Barnsley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
THE Barnsley manager, Mel Machin, was sceptical about City's midweek list of injuries and illness, and smiled at Peter Reid's report of two-a- side practice matches. At the crunch, and there are few occasions crunchier than the FA Cup fifth round, Maine Road produced almost the full available cast on Saturday: too much for Barnsley, who were beaten by a lack of inches.
Their goalkeeper, Lee Butler, and their back four had an average height of less than 6ft. Niall Quinn stands 6ft 3in, David White is 6ft 1in and behind them, for free-kicks, there are Michel Vonk and Keith Curle, both over 6ft. Tony Coton, in City's goal, is only an inch shorter than Quinn. The sky-blue air force won the day.
Machin tried to camouflage any weaknesses around his own area by playing a sweeper, which was effective only in so far as it put a clamp on Mike Sheron. What the system also did was weaken Barnsley's attack, which meant that they were rarely able to play to their strengths: the quick break and the accurate finish.
It was a matter of inches, too, at City's end - for Coton, not expected to play because of a stomach virus, was able to stretch when needed, notably when he made what must have been close to the save of this round: getting his finger tips to David Currie's shot on the half-hour. Up to that point, and a little beyond, Barnsley had looked the more effective team, despite having less possession and less territory. City, with Garry Flitcroft at right-back and Peter Reid limited in range, looked at one point as if they would settle, not unhappily, for a 0-0 draw.
Quinn's heading power in the box proved to be the decisive factor in Barnsley's thinking. Three times he had threatened their goal without causing too much alarm, but his very presence inside the area gave defenders a twitch. On the stroke of half-time, another cross came sailing in from the left, Barnsley looked to Quinn but it was White, turning up in the middle, who got in the header that Butler parried but could not hold.
It was as if City had turned the key in the lock. From then onwards, they kept swinging the ball across the face of Barnsley's goal and either Quinn, or White, would be on the end of it.
Reid praised his team's 'patience, discipline and professionalism', words they deserved, but there was not much adventure about either side, although Flitcroft has the pace, balance and vision to become a very accomplished player. We cannot have City, of all teams, becoming boringly successful.
Goals: White (44) 1-0; White (61) 2-0.
Manchester City: Coton; Reid (Hill, 70), Phelan, Simpson, Curle, Vonk, White, Sheron, Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitute not used: Ingebrigsten.
Barnsley: Butler; Robinson, Fleming (Williams, 70), Bishop, Taggart, O'Connell, Currie, Rammell, Liddell (Biggins, 63), Redfearn, Archdeacon.
Referee: K Barratt (Coventry).Reuse content