Newsletter #902

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No Premiership action this weekend as a result of the international games and consequently a somewhat quiet issue. Nevertheless, we have couple of responses to Billy Watkinson’s suggestion in MCIVTA 901 that what we really need to solve our midfield woes is the return of messrs Brown, Flitcroft and Etuhu.

Gary sends us a report on City Reserves versus a hot Everton Reserves goalkeeper and, since Blues are the greatest optimists in the world, a few more requests for Southampton tickets.

Normal service resumes on Thursday as Heidi returns from her victorious but perhaps not triumphant trip to Liechtenstein. I’m sure she’ll tell us all about it.

Next game: Bolton Wanderers, away, 12pm Saturday 5 April 2003
Countdown: 41 days

RESERVE TEAM REPORT

Toffees Leave City with a Sour Taste

MCFC RESERVES 0 EVERTON RESERVES 1

A goal late on by Leon Osman, almost replicating the away tie early in the season, the difference being that Leon scored four minutes earlier than he did at the Widnes Vikings’ stadium. The game should have finished with a comfortable victory for City, who dominated the evening’s play but found the inspired ex-Oldham ‘keeper, Paul Gerrard, in goal for Everton, to deny City their victory.

Right from the opening exchanges we thought we were in for a tough fight; in the first minute Carlo Nash had to be alert and saved well low down to his right from a good shot from Everton’s number seven, Steve Beck. However, that would be their last effort on goal until the fateful goal. City lined up in a four-four-two formation with Sun Jihai playing a holding rôle in midfield, or at least I think that’s what he was told to play, but he seemed to be running around all over the place and it was his forward movement, with the ball, which led to a Chris Shuker cross, which unfortunately, Jon Macken was not able to connect with cleanly, and the ball went just wide of the post on seven minutes. Sun nearly got on the score sheet himself with a volley from a Macken cross, but Gerrard was able to cover the flight of the ball.

Everton had a brief five minute spell around fifteen minutes where they had some possession and won their first corner, but Nash was never threatened in the goal. Again Sun nearly got himself on the score sheet, this time with a header from a Glen Whelan free kick, but again Gerrard saved well. This would be the story of the remainder of the first half, where City carved out chance after chance. In no way could you criticise their shooting accuracy as Gerrard was called into making good saves time after time. Most definitely we would have been in double figures for shots on target by the end of the first half from efforts by Macken, Vuoso and Shuker. Right on the death of half time injury time Joey Barton had a great opportunity to put us in front from a good Phil Gilder cross, but he sliced his shot and it went wide.

The second half again saw us dominate possession but we didn’t create as many chances as the first and with Sun returning to centre half as Steve Howey had been substituted at half time by Sephen Elliott, the shape of the team seemed to lose a bit of its balance. Gerrard’s best save of the half came on fifty-eight minutes when a corner was flicked on by Adam James and it fell nicely for Stephen Jordan to volley, but Gerrard pulled off a world class fingertip save to deny him. Another fine effort from Elliott a minute later was City’s final effort on target.

City still managed to control most of the play but were now giving away the ball in the final third to prevent any further openings for themselves. Everton’s goal on eighty-five minutes came when City were marauding forward in numbers and the ball came to Joey Barton but instead of passing the ball, he tried to work through an opening of his own and three Everton players surrounded and dispossessed him. Joey then just slumped to his haunches and held his head to gesture what a fool he’d been, but as he was collapsing his self esteem on the floor, the ball was passed forward to Leon Osman, who ran at and round Sun and duly dispatched his shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net. This goal may not have been scored had Glen Whelan still been playing at centre half; he won everything at the back, but went into midfield when David Tickle replaced Phil Gilder. In the last six to eight weeks we have seen the decline of Joey Barton from a match winning midfielder to someone who seems lost a lot of the time. This timeframe co-incides with talk of him becoming a first team player. I also have to ask the question that as Keegan seems to like to change midfielders’ rôles regularly I think trying to make Joey a defensive midfielder is cramping his style and his football is not flowing at present. His play has always been reminiscent of Steven Gerrard and being a scouser that also looks quite similar to him. But that driving forward midfield play seems to have gone from his repertoire and it’s damaged City’s chances of competing for the reserve league title. It would be harsh just to blame Joey as losing Dazzling Darren Huckerby and Shuker as well has limited City’s attacking outlets too. Our re-arranged game on Monday 31st with Blackburn at Morecambe FC’s ground is our first opportunity to try to arrest this slide down the table.

