Football: Russell provides a timely reminder

Manchester City 3 Halifax Town 0
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The Independent Online
CRAIG RUSSELL emerged from the massed ranks of Maine Road's forgotten players to lift City over the potentially tricky FA Cup hurdle of the Third Division leaders last night.

City, unaccustomed to the indignity of playing in the first round of the competition and in front of their lowest ever FA Cup crowd, benefited from Joe Royal's decision to use Russell, in his first start of the season in his natural position on the left of a three-man attack. Halifax had no answer to his pace in that role and, as a result, were never in a position to threaten an upset.

A side only a few months out of the Vauxhall Conference missed the abrasive presence of their captain, Kevin Hulme, suspended by Halifax for his leading part in the 20-man brawl against Chester on Tuesday. Sadly, they never looked likely to make a bit a fight of this tie.

Russell's two first-half goals were uncannily similar in their construction, both stemming from long balls played out of defence, moved on deftly for him by his strike partners Shaun Goater and Paul Dickov. For his first, after only six minutes, the Halifax goalkeeper Martin Lee, got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out. Goater and Dickov also combined 11 minutes before half-time, Russell this time taking the ball on to flick it past the advancing goalkeeper.

The former Sunderland player could have had his hat-trick early in the second half but this time Martin saved well at this feet. Halifax reinforced their lightweight attack by sending Mark Sertori, a part time coach on their community development scheme, up front but his one effort on goal bore the mark of a career spent in defence.

Then, 20 minutes into the half, Russell was instrumental in putting the tie beyond any doubt. His speed took him to the by-line and his low cross left Goater with a simple tap in.

It was enough to show Halifax and their contingent of travelling fans that sterner challenges await them if they hold their position in their division and rise above their current station. Not that City or their match-winner were getting carried away. He was not dreaming of Wembley, said Russell, just of getting into the first team again next week.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Weaver; Crooks, Wiekens, Morrison, Vaughan; Mason, Bishop (Pollock, 89), Horlock (M Brown, 75); Dickov, Goater, Russell. Substitutes not used: Allsopp, Jeff Whitley, Wright (gk).

Halifax Town (3-5-2): Martin; Sertori, J Murphy, Stoneman; Thackeray, J Brown, Butler, Lucas (S Murphy, 71), Bradshaw; Paterson, Williams. Substitutes not used: Place, Stansfield, Newton, Hamlet.

Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).

n Swansea City scored their first FA Cup success for nearly four years last night, beating Millwall 3-0 at Vetch Field with goals from Jason Price, Martin Thomas and Julian Alsop to sail into the second round.