Newsletter #785

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Sunday saw us regain our lead at the top of the table thanks to a 3-2 home win against PNE. Goals from SWP, Howey and a cracker from Wanchope, have us now on 64 points with 74 goals scored.

Tonight we have two excellent match reports (live) thanks to James and (TV) thanks to Dorien, together with a TV view from Germany. Some good news on our Irish Blues, more opinion on KK, a ‘magic moment’ from years gone by and plenty of requests to get you all sorted out for this weekend’s viewing wherever you may be.

Next game: Newcastle United, away, 7.30pm Sunday 17 February 2002 (FA Cup)

MATCH REPORT ‘LIVE’: MCFC 3 PRESTON NORTH END 2

Yet another stirring second half performance from a City team, who IMHO are playing the best football of any City team I have ever witnessed. City lined-up with Howey straight in for Wiekens and Wanchope back for the injured Goat. The wholesale changes that had been threatened were kept to a minimum. City started off playing from left (North Stand) to right (Platt Lane Stand) but the first few minutes we were over-run by a rampant Preston team. It wasn’t looking good and so it was proved as Cresswell found himself free inside the box with only Weaver to beat, but fortunately Weaver dived to his right and managed to push the ball to safety. Macken then had a long range drive that only just cleared the crossbar and City were basically without a decent outlet. Despite these early chances and a couple of wild shots that were wide of the post the scoreline was still 0-0 and City began to find their feet and pushed forward, looking to take the game to Preston.

Benarbia and Berkovic were beginning to control midfield, the only problem being that Moilanen was in good form and managed to beat away a couple of good shots from Wanchope and Huckerby. In fact Huckerby had City’s best chance of the first half as he raced onto a through ball; drawing the ‘keeper off his line, he drifted past the ‘keeper but as he’d been pushed wide, by the time he’d got his shot in, it was well blocked by a scrambling Moilanen. It was Preston who had the last major chance of the half as a left-hand corner just missed the onrushing Macken, as Weaver held his traditional stance of watching the ball float over his head whilst his feet are rooted to the floor.

So it ended 0-0 at half-time and the half-time draw was carried out by a worthy City celebrity (?) fan in the shape of Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton, who’d managed a successful defence of his WBU belt at the MEN Arena the previous night. It was some reception he got, certainly better than the players had received at half time.

The second-half saw Preston take a very early lead. A long left midfield ball saw Macken run free of Pearce, and with the 39 year old really struggling, Macken had the relatively easy option of slotting the ball past Weaver for a 1-0 lead. Cue much disgruntled comments from the City contingent and a few cries of “They’ll sit on this”. Yet within minutes City were level. A poorly hit Pearce corner was headed out by the Preston defender, but only as far as the onrushing Wright-Phillips who leapt high and managed a flying volley that saw the ball dip past the ‘keeper for 1-1. Some finish and a great celebration with the Kippax, quite how he isn’t in the England U-21 squad is beyond me.

With the scores level City pressed to gain the vital second goal and within 10 minutes that advantage came. Benarbia floated over a left-wing corner that Wanchope challenged the ‘keeper for; as the ball was flicked free Stevie Howey (who interestingly enough for those attending Sunday’s match “isn’t a Geordie anymore”) was on the spot to smash a volley home for 2-1. Cue wild scenes and a very happy City centre-half. It was interesting that Wanchope hadn’t conceded a foul, as in the first-half he’d been penalised for jumping with the ‘keeper, despite the fact he’d hardly left the ground. Personally I think ‘keepers are too protected so I have no complaints with the decision.

City were now in full control and although there was only 1 goal between the two sides City looked unlikely to relinquish their lead. With Moyes becoming frequently frustrated by Preston’s lack of threat, he decide to take Cartwright off and replace him with Gudjonsson and within minutes City were 3 up. Berkovic picked the ball up the middle of the park and sent Wanchope away with a great through ball. Wanchope was running level with the defender and despite Huckerby being free on the far side of the box, Paulo unleashed a fierce right-foot shot the smashed against the underside of the bar before nestling into the back of the net; the ‘keeper had no chance. Maine Road erupted at yet another great goal, that’s 74 in the league alone – what an end of season video!

