|Manchester City 0 Wigan Athletic
1 City in freefall
Saturday March 3rd 2007 : Get
Your Kits Out at the COMSTAD
Caleb Folan condemned struggling Manchester City to a fourth
consecutive Premiership defeat and put Wigan tantalisingly close to
survival. The £500,000 transfer-window arrival from Chesterfield
nodded home Latics' first-half
winner to continue a revival which seems certain to preserve their
With Charlton drawing their relegation clash at Watford, Wigan are
now eight points above the drop zone, having leapt above City, who
have slumped to fourth bottom and whose league season is in
Stuart Pearce's men may have two games in hand of all their
relegation rivals, but they have the entire top four still to play.
And, though an FA Cup quarter-final with Blackburn awaits next
weekend, it is probably going to be the failings of others that
keeps afloat a club who, more than most, can ill afford a
financially catastrophic drop into the Championship, having posted a
£7.1million six-month loss earlier this week.
Getting booed off is sadly becoming a regular occurrence for Pearce
and his team.
On their showing over the opening half-hour, the negative reaction
which accompanied the half-time whistle was totally justified. Quite
frankly, the Blues were abysmal. Devoid of shape, they lacked ideas
and inspiration and totally failed to find any method of combating
Folan and Emile Heskey, who scored twice in the Latics' four-goal
hammering of City earlier in the campaign and recovered from a groin
injury to terrorise them once more.
Like Leroy Lita, who scored for Reading on this ground a month ago,
Folan is another striker Pearce has run the rule over without
actually buying. The former Leeds trainee proved what he could do
with a goals scoring appearance for Chesterfield in the League One
side's Carling Cup triumph over City earlier this season.
Where Pearce hesitated, Paul Jewell did not and already the
relatively meagre sum paid for the 24-year-old is looking a wise
investment. His pace alone makes Folan a difficult player to subdue
and the home defence had their hands full keeping him quiet long
before he nodded Wigan in front.
When Richard Dunne sent Leighton Baines' long free-kick looping into
the air, someone surely should have picked Folan up. Instead, he was
allowed the freedom of the six-yard box to nod over Nicky Weaver.
That Wigan did not wrap up victory during that dominant start was
partly due to their own bad finishing, but also the failure of
referee Howard Webb to spot Michael Ball clattering Antonio Valencia
just inside, rather than outside, the City area. Still, Webb was
blameless when Lee McCulloch miserably failed to convert Folan's
astute cut-back, instead bouncing a 10-yard shot into the ground,
then over the bar.
City's fortunes changed markedly after Hatem Trabelsi had been
replaced by Sun Jihai. The China international may have expressed
his dislike of life in England earlier this week but he remains a
favourite of the City support and his energy alone brought a greater
sense of urgency to home ranks.
Three Joey Barton corners in succession threatened danger before the
interval. Emmerson Boyce turned one marginally wide of his own goal
but was then on hand to boot off the line when Micah Richards nodded
the second past Latics keeper John Filan, who snuffed out the danger
on the third with a timely intervention.
Having left new arrival Emile Mpenza on the bench, another
ineffective display from Georgios Samaras persuaded Pearce to
introduce the Belgium international at the break. Mpenza almost
enjoyed the perfect start to his City career too as he came within
inches of turning home a DaMarcus Beasley cross which looped towards
the far post off Denny Landzaat.
Beasley may appear a bit lightweight for the Premiership but his
speed offer City a useful attacking weapon and, after Mpenza had won
a penalty-box tussle with Boyce, the USA international was onto the
loose ball in a flash, only for Filan to save with his legs. Try as
they might, and in fairness they did, City could find no way through
Wigan's stubborn defences and in the end were reduced to seeing
Dunne trying to handle the ball in during an injury-time scramble.
Even that move failed and, as the final whistle blew, Pearce and his
men were once again rightly forced to endure the taunts of their own
Get Your Kits Out View : The general feeling of the fans as
they trooped away from the COMSTAD was that this performance was the
worst they had ever seen. Me, I don't think it was that good!!! I am
gutted, this surely is not my City....
Man City: Weaver, Richards, Dunne,
Distin, Ball (Sturridge 86), Trabelsi (Jihai 33), Barton, Ireland,
Beasley, Samaras (Mpenza 46), Corradi.
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Hamann.
Booked: Ball, Trabelsi, Dunne.
Wigan: Filan, Taylor, Jackson, Boyce (Unsworth 77), Baines,
Valencia (Aghahowa 75), Landzaat, Skoko, McCulloch, Heskey (Kilbane
Subs Not Used: Nash, Cotterill.
Booked: Taylor, Baines.
Goals: Folan 18.
Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).
