Resurgent City steam onwards

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The Independent Online
Manchester City 3 Watford 1

Typical, isn't it? Manchester City supporters have waited for months for a win and now they are coming in bunches. They reached the FA Cup fifth round with this one and a season that appeared to be totally barren is now tinged with the hint of promise.

Neil Heaney, Nicky Summerbee and Uwe Rosler ensured they and not Watford will play host to Middlesbrough on 15 February, although they had to wait until Steve Palmer was sent off before they took a proper grip on the tie. Even then a surprise looked possible when Gifton Noel-Williams brought the sides level briefly.

"I've been told this is the first time we've won two successive matches," Frank Clark, the City manager, said. "We look like a team at the moment. People who want to play together and be together."

On the third anniversary of Francis Lee's becoming City's chairman, this was a match that began at a slow and ungainly tempo before accelerating away. Although Watford arrived at Maine Road with an unbeaten run of 22 matches, many of those have ended in draws, which speaks volumes for their resilience if not their ability to break down sides.

Their line-up was built for survival, with Palmer reinforcing a back four by man-marking Georgi Kinkladze. In the first half Kinkladze's main role was of a decoy, although it was his corner after 23 minutes which led to City's opener. Rosler's header cannoned off the chest of a defender and Kit Symons swung a boot at the rebound. The ball might have gone in anyway but Heaney flicked out a boot by a post to make sure.

Watford made a greater impact immediately after the interval, albeit in a manner not entirely to their liking. Clint Easton and Nigel Gibbs were close with shots but, when Watford appeared to be building momentum, Palmer spoilt it all.

Inevitably he was in attendance when Kinkladze had the ball but when Steve Lomas tried to get between him and the Georgian, the Cambridge graduate forgot brains can defeat force and threw a punch at the Irishman. The referee had little option but to show the red card.

Watford threatened a spirited revival on the hour when Noel-Williams profited from some hopeless defending to equalise. Receiving the ball 20 yards out, he held off two defenders and side-stepped Martyn Margetson's challenge before passing into an empty net.

Parity lasted just three minutes. Summerbee passed to Kinzladze on the right of the area and advanced to meet the return, beating Miller from 15 yards. And with Kinkladze running amok, Rosler profited from his through ball to put the tie beyond doubt after 71 minutes.

Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Margetson; Crooks, Symons, Kernaghan, Ingram; Summerbee, McGoldrick, Lomas, Heaney; Kinkladze; Rosler. Substitutes not used: Creaney, Whitley, Dibble (gk).

Watford (4-1-3-2): Miller; Gibbs, Page, Ward, Ludden; Palmer; Slater, Johnson, Bazeley (Andrews, 63); Noel-Williams (Robinson, 75), Easton. Substitute not used: Chamberlain (gk).

Referee: G Barber (Warwick).