Looking Forward



Premier League

Saturday 10th February 2001 

Manchester City are struggling to meet the expectation of their fans in their first season back in the Premier League.  It was always going to be a tough assignment for Joe Royle to keep the Citizens up after such a rapid rise through the divisions.  Some of the signings he made to try and add experience to the team have not worked (Weah and Wanchope) and some players have not been able to make the step up without some assistance.

Young keeper, Nicky Weaver has had a tough time without much protection in front of him.  A promising shot stopper, he has been found out a little bit by Premiership forwards and he will surely be better for the experience.  The back line has been chopped and changed which may not have helped the side perform consistently.  Gerard Wiekens is a strong central defender, who has performed admirably alongside the experienced Spencer Prior.  Richard Edghill has gone on the transfer list, Richard Jobson has gone on loan and Andy Morrison has gone on crutches for a long time this season.  Newcomer Richard Dunne from Everton has added some steel into the back four and former Geordies Steve Howey and Laurent Charvet have also played a part in the defence.  Scot Paul Ritchie has been used as a wing back but is also a defender first and foremost.

Midfield has been an area that has been fairly settled.  Kevin Horlock has suffered a broken ankle and will be missing, as will Ian Bishop, who is being touted as another player on his way out of Maine Road.  Danny Granville has played in this area (or in defence), but regulars Haaland, Jeff Whitley and Danny Tiatto form the basis of a hard working midfield.  Mark Kennedy who pushes on from the middle could be missing injured and the lack  of creativity in this area means that the forwards feed on what scant supply they get.  Having said that, there are opportunities for those mentioned to get forward and score.

Leading the line is Paul Dickov (ex-Gooner), who is a nasty piece of work, but luckily will spend more time kicking players than the ball.  Loan players Kanchelskis from Glasgow Rangers and Egil Ostenstad from Blackburn could be out to prove a point, but with Wanchope injured and Weah gone, the class up front is missing.  The lack of goals has cost City so far and they are pinning a lot of hopes on former Leeds and Coventry forward Darren Huckerby. He was scintillating when he played for the Sky Blues, but lost his way at Elland Road (obviously ending up in the pie shop).  He to has something to prove to people.  Shaun Goater has struggled in the top flight after scoring loads for City on the way up, but his height could give problems and he knows where the goal is.  Up and coming young striker Shaun Wright-Phillips (son of an ex-Gooner) is full of running and has a few tricks too.

As the season draws on, City will be looking for every point they can get and especially at home.  With neither side free-scoring on a regular basis, it will, of course, be a tight one ...

PREDICTION : -  Manchester City  0  Tottenham  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.



Manchester City  0   Tottenham  1  -  Saturday 10th February 2001

Weather : -  Wet
Crowd : -  34,399
Referee : - Steve Dunn (Bristol)
Scorers : - Manchester City - None
                     Tottenham  -  Rebrov 89

Man City: Weaver, Wiekens (Grant 85), Granville, Howey, Tiatto, Dunne, Haaland, Whitley, Kanchelskis (Ostenstad 60), Huckerby, Goater.
Subs Not Used: Prior, Ritchie, Nash.

Tottenham: Sullivan, Young, Campbell, Perry (Booth 45), King, Freund, Anderton (Carr 60), Sherwood, Leonhardsen, Doherty, Rebrov.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Clemence, Thelwell.

How many times have Spurs fallen for the sucker punch in the last minute of a match ??  Too many, that's how many !!  So, it was gratifying to be on the right end of one for once, although my heart went out to City who were turned over for the second week running by the referee.  It looked as though there was no offence when Huckerby hooked the ball home, but Howey could have pushed Sol into Sullivan.  It certainly wasn't Goater, who was nowhere near.

For much of the match Spurs had their backs to the wall.  King got his legs in a twist to divert Huckerby's cross against the post and it bounced back into Sully's grateful arms, while other efforts from Wiekens and Kanchelskis all flew wide of the mark.  The best chance they had came when Tiatto ran half the pitch and crossed for Ostenstad, who should have got more on his header from a couple of yards out, but flashed it past the far post.  There was more determination about City, who obviously need the points at the moment, but Spurs did play a little football in the match.

While Rebrov's winner was the only Spurs effort on target, they did have shots from Sherwood and Young that went wide and over the goal, while Doherty had a headed chance in the first half and Booth wasted a muffed clearance by Weaver by lobbing it off target.  When it came (and it had to be the last minute didn't it ?), the goal was a good one.  Starting in our defence, it was worked from King, through Freund, Young, Booth, Sherwood and Leonhardsen, who picked out Sergei's clever run. He held off two challenges to prod it past the City keeper for the winner.  461 minutes of Premier League football without a goal and it wins the first away match of the season !

Spurs have played better away from home, but come back with nothing.  Although City will be blue this morning, the luck went Tottenham's way, despite being denied an early shout for a penalty when Tim was hauled down by Haaland.  For once, it was a happy trip back South for the Spurs fans.


Benny The Ball


Once in A Blue Moon


There was an air of inevitability about the scoreline before the match.  Both sides desperate for points for differing reasons, but the same despair in front of goal had been afflicting the teams in the run up to the match.  Admittedly, Spurs had got four in midweek and Man. City were denied a win last week by the linesman's flag, but goals were a currency much in demand by both clubs.

The finishing on display explained why this was so.  Only three shots on target in the whole game, with only one getting past the keeper to count for a goal.  While many go on about the standard of defending going downhill in the Premiership, the forwards ability isn't too great.  Even Man Ure went through their game against Everton last week without an effort on the mark.  But when Spurs goal did come it was worth waiting for.  Just like the move that lead to Booth's disallowed goal at West Ham, this one started on the edge of our own box.  Some, what seemed risky, close passing on a heavy, cut up pitch, worked the ball into midfield, where via Sherwood and Leo it got to Rebrov.  It was a pass from the Norwegian that opened up the City defence and Sergei showed good strength to hold off a couple of City defenders to slip the ball under Weaver and in on the stroke of 90 minutes.  One shot on target and one goal.  As Joe Royle said that is a pretty good ratio of success.

The defending was a bit ragged at times, with Perry and King being given the run around by Tiatto and Kanchelskis, but they stood firm and even rode their luck when Ledley got a piece on Huckerby's cross and it bounced off the post and out to Sully.  What with the goal mysteriously being ruled out by the ref, when Sullivan appeared to miss the ball and Huckerby shot home from close range, it was a grateful team that heard the final whistle.  

Apart from that one blemish, our Scots goalie did well with the little that came directly at him, and Sol was solid and Luke Young was outstanding, making important runs, blocks and tackles.  Doherty moved back from the front after half time and did well too.  Sherwood marshalled the midfield, but still seems laboured in his running, in contrast to Leonhardsen, who now appears to be returning to some sort of form.  Freund was Freund - even having a shot that rarely was going to trouble the scorers and Booth came on for the second half, but apart from wasting the gift offered him by Weaver's poor clearance, had little else to do but track back.  Rebrov again awaited his chance and if he could only stick one away each game, then he wouldn't have to do anything else.

Not pretty and not entertaining, but this result has been a long time coming.  If there had been more of these away wins, instead of draws and defeats, would the jeers still be following the team around ??

Gary Sampson


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