If Manchester City are to gain an instant return to the Premiership, it will come via the play-offs rather than an automatic promotion spot. That was the admission of their manager Kevin Keegan after he had been "hurt and embarrassed'' by his side's horror performance at The Hawthorns yesterday.
Keegan was truthful rather than scathing with his after-match thoughts. Not only were 5,000 travelling fans treated to a display resembling a Sunday morning game on the local park, but the manager all but ruled out promotion too.
"It was not good enough for Manchester City, not good enough for the supporters and not good enough for me,'' Keegan said of the defeat, the club's third in six games this season. "It doesn't matter whether it hurts me, it matters that the players are hurt. We couldn't find anything out there.''
Keegan was far from happy with a dubious penalty awarded by the referee Graham Frankland, which he claimed turned the game in West Bromwich's favour. In truth, however, City failed to muster a meaningful shot on target in the whole game.
Neil Clement slammed in the 67th-minute spot kick to add to Derek McInnes's impressive volleyed first-half opener, but the decision to penalise Steve Howey for a routine challenge on the substitute Scott Dobie seemed a harsh one. Clement then scored with a nonchalant 20-yard free-kick, which he curled round the wall with his left foot as goalkeeper Nicky Weaver stood motionless.
The West Bromwich manager, Gary Megson, claimed that: "We expected Neil to score from there.'' Dobie rounded off the victory with the fourth six minutes from time, after leaving the City back line trailing in his wake.
The fact that Dobie had to be deployed will be worrying for Megson, though, with the striker Jason Roberts limping off on his return from injury with a recurrence of his foot problem.
Keegan's difficulties are stark. He needs new blood to breath new life into the club and in addition must rid City of their travel sickness if they are to even meet his expectations and make the play-offs. "I've got two or three younger lads I want to play and I need to get Eyal Berkovic back as well," he said. "He will give us that something extra. I'm confident we can finish in the top six but we are nowhere near good enough for automatic promotion.''
West Bromwich Albion 4 Manchester City 0
McInnes 10, Clement pen 67, 79, Dobie 83
Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 23,524Reuse content