Tottenham Hotspur. .2
Dozzell 64, 88
THE MAINE Road boardroom imbroglio may have kept Manchester's taprooms buzzing, but the problems on the field are also mounting. A mere two home wins in the Premiership is not the fare that will keep the large disillusioned elements in the City support either passive or subdued.
For most of the first half, there seemed a fair chance that this might bring that third home win. But City flattered to deceive as they spent the 45 minutes creating chances they could not turn into goals. And, in the end, they were beaten by a far better team.
Spurs were pinned in their own half for long periods in that first half but despite some old- fashioned wing moves from Steve Lomas, the occasions when Erik Thorstvedt had to break sweat were few and far between. Indeed, so pervasive has been the message of their manager Ossie Ardiles about how he wants the game played that the goalkeeper managed a respectable body swerve and dribble round Carl Griffiths to break up a City attack.
Despite City's eagerness to strain at the leash, the early hustle and bustle tended to peter out when they came close enough to see the whites of Thorstvedt's eyes. The Spurs' keeper was the busier in the first half but moments such as David White's clever dummy which opened gaps in the Spurs' defence and the promising trickery on the left wing from Lomas turned into anti-climaxes. One or two City shots got somewhere near the goalposts, particularly Mike Sheron's crisp header after Terry Phelan had rampaged down the left wing.
In this period, for all the neat ability with which Spurs played themselves out of trouble, little was seen of them where the real damage is done although Darren Caskey's pass which sent Sol Campbell charging in on Tony Coton deserved a better fate than the striker overrunning the ball.
Eventually the blood, sweat and tears that were all City's young midfield had to offer were swamped by the combination of old heads Mike Hazard and Vinny Samways, with energetic and thoughtful assistance from Caskey.
When Hazard swept the ball wide to Darren Anderton on the right flank in the 63rd minute, it was the start of City's humiliation and despair. Anderton's cross was accurate enough for Jason Dozzell to steal past a somewhat static Keith Curle to stab the first goal beyond Coton.
What little confidence had been coursing through City's veins seemed to drain away at this blow and for the next 20 minutes the visitors provided something of an object lesson in how the game can be played. Campbell, who had played the role of misfit striker until then, was suddenly transformed into a menace by the service from Caskey and Hazard.
City did muster a late rally when David Brightwell replaced Mike Sheron in the 80th minute. But even that peaked with an appeal for a penalty when Lomas had his legs pulled from underneath him on the edge of the penalty box. But the referee disagreed with City's fervent pleadings for justice.
Salt was then rubbed firmly into the Maine Road wounds two minutes from time when Caskey delivered a sublime chip over the heads of the City defence for Dozzell to volley a spectacular second.
Some of City's frustration came though in the second half bookings of Garry Flitcroft and Mike Quigley, but until they find a replacement who can match the injured Niall Quinn's goal-scoring touch, City will have troubles enough, whether in boardroom or on the pitch.Reuse content