Summerbee earns Ball reprieve

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The Independent Online

Manchester City 1 Bolton Wanderers 0

Let us keep this in perspective. Next May, this result may well represent no more than a pimple on the falling graph of City's season. At least, that is how the red half of Manchester will console themselves after a rare Saturday of exclusively blue celebrations.

But you cannot blame the Maine Road crowd, staff and fans alike, for a little bit of optimism. Only in the makes-no-sense world of football could more than 28,000 people turn up to watch a team with two points from 11 games take on another with five straight away defeats, but then again, the chance that there would be something to cheer about at last was probably too much to resist.

So they whooped it up. "I'm pleased," Alan Ball said - understatement was clearly the manager's theme for the day. "I want to win to ease some of the pressure which is beginning to build up on us," he wrote in his programme notes. Beginning to build up?

Only Francis Lee, the hirer and firer, knows how much pressure Ball is under. Given that he stood by Brian Horton longer than anyone expected, it is probable that the chairman will, for the moment, remain loyal to Ball. November is not a kind month for managers in trouble, and the two- week break between this Premiership round and the next lends itself ideally to boardroom stock-taking.

But if it is tough at present to be Alan Ball, it cannot be much easier to be Nicky Summerbee, who has suffered more than most during City's decline. The 24-year-old winger so resembles his famous father that, since the moment he arrived expensively from Swindon 16 months ago, he has been expected somehow to turn back the clock to the 1960s.

In September, Ball dropped him "for his own good" and Saturday's decisive goal, therefore, is a mark of personal triumph. His confidence had drained away, Ball said, but there was a need, also, to apply some boot to backside.

Indeed, there was no hint of frail confidence at all in the way the goal was scored, from the ball juggling by Niall Quinn that launched it, through Georgi Kinkladze's expertly delivered pass to Summerbee's cracking finish from a yard inside the penalty area.

Had Bolton, without a point away from home, not been so lacking in purpose in the first half, they might have taken three here. In the second half, chastised and reorganised with a striker removed and five in midfield, they looked the better side.

Goal: Summerbee (11) 1-0.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Immel; Foster (Creaney, 87), Symons, Curle, Edghill; Summerbee, Lomas, Flitcroft (Brown, 70), Kinkladze; Rosler, Quinn. Substitute not used: Margetson (gk).

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; McAnespie, Fairclough, Bergsson, Phillips (Green, 83); Lee, Curcic (De Freitas, 81), Stubbs, Thompson; McGinlay, Paatelainen (Patterson, 39).

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).