Blackburn Rovers 2 Manchester
City 0 City drop the cup
Sunday 11th March 2007 : Stuart
Leech for Get Your Kits Out at Ewood Park
Stuart Pearce and his players heard the
Manchester City supporters turn on their team after they exited the
FA Cup with a 2-0 quarter-final defeat by Blackburn at Ewood Park.
Cries of 'you're not fit to wear the shirt' and much worse that
cannot be printed here, were aimed at the players as they went to
salute the fans at the end of the game. These are increasingly
anxious times for City manager Pearce.
Blackburn clinched a place in the semi-finals thanks to goals from
Aaron Mokoena - who was later sent
off - and Matt Derbyshire. Derbyshire should have put Blackburn
ahead in the 26th minute following a cross from David Bentley. The
young striker peeled away from his marker only to send his header
from a good position over the top. Blackburn, though, made the
breakthrough two minutes later with Mokoena's first goal for the
club after two years and two months at Ewood Park. The South African
midfielder, who arrived in January 2005, clipped the ball home from
close range, although it appeared to take a deflection.
City were guilty of poor defending with Stephen Warnock delivering
the cross and McCarthy getting a vital touch before Mokoena supplied
the finish. Blackburn manager Mark Hughes was then incensed by a
challenge by Sylvain Distin on Bentley which took the England
Under-21 winger into the advertising hoardings.
City hit back and Darius Vassell scampered away down the right but
his cross was weak and the move broke down. This was a test of their
mettle now after four successive defeats and Pearce looked animated
on the edge of his technical area.
Hughes brought off Ryan Nelsen at the start of the second as he had
been struggling with a hamstring problem and replaced him with Zurab
Khizanishvili. Bentley released Derbyshire in the 50th minute and he
squared the ball across the face of the goal but there was no-one
there to take advantage.
A mistake by Distin almost cost City dear a minute later when he
directed his clearance straight to Bentley. He immediately chipped
the ball over goalkeeper Nicky Weaver's head but his instinctive
effort came back off the bar. Blackburn kept up the pressure and
Derbyshire got in a good header in the 54th minute but Distin made
City launched a quick counter attack two minutes later and Corradi
found himself clear after a neat exchange between Michael Ball and
Stephen Ireland. However, the Italian striker failed to test Brad
Friedel and steered his shot wide of the post. City were anxious to
grab the equaliser and Barton delivered a free kick on to the head
of Richard Dunne but Friedel was able to make a comfortable save in
the 62nd minute.
Play switched back down the other end and Weaver did well to claw
away an inswinging free kick from Bentley after Dunne had brought
down McCarthy. The game took a dramatic twist in the 69th minute
when Mokoena picked up his second yellow card for a challenge on
Bernardo Corradi and was sent off.
Vassell took up a good position in the 78th minute but again the
finish was poor as City supporters began to voice their displeasure.
Blackburn secured their passage into the semi-finals when Derbyshire
scored from close range on the stroke of full time following a cross
from substitute Sergio Peter. Hughes' side became the first team to
reach the semi-finals and are again in sight of a place in Europe.
For City there is the prospect of difficult games to come against
Chelsea and Middlesbrough this week.
Get Your Kits Out View : I hate to say it but unless Stuart
Pearce does something drastically different with this bunch of
misfits then City could be headed for a slump of the magnitude Leeds
United currently find themselves going through. Loyalty will be thin
on the ground if relegation rears it's ugly head again and we will
simply become the team with the best half full stadium in the
Championship. Chelsea on Wednesday looks a nightmare followed by a
trip to 'Boro and then another away day to Newcastle. I am
deeply depressed. I'm sorry Stuart but you must dump all your
foreigners and give the kids a crack, after all they are the only
ones you can rely on to sweat blue blood for us, the sad gits who
have to suffer this crap!!!
Blackburn Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen (Khizanishvili
46),Warnock, Bentley, Mokoena, Kerimoglu (Peter 80),
Pedersen,McCarthy (Roberts 85), Derbyshire.
Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Gallagher.
Sent Off: Mokoena (69).
Booked: Nelsen, Mokoena, Pedersen, Bentley.
Goals: Mokoena 28, Derbyshire 90.
Man City Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Jihai
(Beasley 57),Barton, Hamann (Samaras 76), Ireland, Ball,Corradi (Mpenza
Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Trabelsi.
Booked: Barton, Hamann, Dunne, Richards.
Ref: M Dean (Wirral).
Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1 Glimmer
Wednesday 14th March 2007: Get
Your Kits Out at the COMSTAD
Manchester City's season is beginning to
resemble a plunge through football's lift shaft. Chelsea are
merciless opponents and a night of significance at either end of the
table concluded with Manchester United's lead at the top of the
Premiership table reduced to six points and, simultaneously, fresh
doubts about whether Stuart Pearce's position as City manager has
been terminally poisoned.