Keegan, with his eye probably on the Newcastle game, brought three subs on in the space of 5 minutes. The limping Berkovic was replaced by Tiatto, Wright-Phillips was replaced by Wiekens (though Cresswell came off at the same time and was no doubt surprised at receiving a standing ovation!); interestingly Shaun seemed to know he was due to be replaced as the board didn’t even go up with his number on – must be saving him for Sunday. Finally, Benarbia was replaced by Ritchie, the latter slotting into an unaccustomed central midfield rôle. These three changes seemed to disrupt the forward flow and City looked happy to hold on with a 2-goal margin. Tiatto had one chance that the ‘keeper managed to keep out with his feet as Danny nipped into the box and hit a strong left footed drive.

With 3 minutes of injury time and Maine Road half empty Preston grabbed a second, as a cross-field ball saw Dunne outpaced by Iain Anderson (not him of Jethro Tull fame) who, with a deft flick, lobbed the ball over the advancing Weaver. The Preston fans thought there might be a late twist in the game but City had other thoughts and managed to hold out comfortably for a 3-2 win.

The all-important scores:

Weaver 7 – Good clearances and a few important saves, particularly from Macken and Etuhu.
Pearce 7 – Outpaced for Preston’s first but loved the chance to dive in and managed to have a few words with Healy. Lovely stuff.
Dunne 7 – Outpaced for Preston’s second, although by this stage he was playing right midfield – where was Wiekens? Had a good shot at the other end that was deflected wide for a corner, but managed to make some telling tackles.
Howey 8 – Superb, solid game, a performance that should quiet those who were beginning to doubt his ability.
Jensen 7 – Looks good going forward but often becomes forgotten despite being quite free on a number of occasions.
Benarbia 8 – Good, solid game and will be sorely missed for our next 3 matches.
Berkovic 8 – Excellent performance, though it’s worrying to see him limping off late in the second-half.
Horlock 7 – Not one of Kev’s better games, possibly the heavy pitch didn’t help.
SWP 9 – My MotM although again we had a stadium announcement that it was given to Wanchope (thankfully ITV handed the award to SWP). Superbly taken goal and seemed to grow in stature from his finish. KK jokingly referred to him as prolific.
Wanchope 8 – Quality finish and proved why he is becoming so invaluable to us.
Huckerby 7 – Ran a lot and created himself a couple of good openings.

Subs.
Tiatto – Had a good chance late on but like the rest didn’t have enough time to shine.
Ritchie, Weikens – See the last comment above.
Not used: Nash & Dickov.

CTID, James Walsh (James.Walsh@durham.gov.uk)

MATCH REPORT ‘TV’: MCFC 3 PRESON NORTH END 2

I’m enjoying two records at the moment. One is that it’s the first time for yonks, if not ever, that we’ve outlasted the Rags in the Cup for three years in a row. The second is that this is certainly the first time that we’ve been live on TV for six successive Sundays. Of course I’d rather be at Maine Road, but – compared with 60 euros-worth of petrol and five hours on the motorway – there’s something to be said for a vet’s match in the morning, followed by an afternoon on the sofa with a pie and a pint.

