Football / FA Cup: City's stock falls

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Reading. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

IT SEEMS the word of the moment is 'attitude'. All weekend, we have heard football folk past and present extol its virtue, none more passionately than Manchester City's manager, Peter Reid.

He identified the attitude of his young midfield player, Garry Flitcroft, as the salvation of his team and an example to all about him. Flitcroft was rightly adjudged man of the match. He had the appetite and determination lacking in too many of his colleagues.

And yet there has, surely, to be more to it than that. Attitude alone cannot explain why a lower Second Division side should contain a mid-table Premier League team with relative ease.

The brutal fact is that much of City's game was pitifully inept. It is their control as well as their commitment, their technique as well as their tenacity, which must be questioned.

You require more than a big heart to outwit defenders and deliver penetrating passes. City's strategy was naive, their distribution erratic.

Flitcroft's performance was a marvellous exception because he had the touch and vision to go with his industry. Indeed, his crucial contribution was an exquisite 74th minute through-ball which presented Mike Sheron with the opportunity for City's equaliser.

There was quality, too, in Reading's goal, scored deep in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Scott Taylor, drafted into a depleted team, found the far top corner of Tony Coton's net with immense authority.

City, suitably chastised by Reid during the interval, responded with greater urgency in the second half and we had a contest of traditional, if not classical, cup tie football. Flitcroft appeared to have acquitted himself perfectly after a rare, incisive cross from the mysteriously ineffective David White. Flitcroft steadied himself and deliberately steered the ball wide of Steve Francis, only for it to strike the inside of a post and rebound into the goalkeeper's arms.

The rest of City's players will need to imitate the finer attributes of Flitcroft's game if they are to be spared an embarrassing exit from the competition.

Goals: Taylor (44) 0-1; Sheron (73) 1-1.

Manchester City: Coton; I Brightwell (D Brightwell, 56), Phelan, McMahon, Curle, Hill, White, Sheron, N Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitute not used: Reid.

Reading: Francis; Gooding, Hopkins, McPherson, Williams, Parkinson, Gilkes, Holzman, J Quinn, Lambert, Taylor. Substitutes not used: Lovell, Barkus.

Referee: R Gifford (Mid-Glamorgan).