In fairness to Pearce, he was not subjected to anything like the
sustained abuse that has been evident in other recent defeats. There
was even the semblance of an argument that his side matched Jose
Mourinho's for long periods of a tense and ragged match. Ultimately,
though, the only statistics that matter are of a fifth successive
defeat, with no goal at home since New Year's Day.
The common theory is that Pearce will be relieved of his duties if
his team have a bad result at Middlesbrough on Saturday and, even if
he survives that ordeal, it is probable he will be directed towards
the guillotine at the end of the season.
City's directors are understandably twitchy about their perilous
league position, just one place above the relegation zone, although
it would be unjust to claim that Pearce has altogether lost his
powers of motivation. There are legitimate questions about whether
his players are good enough, but it is not a question of a lack of
effort, or of running up a white flag. For long spells they were
strong in the tackle, quick to the ball and industrious enough to
create the feeling the players were personally affronted by all the
negativity surrounding the club. In turn, the supporters who had
subjected them to brutally voluble dissent in their FA Cup
quarter-final defeat at Blackburn on Sunday responded with a more
There was something eerily predictable, however, about the manner in
which Chelsea exposed the imbalance of talent. For the opening
exchanges the champions had been unable to find any pattern,
frequently undone by misplaced passes and lacking any sense of
fluidity as they sought to play on the counter-attack.
It was puzzling that a team of Chelsea's capabilities had not done
more to test City's brittle confidence earlier in the game but an
air of familiarity returned when Salomon Kalou picked up the ball on
the left-hand side of the penalty after 27 minutes and tried to
evade Micah Richards. Kalou's speed seemed to take Richards by
surprise and his challenge was carelessly mistimed, with the Chelsea
attacker quick to go down. It sums up City's season that when Frank
Lampard swept in the resultant penalty for his 20th goal of the
season the Chelsea captain had equalled the amount Pearce's team had
managed in the league all season.
Many observers might have expected that would be the cue for Chelsea
to take command but it was to the home side's credit that they
responded with verve and vigour for the remainder of the opening
half. Their lack of penetration in attack was highlighted by the
frequency with which shots sailed hopelessly over Petr Cech's goal,
but at least they were showing a desire for the battle.
Less endearing was their attempts to pressure the referee Alan Wiley
into levelling up the number of penalties, first when Joey Barton
threw himself to the floor as he competed with Claude Makelele and
then when Richard Dunne went down after the merest of collisions
Pearce had expelled Bernardo Corradi, the non-scoring Italian
goalscorer who is fast becoming one of the scapegoats for their
slide down the table. More puzzling was the omission of the
goalkeeper Nicky Weaver, who was purportedly being "rested" and not
even on the bench.
His replacement, Andreas Isaksson, generally had a far more
comfortable evening than he may have anticipated and it was not
until the 57th minute that Chelsea showed another glimpse of why
they still have aspirations of catching Manchester United. This time
Arjen Robben picked out Lampard, their best player, only for his
delicate chip over Isaksson to be cleared by the backtracking
City were running out of ideas and Georgios Samaras was booed on to
the pitch when he arrived as a 73rd-minute substitute. In contrast,
the home supporters emphatically welcomed Shaun Wright-Phillips when
he replaced Robben five minutes later. Within a minute,
Wright-Phillips had lashed a 30-yard shot against the crossbar.
Soon after the first City fans decided they had seen enough and
began to form a steady queue for the exit gates. The question is:
will they ever see Pearce inside this stadium again?
Get Your Kits Out View : Many will have been pleased by this
showing but it left me with a feeling of resentment. Why? Well a
couple of seasons back we panned Uni£ed at home and a red mate of
mine said City were a bunch of cheats. I wasn't surprised at his
weak excuse but his explanation had a ring of truth about it. He
said that if they put that much effort into every game City would be
up there challenging for a top four spot and I couldn't disagree
with him at the time. Now after watching tonight's game I have to
say that the same amount of commitment would have seen off more than
enough teams to leave us quite comfortable and well out of the
desperate situation we find ourselves in. So unless this new found
dedication continues into the Middlesbrough game this was just
Man City: Isaksson, Richards, Dunne,
Distin, Ball, Jihai (Miller 63), Ireland, Barton, Hamann (Dabo 80),
Mpenza, Vassell (Samaras 72).
Subs Not Used: Hart, Dickov.
Booked: Hamann, Dunne, Richards.
Chelsea: Cech, Geremi, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Robben
(Wright-Phillips 77), Ballack, Lampard, Makelele (Diarra 90), Kalou,
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Shevchenko, Boulahrouz.
Booked: Drogba, Ballack.
Goals: Lampard 28 pen.
Ref: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Middlesbrough 0 Manchester
City 2 Glimmer turns to hope
Saturday 17th March 2007 : Damian
Spellman for Get Your Kits Out at the Riverside
Beleaguered Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce
was handed a lifeline as his players snatched a
precious Barclays Premiership victory at Middlesbrough. The former
England international, who headed for Teesside with his employment
prospects far from encouraging, set off home with three points and
the cheers of his club's travelling supporters ringing in his ears
just days after facing a torrent of abuse at Blackburn.
