Kinkladze's spot of relief

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The Independent Online
AFTER a week in which Manchester City fans must have come close to developing a full-blown persecution complex - always assuming they did not already have one by virtue of swanky neighbours - there was evidence of a silver lining in the Sky Blues' sky. They beat Birmingham City 1- 0 thanks to a Georgi Kinkladze penalty a minute from time after Uwe Rosler had missed one in the first half. With a reprieve like that, how could City feel unloved?

True, anyone remotely qualified to take charge of a club which has burned up 11 managers in 18 years has had second thoughts and ignominious defeat at a middling Third Division side (pace Lincoln) in a Coca-Cola Cup tie was no shop window.

In front of their smallest crowd of the season, City started brightly with Rosler getting several headers on target and as many shots off it. But after his penalty miss on 27 minutes, Steve Bruce had floored Paul Dickov, disrupted their rhythm Brum got into the game.

Referee Richard Poulain awarded the second penalty for handball in a goalmouth scramble, Kinkladze scored, Brum defender Gary Poole appeared to push Poulain and was sent off. The official needed treatment after a scuffle at the end of the match. "It's been a tough old week," caretaker manager Asa Hartford said. "I just told the players to go out and be committed." And so they should be.

Dave Bassett's change of heart over the City manager's job had an energising effect on Crystal Palace who beat Reading 6-1 at Elm Park. Having survived several alarms, Palace went ahead on 27 minutes, David Tuttle heading in Ray Houghton's corner, and 32 minutes later were 5-0 up and Reading were down to 10 men, Barry Hunter adjudged guilty of serious foul play.

The City vacancy even had repercussions at Luton, where manager Lennie Lawrence denied that he had resigned in midweek in expectation of becoming Bassett's assistant at Maine Road. "The story is absolute cobblers," he said after the Hatters' 0-0 draw at Bury. "I had spoken to Harry Bassett as he was agonising. But Luton is where I am, I enjoy being here and I certainly did not resign."

Former City manager manager Howard Kendall still had the puff after his Sheffield United side had beaten Wolves 2-1 in injury time at Molineux to add his denial. "I want to kill this thing stone dead. I have not had a call from Manchester City Football Club. It is an honour to be linked with a big club but I am at a big club."