Football: Nixon's errors open City floodgates

Manchester City 4 Goater 5, Jobson 32, Bradbury 37, 57 Stockport County 1 Wilbraham 6 Attendance: 31,855
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The Independent Online
STOCKPORT'S goalkeeper, Eric Nixon, was forced to leave the field for six minutes after biting his tongue. His manager, Gary Megson, was forced to bite his own tongue about the benevolence his defence, and Nixon in particular, showed to their struggling neighbours.

Three of the four Manchester City goals were blamed on defensive errors, but Joe Royle's men, revitalised by the transfer deadline additions of Ian Bishop and Shaun Goater and the rediscovered scoring touch of Lee Bradbury, have wasted better opportunities this season. On a day when fellow strugglers also profited, as is so often the case, the three points that lifted City out of the drop zone were essential.

"The goals that we gave away were schoolboy errors. There were also times when City didn't score when we didn't defend, individually or collectively, very well. It wasn't tough for us to score the best goal of the five because the four they scored were pathetic. Whoever Joe Royle was to put out today would have benefited from the way we kept offering up chances all the way through the game," Megson moaned.

Royle tried to remain phlegmatic, but his relief shone through. "It was a big win for us and a big game. I am sure everybody thought: 'Here we go again, this is City' when they equalised. But we thoroughly deserved our goals, which went to the right people. Bishop came into the game as an authority and Goater's record says he scores goals. Lee Bradbury just needed those goals," Royle said.

Nixon was to blame for the first two City strikes. A regulation Jamie Pollock long-range shot, which carried weight but no real menace, thudded off the keeper's chest and into the path of the advancing Goater. His first touch offered Nixon a second chance but the ball squirted from the challenge and into the vacated net.

The Stockport response was immediate through the teenage striker Aaron Wilbraham, a Maine Road youth cast-off on his first full senior outing. Colin Woodthorpe's cross was whipped in to the impressive youngster, on the edge of the area, and his first-time half- volley was swept into the far bottom corner.

The game barely had time to develop the ensuing typical derby blood and thunder characteristics. Nixon, who needed six stitches in his tongue wound, which resulted from an unhappy landing following a mis-timed punch, was briefly replaced in goal by Brett Angell. The regular keeper's return, however, handed the lead to the home side. Another injudicious punch dropped invitingly on to the head of Richard Jobson, who nodded over the retreating defence and into the empty net.

Stockport struggled to cope with the pace and physical presence of a City strike partnership quick to exploit space behind the defence. The third goal, however, was almost impossible to defend against. An instinctive clearance was directed towards Goater who immediately poked a pass through to Bradbury. His forceful run into the area was capped with an accurate side-footed shot under the advancing Nixon.

City remained marginally and understandably the more hungry in the second period. That was evident in Richard Edghill's meaty challenge that squeezed the ball through to Bradbury for the final goal. A deft first touch set up a smashed left-foot shot into the helpless Nixon's top corner.