Nash: Had little to do all night, not at fault for the goal. 7
James: Good reserve league début, got forward quite well as well. 7.5
Jordan: A much better performance after Tuesday’s dismal showing. 7
Whelan: Won everything at the back and then slotted into midfield well. MoM. 9
Howey (46): Did a good job at the back for the first half. 7
Sun: Good first half, has to be marked down for the goal. 6.5
Barton: Needs to take a good look at himself and stop wasting his undoubted talent. 6
Gilder (78): Didn’t set the world alight in midfield. 6.5
Macken: Better game than Tuesday, but failed to be that killer man that City need. 7
Vuoso (80): Good movement and creativity, very unfortunate not to find the net. 8
Shuker: Gave City an outlet that they have been crying out for recently. 8

Elliott (46): A reasonable second half, but failed to light the blue touch paper. 6.5
Tickle (78): Hardly knew he was on the field. 6
Orr (80): Well out of his depth at this level. 5

Not Used:
Ellegaard, Douglas.

Everton:
P Gerrard, Said, Crowther, O’Hanlon, Pilkington, Schumacher (B Moogan 53), Beck, A Moogan, Chadwick, Osman, Carney.

Not Used:
Turner, A Gerrard, Barry, Potter.

Goals: Osman (85)

Att: 727

Gavin Cooper (blueboy@mancity.net)

OPINION: BILLY WATKINSON’S SUGGESTIONS RE BROWN/FLITCROFT/ETUHU

Billy Watkinson (MCIVTA 901) appears to suggest that his lineup of City cast-offs is better than the present incumbents. He doesn’t appear to make a case for any of them. This might be an oversight, but I tend to think it’s because he can’t think of one.

Michael Brown may well be a name that stands out at the moment but he is not exactly challenged in the team as contenders for MoM are few and far between. The one thing that stands out in my memory of Brown was his reluctance to dig in when the team was not playing well… Stoke away when we got tanked and Brown walking around the pitch and managing to get to the ball so as not to make a tackle… the other half of him made Tiatto look like Lineker at times.

That all said he has changed and he is a better player than when he was here, but available for a third of a Foe transfer fee? I somehow doubt it.

Flitcroft… ah yes, the man who engineered a transfer with his “I want to play for a big club” press talk and then goes to Blackburn. What has Flitcroft done since he moved away from Maine Road? Got himself injured with the sort of tackles that Souness would have been proud of. More of a spoiler than any creativity.

Etuhu… well his creative play has kept Preston in a position just behind Plymouth, about ten places in fact. If he can’t set the first alight how was he going to do it in the Premiership?

Well that’s my opinion of the players recommended. Three players who would be a backward step if even considered as possible signings. Could have been worse I suppose, he might have wanted to replace Fowler/Anelka with a Heskey/Forlan formation…

CTID, Chris Murphy (mcfcchris@aol.com)

OPINION: LET FOE GO! (AND MORE ON BROWN/FLITCROFT/ETUHU)

I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a player with such an ability to boss a game, but who regularly chooses not to do so. He was an utter disgrace against Chelsea. And KK was right – when we found our way to the stand through all of the fitness suites, ye olde fish and chip shops and bowling alleys, we did have to pay £40 to sit in their sh*t stand. I’m a postgrad student, since I lost my job last year, and if Foe thinks his performance was good enough, he’s wrong. Time and time again, he meandered around in front of Lampard, until he had the ball played past him – no bite, no desire, no passion… no tackle! Couldn’t be arsed.

It was interesting to read the comments about Flitcroft / Etuhu / Brown / Lomas. I’d say that I don’t really think any of those players are good enough to do the Vieira rôle for a top team – they can probably do it for a lower mid-table Premiership club, but that’s not what we need – it’s what we’ve got. We need someone who can go box to box repeatedly during a game, and who will do this every week. It’s kind of like the whole “flair player” myth (

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