City lined up – towards the Umbro – as Weaver – Pearce Howey Dunne – Jensen Benarbia Horlock Berkovic SWP – Wanchope Huckerby. Weaver’s hair has reverted to a sensible colour, and to the sympathetic eye he looks beefy rather than lardy. In Preston’s side were the ingrate Etuhu, goal-of-the-season Macken and – on the bench – the ominously-named Skora. The pitch appeared to have been prepared by the Selhurst ground staff, with Joe’s hippos back in residence in front of the Umbro. Preston came to win, a nice change from the likes of West Brom. Cresswell had an early chance, well-saved by Weaver. Macken shot over, maybe unused to a range of less than forty yards. Then Healy was dispossessed on the edge of the box, a superbly-timed challenge by Pearce. How does he get there in time? Our first chance fell to Huckerby, who didn’t quite manage to get round Moilanen the way that he did against Ipswich. Around the half-hour we started taking hold of the match: Huck headed just wide, Chop broke through to have a shot well saved, Berkovic almost found the space to set up Wanchope, Benarbia had a cross just headed away. For 20 minutes Preston showed nothing; then, on the stroke of half-time they won a dangerous free-kick which Cresswell tried to punch in, Negouai-style, as it flashed across the goal; but he missed and we reached the break goalless.

It didn’t last. Jensen won a corner. It was cleared to Macken, who outpaced Pearce to score past Weaver. That didn’t last either. Another corner was cleared to SWP, whose magnificent leaping volley rocketed into the top corner. Three minutes gone, 1-1. City took control again; a dangerous Preston break was stopped only by a lucky offside, and a minute later Howey volleyed in a corner with an athleticism matching little Shaun. Not the first time we’d turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. City’s pressure continued. The challenge now was to stop Preston breaking while we piled in a few more goals. As if to prove the point, arrogant Etuhu put in a testing shot from 30 yards.

Berko got booked for one of those silly slaps in the face in which we seem to specialise these days. To even things up, Alexander was booked for hugging Dazza. Preston brought on Gudjonsson (not the famous one – this is Lessgudjonsson). Paulo got the ball in a nothing position, dribbled to the edge of the box, and hammered the ball in off the underside of the bar. I didn’t know he could hit it that hard. 3-1.

With ten minutes to go, Tiatto came on for Berkovic. We haven’t had the chance to see much of Danny working with Jensen: will they gel like Tiatto and Granville, or clash like Tiatto and Kennedy? SWP came off, Wiekens on. Benarbia came off for Ritchie, giving us to chance to judge between Paul and Klaus in the Kevin Horlock lookalike contest. A pushover for Klaus until Paul grows his hair back. SWP won man of the match. I thought the points were in the bag and went to put the kettle on but – as we waited for the final whistle – Anderson chipped Weaver. 3-2, two minutes to go, oo-er. Ritchie nearly put in Huckerby, Tiatto nearly put in Wanchope. Finally the whistle went and we went home happy. Sorry, stayed home happy. Preston were good, but who was it thought we should have had Moyes rather than Keegan?

Dorien James (dorien.james@btinternet.com)

MATCH VIEW ‘TV’: MCFC 3 PRESON NORTH END 2

I would firstly like to thank the person who provided information on setting up Granada on Sky digital. I was able to watch the match at 4.40pm after persuading a friend to set up Granada on his Sky digital and then tape it for me.

I can also sympathise with the comments concerning no Saturday matches but being purely selfish, this run of seeing City on TV has been fantastic excluding the Wimbledon match of course.

I don’t intend to write a match report but make a few observations (take into account that I have only seen City live twice this season).

I believe that City will be a much poorer team without Berkovic and I hope that he will be fit to face Newcastle. Although difficult to mark, opposing teams manmarking Eyal will stop City play e.g. 2nd half at Watford.

After forty years of supporting City, I can still never relax even when they are winning and well on top. City coasting to victory at 3-1 and I ‘m still very nervous. So you imagine how I was for the last 3 minutes.

At times we appear very square at the back. First half at Ipswich, 2nd half at Wimbledon and the first 20 minutes against Preston. I would have thought that this would not happen playing with three at the back. I know that we are playing attractive and attacking football but we will be exposed against better teams.

