Football: City slip back to mediocrity

Manchester City 0 Northampton 0

THERE ARE headlines guaranteed to shock but nothing is more likely to have spoons dropped in cornflakes than "Manchester City bobbing along nicely, thank you". Catastrophe, calamity, unlucky, yes, but things going swimmingly at Maine Road? Come on.

But as the cock-up club entered this game there was the real prospect of good news. They were unbeaten in 10 league games and even automatic promotion from the Second Division seemed a possibility. Ninety minutes later and we were back in familiar territory.

Two points had been dropped at home against a club up to their necks in the relegation mire, the ninth City player had been sent off this season and anxiety that even the divisional play-offs could be missed was running rampantly round Maine Road's huge stands. The prodigal sons had returned to the disordered home.

There to greet them was City's manager Joe Royle who, if nothing else, has done a masterly job in buck-passing ever since he was appointed just over a year ago. Last season relegation was the fault of the previous manager, which neatly ignored that genial Joe was in charge for a third of it, while this time around we are constantly told the flame is fractions from the blue paper and just wait until contact is made.

On Saturday it was the referee who got it in the neck. Royle was furious that Kevin Horlock had been sent off and went on an extensive tour of previous miscarriages of justices. "We're going to end up playing in tutus," he grumbled and for the first of the two bookings that added up to a red card he had a point as the Northampton players generously acknowledged afterwards. However, no amount of Mr Messias-bashing could disguise that the official could have multiplied his mistakes by the power of 10 and still been lapped comfortably by the players.

City versus the Cobblers is an apt description of events over the last 20 years at Maine Road so perhaps we should not have been surprised at the poverty of what was being passed off as entertainment. It took a full 44 minutes for the first shot, a volley from Steve Howard that did not properly reward a perfect pass from Chris Freestone, by which time one press box wag had asked: "Why do they need a Junior Blues pantomime when they can watch this every week?"

To be fair, City improved enough for Royle to be able to assert correctly: "We dominated with 10 men so with 11 who knows?" and Billy Turley had to make two splendid saves from Michael Brown and Gareth Taylor. Nevertheless, the impression left was of a team over-conscious of the consequences of failure.

Which is unnecessary because the script was written in many minds this season even before a ball was kicked. The climax involves City being 1- 0 ahead with five minutes to go in the promotion play-off final at Wembley only to concede an own goal and lose on penalties. The hero of the opposition, the scorer of the winning kick, will, of course, be a former City player.

Ahhhhh, normality. It should be safe to return to that breakfast now.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Crooks, Wiekens, Morrison, Edghill; Cooke, Brown, Bishop, Horlock; Goater (Dickov, 62), Taylor. Substitutes not used: Tiatto, Vaughan.

Northampton Town (3-5-2): Turley; Sampson, Howey, Hope; Gibb (Warner, 79), Savaga, Hunter, Parrish, Frain; Howard, Freestone (Corazzin, 72). Substitute not used: Hill.

Referee: M Messias (York).

Sending off: Manchester City: Horlock (30). Bookings: Manchester City: Morrison; Northampton: Sampson, Howey, Warner.

Man of the match: Gibb.

Attendance: 27,999.

A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine