Football: City still look in place at lower level

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The Independent Online
Manchester City 2 Burnley 2

IT WAS appropriate that, on the day that Joe Royle joked from his hospital bed about throwing the off-cut from his hip replacement operation to the family pet, City's performance should also go to the dogs.

Royle's side only scrambled a point from a Second Division fixture that would once have been the pick of the top-flight programme thanks to Danny Allsopp's late equaliser.

Although there was an echo of both clubs' more illustrious history in a crowd of over 30,000 - better than all but one in the First Division and two in the Premiership - that was the only sense in which they looked out of place at this level.

Burnley have been in reduced circumstances long enough to be used to the idea. City supporters might be convinced that their depth of distress can only be temporary, but there are few signs that it is going to be a straight-forward task to start the climb back.

It says much about the calibre of their squad that their best performer was the much-maligned striker Lee Bradbury. His former career in the Army has lent itself to headlines about firing blanks and the story around Maine Road was that, when it came to stencilling his name on the dressing room wall, the lack of the letter R transformed him into Bad buy.

Sound investment or not, Bradbury's energy and endeavour was just about the best that City had to offer. His willing running ended with the ball bobbling in Shaun Goater's path for the opening goal and he, Goater and Richard Edghill all had opportunities to make the game safe before Burnley's youngsters settled down.

"We're making lots of chances," said Royle's stand-in, Willie Donachie. "But both of their goals were bad goals from our point of view."

The equaliser was certainly a shocker, Nick Fenton losing the ball between his feet and then selling his goalkeeper short with his back pass. The effort that put Burnley ahead sprang from a curling cross from Paul Smith, although Andy Cooke was left free to run through and convert it.

That led to the introduction of Allsopp, the young Australian who has specialised in late salvage efforts and who obliged again by hooking in Goater's header six minutes from time.

"That's his position at the moment and he's very good at it," said Donachie. "His strength and pace are phenomenal; he's just got to learn the game a little bit more."

Donachie, who played for City in their last home league meeting with Burnley in 1975, expressed confidence in the ability of the present crop of young players to develop quickly enough to keep them in the promotion frame. If not, he admitted, the club "might have to come up with some money for players." A few more Bad Buys in prospect, no doubt.

Stan Ternant, without the option of bringing in high-priced recruits, is reasonably happy with the way his less experienced players are progressing. Smith, Mark Robertson, Glen Little and the 19-year-old defender, Matthew Heywood, all showed potential.

"I was at a different game from Willie," said Ternant. "I thought we were going to win. We've got young players, but they are learning all the time."

Manchester City (3-5-2): Weaver; Fenton, Wiekens, Vaughan; Edghill, Mason, Jim Whitley, Horlock, Tiatto (Allsopp, 55); Bradbury, Goater. Substitutes not used: Crooks, Jeff Whitley.

Burnley(3-5-2): Ward; Heywood, Armstrong, Reid; Little, Scott, Robertson, Vindheim (C Smith, 70), P Smith; Cooke, Payton. Substitutes not used: Carr-Lawton, Maylett.

Referee: R Furnandiz (Doncaster).

Bookings: Burnley: Scott.

Man of the match: Bradbury.

Attendance: 30,722.