City punished by Dinning's penalty

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When does a blip become a slump? Despite dominating for most of the match at Maine Road last night, City lost their third game in a row, Tony Dinning's penalty five minutes from time throwing a further obstruction into the path of their faltering First Division promotion campaign.

When does a blip become a slump? Despite dominating for most of the match at Maine Road last night, City lost their third game in a row, Tony Dinning's penalty five minutes from time throwing a further obstruction into the path of their faltering First Division promotion campaign.

Joe Royle had given City as emphatic a vote of confidence as he could after two defeats in quick succession by retaining the same line-up that lost at Wolves. That meant a home debut for Robert Taylor, the £1.5m signing from Gillingham who twice headed wide in the first 10 minutes from equally inviting left- wing crosses from Mark Kennedy and Danny Granville.

Either one could have yielded Taylor's first goal for the club and City continued to look destined to pull out of their decline, but Carlo Nash saved with his legs to deny Ian Bishop.

The opposing left-backs, Shane Nicholson and Granville, were booked within a minute of each other for similarly clumsy challenges. There were signs in a couple of County's breaks that they were prepared to match City in other respects as well.

It was still City, and Kennedy in particular, who had the extra touch of quality and, after 32 minutes, his glorious cross was skimmed over the crossbar by Bishop at full stretch. They were almost as close two minutes later, Granville putting his shot just the wrong side of the post from Kennedy's pass.

The goal they deserved would not come and County came closer than City had done all half when Nicky Weaver had to tip over from Nicholson's ambitious long-range effort.

Alan Bailey nicked the top of the bar for Stockport, but four minutes into the second half City finally took the lead. Richard Jobson had the first attempt at forcing in Kennedy's corner and his fellow defender, Gerard Wiekens, eventually fired it into the roof of the net.

Almost immediately, Weaver had to save acrobatically from the lively Bailey, who had his moment in the 65th minute, latching on to the rebound after Tony Dinning had hit the post to slot home the equaliser.

The ebb and flow of a fascinating game saw a sliced clearance hit a Stockport post straight after, but despite their increasingly desperate efforts City could not find a goal to take them back to the top of the table.

Left exposed at the back, City conceded the winner in disastrous fashion, Weaver making a hash of it as he came out to claim the ball and a penalty being awarded for Granville's push on Bailey, which Dinning converted.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Edghill, Wiekens, Jobson, Granville; Whitley (Pollock, 74), Bishop, Horlock, Kennedy; R Taylor (G Taylor, 82), Goater. Substitutes not used : Crooks, Wright (gk), Tiatto.

Stockport County (4-4-2): Nash; Dinning, Flynn, Gallon, Nicholson; Cooper, Woodthorpe, Bennett (Bergersen, 72), Allen; Moore, Bailey (McIntosh, 89). Substitutes not used : Gray (gk), Briggs, Daly.

Referee : J Brandwood (Lichfield).

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