Football: Horton's poor run goes from bad to worse: City's crisis deepens

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United. . .2

Manchester City. . . 0

THERE are pivotal moments in life which, on reflection, a person may wish had taken a different course. Julius Caesar should have taken March off; Marie Antoinette's PR man might have come up with a snappier line than let them eat cake; Brian Horton could have been out when Manchester City called.

Quite what the manager at Maine Road did in his early life to earn his current suffering is unclear but his fortune is of the sort a man marketing a new line in clubs might have the day the first sword salesman arrived. As the song goes, if he did not have any bad luck he'd have no luck at all.

To summarise his position: he is at a football club where the supporters do not appreciate him, the people who employed him originally are leaving, the men trying to take over are rumoured to be less than impressed and results are getting worse.

The net result is a run that has accrued only one win in 14 matches. But far worse is the injury situation which suggests there will be no significant improvement until next month at least. Twelve players were missing when Horton examined his resources before travelling to Newcastle. 'I had no options,' he moaned. A 2-0 scoreline which pushed City to a point from the relegation positions was about as good as they could have hoped for.

It is the lack of alternatives that suggest Horton's position could be untenable by the time anyone, be it Francis Lee or anybody else short of a mountain or two to shift, buys the club. 'Take Curle, McMahon, Flitcroft, Phelan and Quinn out of any team and they'd struggle,' he said, not without justification.

With his best players Horton managed a run that suggested City's worst days had gone. Without them then you get Saturday's ponderous performance and David Rocastle, you suspect, is already looking back to his 'hell' at Leeds as purgatory to prepare him for the real thing in a sky blue shirt.

Consequently Newcastle won at a canter without being at their best. 'It was a game that you are thankful for a win,' their manager, Kevin Keegan, said. Not for the first time it was Andy Cole who provided the three points with two goals so clinically executed you could believe he learned his trade at a hospital rather than Highbury.

City employed Michel Vonk as a man-to-man marker but with no one remotely as quick as the Newcastle striker in their rearguard the inevitable was always likely to happen. It did after 28 minutes when Scott Sellars crossed from the left, Peter Beardsley headed back and Cole, who had been allowed to wander leisurely in from the touchline, had the freedom of the six-yard box to beat Tony Coton.

Just before half-time Cole made it 27 goals in 25 matches when Lee Clark found him with the City back-four strung out like a line of washed football shirts. One on one with Coton he teased the City keeper with a lean to the left and then pushed the ball to his other side. 'It was typical Cole,' Keegan said.

Goal: Cole (28) 1-0; Cole (45) 2-0.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Hooper; Robinson (Mathie, 77), Kilcline, Howey, Beresford; Lee, Bracewell (Watson, h/t), Clark, Sellars; Beardsley, Cole. Substitute not used: Srnicek (gk).

Manchester City (5-3-2): Coton; Edghill, Vonk, Foster, Kernaghan, Brightwell; Lomas, Rocastle, Simpson; Sheron (Ingebrigtsen, 61), Shutt. Substitutes not used: Finney, Dibble (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).

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