We scored two goals as a result of corners but call me greedy, I am still unhappy with either the short corner or the one to the near post. I wonder what Joe Royle thinks of it all. I listened to his comments on Granada during the programme and although complimentary to City as a whole, I feel it must be strange commenting on a match when you are likely to take the club to court. As other people have made the point before, the lack of a creative midfield player was the reason City were relegated last year as we constantly gave the ball away and put the defence under pressure. I will never know why we didn’t get Berkovic before he went to Blackburn and I do hold Royle responsible even though I am grateful that he got us back to the Premiership in the first place.

Kevin made the point when he was appointed that he wanted to make Maine Road a fortress and he has certainly done that. I have always liked Keegan as he is a very honest person and at least City are playing with passion as well as very attacking football (it helps having Stuart Pearce in your side).

Looking forward to watching the Newcastle game but as they have the best Premiership home record, I am not so optimistic. I just hope that they put on a good performance in front of a large TV audience so that people will know how well City are playing.

Richard Levy (richard.levy@helaba.de)

OPINION: IRISH BLUES

The annual Football Association of Ireland awards were on last night (Sunday), and there was some City interest. Willo Flood won the Irish U-15 player of the year, Glenn Whelan was one of three nominees for the U-17 player, and so was Richard Dunne for the U-23 award (Damian Duff won that). Nice to see recognition of City at some awards!

Something that surprised me was that the winner of the U-19 award was Jon Daly who scored 5 goals in 5 games in European qualifying. He is on Stockport’s books and used to play for Cherry Orchard, the team that City have a link with in Dublin. So why is he with Stockport and not us?

And why no SWP in the England U-21s? Odd that.

P Carey (pj.carey@accbank.ie)

OPINION: WOR KEV

Don’t forget Joe. He had his faults but when he took over our club was in a very bad way – a ‘juggernaut’ heading for oblivion. JR had his faults, but he did a better job than I expected he would do; when Clark was sacked any sane professional would have waited for the cycle of jobsworths (I don’t think I need to name names). But Joe jumped in, two consecutive promotions. Steve’s point is about KK though, and I agree, Keegan is someone we can trust in and (I hope) we’ll be proud of.

I think Joe was more than OK for City – I think if it hadn’t have been for Joe we could still have been in Division 2 – it doesn’t bear thinking about.

The idea that Keegan is a ‘sneakout’ is IMHO rubbish – I think the whole idea originates partly because he stays in jobs longer than other managers – i.e. he walks out rather than getting sacked.

Adam Jones (AdamDJones@BTInternet.com)

OPINION: MAGIC MOMENTS

I wonder, if it has not been suggested a hundred times in the past, whether readers might like to recall one incident that they saw in City’s past that they can’t forget?

If it is of any interest, and I’ve lived overseas for nearly 50 years, my defining moment, which I recall as clearly as the day it happened, was a match at Maine Road against Bolton in 1946 or 1947 when Bert Trautmann was in his early days. Gunner Moir, who played for England I think, had a shot on the edge of the penalty area, just left of centre. He had a lethal boot. I was just above Trautmann’s eye level, a few rows back.

As he shot Trautmann realised he had no hope of saving a direct shot so he almost knelt and deflected the shot over the bar. If he had stayed upright it would have taken him with it. I wonder if any of you recall the match?

Isn’t it marvellous to read the results without touching wood (though I still do)!

Stuart Grundy (sgrundy@e3.net.nz)

REQUEST: NEWCASTLE UNITED TICKET

Due to work travel commitments on the Monday after the Newcastle game, I now find myself unable to go to the match, so I have a ticket going spare at face value, £20 If any one is interested contact me at the address below:

Cliff Shelley – now resigned to watching the game on TV! (cshelley@clifford-thames.com)

REQUEST: NEWCASTLE CAR SHARE

I am driving to Newcastle from Northampton on Sunday. If anyone in the area would like to share the petrol costs please contact me.

Simon Wilcox (sim.wilcox@virgin.net)

REQUEST: HEIDELBERG BLUES

Anybody finding themselves in or around Southern Germany at the weekend, the FA Cup match versus Newcastle will be being shown at Nappy Tandy’s Irish Pub, 50 metres from the Alte Br

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