Football: Sheron sets tone for on-song City

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Reading. . . . . . .0

Manchester City. . .4

THE MIXTURE of FA Cup third-round replays and Manchester City does not agree with Reading. In 1968 they shipped seven goals at Elm Park; last night at least they kept the tally to four.

City, who next meet Queen's Park Rangers at Loftus Road, won with all the ease the scoreline implies. There might not be a Bell, Lee or Summerbee at Maine Road these days but they could have matched the team of '68 had it not been for the goalkeeping of Steve Francis, who made four fine saves when a rout seemed imminent.

The prospect of a shock, set up after Reading's 1-1 draw in Manchester 10 days before, disappeared within four minutes. Mike Sheron supplied David White on the right and then raced into the six-yard box to meet the centre with his head.

That established the pattern. Niall Quinn had the freedom of the air and with Rick Holden and White causing palpitations every time they raided down their respective wings, Second Division Reading barely ever had the opportunity to play on Premier League nerves. Quinn, who had two goal-bound headers tipped away by Francis, eventually got the goal he deserved in the 72nd minute, turning expertly to score with his right foot from eight yards. That came four minutes after Gary Flitcroft had extinguished any prospect of a giant killing from a similar range.

The goal of the game came in the 32nd minute, however. Holden had been providing much of the ammunition for Quinn in the Reading area and perhaps the home defence expected an early centre when he received the ball near the half-way line. Instead he spun away from his marker and sped through a pedestrian back four before beating Francis.

If it had been James Lambert, the Reading 19-year-old who has attracted the interest of Monaco we would have been applauding the emergence of a rich new talent. Holden, at 28, is too long in the tooth to receive that kind of notice, but it was a fine goal nevertheless.

Lambert, flimsy-looking but highly skilled, had his moments but he was blowing against a gale.

Reading: Francis; Gooding, Hopkins (Lovell, 30), McPherson, Williams, Holzman, Gilkes, Dillon, J Quinn, Lambert, Taylor. Substitute not used: Barkus.

Manchester City: Coton; Simpson, Phelan, Reid (Vonk, 77), Curle, D Brightwell, White, Sheron, N Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitute not used: Mike.

Referee: R Gifford (Llanbradach).