Football / Coca-Cola Cup: Holden relieves City pressure: Rovers' sense of injustice

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Bristol Rovers . . .1

Manchester City. . .2

(aet; score at 90 min 1-1. City win 2-1 on agg)

MANCHESTER CITY made it to the third round of the Coca-Cola Cup last night but not even their most blue-eyed supporter would have described their performance as the real thing. A goal scored in injury time of extra time decided it, leaving Bristol Rovers tasting just a hint of injustice.

Not only had Rick Holden's strike owed more than a little to Rovers' over-adventurous attempts to nullify what would have been the decisive away goal, but the home team had grievances about that first City goal in the first place.

Rovers were adamant that Steve McMahon had committed a foul in the build-up to the 69th-minute corner which yielded City's opening strike. And the fact that Niall Quinn's back-header hit at least two home players before the ball bounced somewhat apologetically into the net hardly soothed the Bristol senses. The dishonour of the final touch was awarded to Lee Maddison as an own goal.

The scrappiness of that goal encapsulated a match that never properly rose to the standards expected in have-nots v haves affairs. City, with two players who cost more than pounds 4m, are in a different league financially as well as by dint of their Premier League status, compared to their cash-starved opponents but hardly ever suggested it on the field once their initial charge, which could have brought goals to Quinn and Andy Hill, ground to a halt.

They created more chances in the first half last night than they did throughout the whole 90 minutes in the 0-0 first leg at Maine Road, but rather than draw encouragement from these opportunities, the misses seemed to weigh on their minds. The four successive matches in which they failed to score before Saturday's 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest were probably too recent to be discarded.

Even when they went ahead they had the look of men who half-expected to be tripped up and their lead lasted only six minutes. City cleared the initial danger from a corner on the right but merely propelled it to the edge of the area where Andy Reece, thundering in like the London-Bristol trains that run by the ground, thumped the ball past Tony Coton.

That prolonged the match into extra time and cued up what was, despite the slightly unsatisfactory nature of it all, a fine goal by Holden, the second for his new club after his transfer from Oldham Athletic in the summer.

The City winger cut in from the left flank, swept past Ian Alexander and dummied to pass before shooting past Brian Parkin via the left-hand post. It was by far City's best moment of the match. Pity we had to wait for two hours.

Bristol Rovers: Parkin; Alexander, Twentyman, Yates, Maddison (Saunders, 69), Wilson, Mehew, Reece, Taylor, Stewart, Hardyman (Cross, 97).

Manchester City: Coton; Brightwell, Phelan, McMahon (Reid, 110), Curle, Hill, White, Sheron (Flitcroft, 73), Quinn, Simpson, Holden.

Referee: D Frampton (Poole, Dorset).

Comments