Football: Hammers end Lee's new dawn

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . . .0

West Ham United. . . .0

Attendance: 29,118

THE SURPRISES could not continue indefinitely and there were none at Maine Road yesterday. Successive Manchester City victories might not have registered strongly on the Richter Scale after the impact of Cup upheavals of midweek, but they would have caused a tremor. True to type, the team promised much but failed to deliver.

After a first half in which the takeover of the club by Francis Lee looked likely to coincide with two wins on the run for the first time since September, they faded disappointingly. By the end a familiar sound was emanating from the terraces - boos.

Earlier, the biggest cheer came before a ball was kicked. Lee arrived promising to bring old glory back to Maine Road and, in terms of personnel, he did. Neil Young, scorer of the goal that won the FA Cup in 1969, was guest of honour, making up with the club in the most public way possible.

He had vowed never to set foot inside the ground again when a promise concerning a testimonial was broken, but with Peter Swales removed as chairman he made his peace, going on the pitch to acclaim.

Old favourites should be cherished, but yesterday it also emphasised what the club have lost. In the first half they deserved better than 0-0. By the end, with West Ham improving, they had grounds for feeling relieved they had not squandered all three points. Even so, the result pushed them back to fourth from bottom.

'We rode our luck,' Billy Bonds, the West Ham manager, said. 'We had a few problems down our left-hand side but once we'd sorted that out at half-time, I thought we could have pinched it.'

City's early supremacy revolved around Steve McMahon. Their poor run since Christmas coincided with his seven-week absence through injury but, restored to his position in front of the back four, the former Liverpool player was the fulcrum around which attacks were built.

Shutt and David Rocastle both went close in the first 20 minutes but Mike Sheron should have scored after Keith Curle played a precisely weighted pass through the visiting back four.

That was a prelude to a spell of City pressure in which the West Ham goal seemed to take on a charmed life. Curle had a shot headed off the line by Mike Marsh after 26 minutes and Shutt had a blistering drive from eight yards saved by Ludek Miklosko.

Indeed, but for a possible penalty when Richard Edghill bundled over Matt Holmes, the visitors had produced so little that the only charitable view was their minds were on other things, most notably next Saturday's FA Cup tie at Kidderminster. They had to improve, and they did.

Ian Bishop, a former City player, became more prominent and West Ham began to find claret instead of sky blue shirts. But their best move, a cross from Holmes that Lee Chapman put in the net, summed up the day. Like so much in the afternoon, the conclusion was disappointing, the 'goal' being disallowed for off-side.

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