Football: Wycombe expose Ball's barren City

COCA-COLA CUP: Wanderers' work in vain
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The Independent Online
Wycombe Wanderers 0 Manchester City 0

The "kick start" to the season for which City's manager Alan Ball was hoping failed to occur at Adams Park last night. The Premiership's basement club - with one point from six games - struggled for parity in this Coca- Cola Cup second round, first leg against Second Division opposition. At the end of a low-key match, the best commentary on the visitors' performance came from their own fans, to the tune of "Blue Moon": "One shot, we've only had one shot..."

Ball, uncharacteristically subdued, was asked afterwards if there had been any pluses in his side's performance. "Yes," he said after a long pause. "We didn't let a goal in."

Asked how long it might take him to turn things round at Maine Road, he responded: "I don't think I can tell you that. I've got to go on from day to day." Maine Road itself is midway through a massive redevelopment, and City could have been forgiven feelings of culture shock in this neat little ground wedged between an industrial estate and woods of beech and silver birch which rose above the stands eerily in the floodlights.

Its residents made the bright start one might have expected from a side unbeaten in five games, and they penetrated the City penalty area after 15 minutes when Miguel De Souza turned Kit Symons before diving when challenged by Richard Edghill. For this ungentlemanly conduct he was cautioned. Ian Brightwell joined him in the book six minutes later for a high challenge on Dave Carroll and Edghill became the second City player to receive a yellow card after fouling David Farrell.

The speed and trickery of Terry Phelan and Peter Beagrie on the left flank began to raise City's hopes. When Carroll lost the ball on the edge of his box, Uwe Rosler produced the visitors' first genuine goal attempt which was well held by Paul Hyde. Niall Quinn appeared to have gone one better two minutes from time when he shot inside the post after Phelan had supplied him, but the effort was declared offside.

Wycombe retained optimism thanks to the muscular charges of De Souza. After 67 minutes he had the ball in the net from Farrell's near-post cross, but the ticker-tape acclamation proved premature: De Souza was ruled to have bundled over the keeper illegally.

Wycombe Wanderers (4-4-2): Hyde; Rowbotham, Crossley, Howard, Hardyman; Carroll, Patterson, Brown, Farrell; De Souza, Williams. Substitutes not used: McGavin, McGorry, Soloman.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Immel; Edghill, Symons, Curle, Phelan; Kinkladze (Summerbee, 61), Lomas, Brightwell, Beagrie; Quinn, Rosler. Substitutes not used: Brown, Margetson (gk).

Referee: M Pierce (Portsmouth).