Huckerby spearheads City's goal charge

Manchester City 4 Grimsby Town 0

Darren Huckerby continued in his rich vein of scoring form last night as City pulled out of their slump with a simple victory that was urgently needed if they were to stay in touch with the First Division leaders.

Huckerby's two well-taken goals, plus contributions from Shaun Goater and Steve Howey, were the very least City should have managed against the rudderless Mariners whose league form has plumbed new depths since their memorable win at Liverpool in the Worthington Cup.

Had Kevin Keegan's side really fired on all cylinders, there is no telling what damage a team themselves without a win in their last four league games could have done to the visitors.

Keegan's switch to a flat back-four produced a defence that was never in the remotest trouble until Howey headed against his own post with a couple of minutes left.

Enjoying the security of a solid rearguard for once, it was always a question of how many City would score. They got off to the ideal start with a goal inside the first two minutes which showed just how vulnerable Town were to be.

Stuart Pearce played the ball down the left for Danny Tiatto, who, as the defence appealed in vain for offside, had time to stumble, recover and cross the ball for Goater to volley home his 13th league goal of the season.

City's second after 21 minutes was utterly straightforward. Pearce's corner from the right always looked destined for Howey's head and there was no one to stop him planting it firmly into the roof of the net.

Huckerby was to be the major figure of the rest of the game. Frustrated by a lack of opportunities when he first came to Maine Road, the former Coventry and Leeds striker is making up for lost time, his two goals last night making it seven in his last four appearances.

City's new defender, Lucien Mettomo, a £1.5m signing from Saint-Etienne, provided the pass for his first, Huckerby turning Marlon Broomes inside out before firing his shot high past Danny Coyne.

Huckerby and Goater had plenty of chances to improve the scoreline before Huckerby claimed his second in the 64th minute courtesy of the Grimsby full-back Tony Gallimore. He made a hash of a hopeful ball upfield, presented possession to Huckerby and watched stranded as the ball was once more hammered past Coyne.

"That's Darren at his best, when he runs into those channels," said Keegan. "If he can keep on doing that, he's going to really stake a claim for a permanent place."

For Grimsby's Lennie Lawrence, time is playing tricks. "It is only two weeks since Liverpool," he said. "It seems like a lifetime ago."

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Dunne (Wright-Phillips, 80), Mettono, Howey, Peace; Benarbia (Berkovic, 58), Etuhu, Horlock, Tiatto; Goater (Dickov, 76), Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Wiekens.

Grimsby Town (4-4-2): Coyne; Neilson, Butterfield, Broomes, Gallimore; Coldicott, Groves , Willems (Campbell, 73), Bolding; Rowan (Allen, 73), Jevons. Substitutes not used: Croudson (gk), Chapman, Beharall.

Referee:M Cowburn (Blackpool).