Football: City slip back to mediocrity
Manchester City 0 Northampton 0
Monday 08 March 1999
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.
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Latest in Sport
Arsenal can surprise Bayern Munich in the Champions League, says former midfielder Gilberto Silva
Liverpool - January transfer targets
Transfer news: Liverpool - January transfer targets
Transfer news: Manchester United - January transfer targets
Transfer news: Arsenal - Transfer targets for January
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
£10 - £12 per hour: Pro-Recruitment Group: An opportunity has arisen within th...
Flexible, Competitive, Weekly.: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobRandstad ...
£9600 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are...
£500 - £680 per day: Harrington Starr: Murex Business Analyst - 1000 CHF per d...