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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor