confident here."

A little more steadiness in front of goal at the end and City could have turned that confidence into a morale-boosting first leg victory.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Edghill, Morrison (Crooks, 18), Jobson, Tiatto; Cooke (Bishop, 53), Whitley, Horlock, Kennedy; Taylor (Allsopp, 42), Goater. Substitutes not used: Wright-Phillips, McKinney (gk).

Southampton (4-5-1): Jones; Dodd, Lundekvam, Richards, Benali; Kachloul, Oakley, Hughes, Soltvedt (Marsden, 62), Bridge; Pahars (Beattie, 75). Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Hiley, Almeida.

Referee: K Lynch (York).