Football: City's nine under a cloud

AFC Bournemouth 0

Manchester City 0

Attendance: 10,964

MANCHESTER CITY finished an afternoon of immovable objects running up against unstoppable forces with only nine players as two highly capable teams cancelled each other out in a match whose excitement belied the scoreline.

In purely footballing terms City had little to complain about, but their aggrieved post-match comments centred around the performance of the referee, Brian Coddington, a local government officer from Sheffield, whose letter- of-the-law interpretation of the rules infuriated the visiting manager Joe Royle and Jamie Pollock, his captain, who was the first player to receive his marching orders six minutes from time. "I can honestly say I've never seen a referee as poor as today," Pollock said after a tackle on the Bournemouth midfielder John Bailey had earned him a second booking. "I play like that week in week out and I didn't touch the guy," he added.

Kevin Horlock followed his team-mate to the dressing-room on the stroke of full-time for his second caution, a decision that brought incredulity from Royle who now faces crucial matches in his side's play-off push without key players. Royle, said: "I must have missed a rule change because we had one player booked for aggressive walking." Royle confirmed that Horlock was booked for "walking towards the referee in an aggressive manner while asking a question. The referee admitted that the player never swore."

"I'm very, very disappointed. There were two sets of rules out there today. Other sides might come here and be pleased with the point but we're not."

Bournemouth missed their chance to record a first-ever victory over their opponents but extended a formidable home record of 20 games without defeat and announced that the extent of their ambitions may yet extend beyond a play-off place.

The tactics of both sides appeared to be that of working off a central target-man, Steve Fletcher for Bournemouth - a centre-forward in the Lee Chapman mould - and for City, Shaun Goater. It was Fletcher who had the best chance of the first half, controlling the ball well after a through-pass from Neil Young, before shooting wide.

City opened the second half brightly but in recent weeks Bournemouth have seen off their promotion rivals Preston and Stoke and they coped admirably, never looking likely to add to the seven goals conceded at home all season. The one aberration came when Young sold his goalkeeper short with a pass back and Gareth Taylor should have scored.

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