Pragmatic Coppell aware of task ahead

Manchester City 2 Norwich City 1
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The Independent Online
They brought out the bunting to greet the new manager. Maine Road shook off years of anti-Manchester United prejudice to salute Steve Coppell and give him a warm ovation at the end of his first home match. What a pity the players had to spoil the celebrations.

Manchester City won, but there was little else for Coppell to celebrate because this was a laboured performance that exposed more problems than pluses. Take away Georgi Kinkladze from this lot and you were left with a very ordinary side.

Coppell, the pragmatist, was delighted with the three points but the romantic in his soul remained unstirred. "I would love to pass the ball around," he said, "but in the First Division you need to look for other qualities. Every match is a mountain to climb, you have to dig out results."

The Mancunians did their digging all right - Steve Lomas, Nigel Clough and Eddie McGoldrick did a prodigious amount of work - but they uncovered few gems. There were passing movements all right, but they came from Norwich. The sky blue shirts offered sweat and little inspiration.

Coppell and his assistant, Phil Neal, have brought organisation which was needed but the manager believes much more will come only with confidence. "It's a start," he said, "But there's a long way to go. Had we lost, people would have been talking about the R word."

Perversely, it was the losing manager who was more up-beat. Mike Walker was disappointed in the performance, but took the longer view. "If we finish in the top half of the table, we'll have done well this season after what has happened to the club in the recent past. I'm delighted with the start we've had."

Norwich are second and might have made inroads into Bolton's lead at the top, but for two goals that even Coppell described as "scabby". The first saw Clough's shot deflect off Daryl Sutch while the second was a poor back header from John Polston which allowed Paul Dickov to nip in between defender and goalkeeper.

Yet, apart from a mild query as to why the referee did not award a penalty for Darren Wassall's challenge on Keith O'Neill after 18 minutes, Walker seemed resigned to his fate. "If you don't pass the ball quickly and move, it doesn't matter if you have pace, you're not going to open the teams up," he said.

"We could have got an equaliser after Keith Scott's goal but perhaps they deserved to win because we didn't put enough in. Maybe it was always meant to be Steve Coppell's day."

Luck, like the supporters, had come out to welcome the new manager and if any club needs both commodities it is Manchester City.

Goals: Clough (31) 1-0; Dickov (54) 2-0; Scott (87) 2-1.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Dibble; Summerbee, Wassall, Symons, Brightwell; Lomas, McGoldrick, Clough, Kinkladze (Whitley, 89); Rosler, Dickov. Substitutes not used: Frontzeck, Kavelashvili.

Norwich City (4-1-4-1) Gunn; Sutch, Newman, Polston, Mills (Scott, 74); Crook; Adams, Milligan, Eadie, O'Neill; Fleck (Johnson, 54). Substitute not used: Carey.

Bookings: Norwich City: Newman, Mills, O'Neill.

Referee: K Leach (Wolverhampton).

Man of the match: Kinkladze. Attendance: 28,269.