Football: Cole deepens recession for City

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Cole 28, 45

Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

Attendance: 35,658

ANDY COLE is not a happy prospect for defences at the best of times, and it is difficult to imagine them being much worse for Manchester City. Ailing on and off the pitch, their condition deteriorated further thanks to the Newcastle striker.

He scored twice, both in the first half, to take his total for the season to 27 and he could have had at least two more. He propelled Newcastle after Manchester United at the top of the Premiership but, in truth, it was like kicking a man in intensive care. City are facing a difficult 1994 which, barring Francis Lee-led takeover, looks unlikely to get better.

The clanging in the head of the City manager, Brian Horton, is not the new year being rung in but an alarm prompted by injury problems and declining results. Points and players have been dropping like drunks at a party and they have only one win in their last 14 games.

That is a grim statistic but so is the casualty list as they prepare to fight relegation. Twelve players were missing from yesterday's squad which left Horton 'with no options'. He continued: 'Take players like Curle, McMahon, Flitcroft, Phelan and Quinn out of any side and they'd struggle.'

City certainly did. A shot from Mike Sheron curled over the bar in the fourth minute and Carl Shutt, on loan from Birmingham, and Fitzroy Simpson forced Mike Hooper into diving saves near the end, but in between there was not one attack from the visitors which was worthy of note.

Newcastle, meanwhile, pressed forward relentlessly. Lee Clark, Robert Lee and Scott Sellars had such a stranglehold on the midfield that the home manager, Kevin Keegan, was probably disappointed his side scored only twice. Both goals were masterpieces in the striker's art, however.

Newcastle had been probing City's right flank with some success, Cole and Peter Beardsley having early shots blocked, but after 28 minutes the visiting defence was prised wide open. Sellars crossed from the touchline and both Beardsley and Cole were left with space by the five men detailed to halt them.

Beardsley headed the ball, cushioning it into his partner's path, and from six yards with only Tony Coton to beat the result was a formality: a header so perfectly placed that the goalkeeper was comprehensively beaten even though there was little power in the effort.

Just before half-time Cole took his tally to 27 in 25 matches this season. City's defence went left and Clark threaded the ball in the opposite direction. 'It was clinical,' was Keegan's reaction to his striker's execution, drawing Coton and passing into the net.

Desperate times require desperate remedies but there was a hint of a last lifeboat about City's reaction to their half-time scoreline. As five men had been unable to control Cole, Horton reduced the rearguard to four, pushing Michel Vonk into a role of makeshift striker. It was not a success.

Vonk v Brian Kilcline was not a tussle for the purist and rather than giving City extra muscle it just made their attack more moribund. When Kare Ingebrigtsen came on for Sheron in the second half, it meant City were trying their third strike combination, which underlined their poverty.

'It was one of those games where you are happy just to get a win,' Keegan said. 'We didn't play that well but the crowd has got to learn we can't tear teams to pieces every week. They're coming here now to stop us.' At the moment you cannot conceive City stopping many.