Sylvain Distin's 61st-minute strike - only the club's second in
seven league games - and Emile Mpenza's first for the club, 17
minutes from time, ended a run of five successive Premiership
defeats and eased the pressure on chairman John Wardle to act. The
only disappointment for Pearce was an injury which forced Micah
Richards off before the break, causing concern too for England boss
Gareth Southgate's gamble in leaving Jonathan Woodgate and Mark
Viduka out of his starting line-up ahead of Monday night's FA Cup
quarter-final replay at Manchester United backfired spectacularly. A
large proportion of the 26,427 spectators who were there for the
start had long gone by the time the final whistle sounded, but those
who were left made their feelings abundantly clear with an injury to
Emanuel Pogatetz adding to their woes.
By the time Pearce headed for the dressing room at half-time, he
could not have been unhappy with much of what he had seen in the
opening 45 minutes, but would have been acutely aware of how costly
missed chances could prove. In a half of few genuine opportunities,
City enjoyed two of the best, midfielder Joey Barton dragging a
fifth-minute shot wide of the far post and Mpenza missing with a
header when the goal was at his mercy 24 minutes later. That they
were not made to pay for their wastefulness was at least a
consolation for Pearce and the travelling supporters, who got behind
their side from the off as memories of last weekend's anger and
disappointment at Blackburn were put to one side.
Indeed, as the teams left the pitch at the break, the
boos came from the home fans and were directed at his players rather
than Southgate. His decision to rest key men Woodgate and Viduka as
Julio Arca missed out with a groin strain ahead of the trip to Old
Trafford was perfectly understandable. That handed a first senior
start to South Korea international Dong Gook Lee and a rare chance
for Jason Euell.
However, Pogatetz's departure on a stretcher after just 10 minutes
meant an early reshuffle, and although the Teessiders threatened
briefly with Stewart Downing revelling in space down down the left,
they struggled to trouble keeper Andreas Isaksson. Downing forced
the keeper into a 24th-minute save and Abel Xavier headed wide from
the resulting corner, but Boro were well below par. Southgate's
response was to withdraw Lee at the break, although it was not
Viduka who replaced him. Instead, substitute James Morrison was
asked to play wide on the right as Lee Cattermole pushed inside and
Euell was asked to support lone striker Ayegbeni Yakubu from a
But it was City who started the second half the brighter, keeper
Mark Schwarzer needing two attempts to collect substitute Georgios
Samaras' header from a 49th-minute Darius Vassell cross. The
visitors had taken control and Schwarzer was called up once again to
keep out Barton's near-post strike five minutes later with his
defence in some disarray.
Xavier handed City a chance to go for goal on 59 minutes after he
upended midfielder Michael Johnson 30 yards out, although Viduka's
emergence from the dug-out to warm up was greeted warmly by the home
contingent in the stands at the Riverside Stadium. Skipper Richard
Dunne drilled the free-kick into the defensive wall, but his side
was ahead two minutes later. Boro failed to deal with Barton's
corner and when Mpenza headed the ball back across goal, Distin had
time to control before slamming a shot into the roof of the net.
Yakubu sent a 64th-minute header inches wide and Southgate
immediately sent on Viduka in place of Euell in a bid to find a way
back into the game.
However, the points had gone with 17 minutes remaining when the
impressive Barton picked off Cattermole's loose pass and slid the
ball in to Mpenza, whose instinctive finish sent the travelling fans
into raptures. The Belgian was booked for over-celebrating, but
Pearce could have been forgiven had he joined him after an intensely
difficult week ended with a first win at Boro since 1977.
Get Your Kits Out View : The commitment seems to be returning
but with a trip to Newcastle on the horizon I will judge them after
that game rather than after this one. Middlesbrough clearly were
handicapped by the upcoming replay at Old Tra££ord next week but, to
be fair you can only beat what is put in front of you and at least
that was accomplished with reasonable ease. So 6 more points or two
wins minimum to retain mega money Premier footy at the COMSTAD.
Parnaby, Xavier, Pogatetz (Davies 9), Taylor, Cattermole, Boateng,
Euell (Viduka 64), Downing, Lee (Morrison 46), Yakubu.
Subs Not Used: Jones, Rochemback.
Man City: Isaksson, Richards (Samaras 22), Dunne, Distin,
Jihai, Barton, Hamann, Johnson, Ball, Vassell (Beasley 84), Mpenza.
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Dabo, Corradi.
Booked: Barton, Mpenza.
Goals: Distin 61, Mpenza 74.
Ref: K Stroud (Hampshire).
Newcastle United 0
Manchester City 1 Hope turns to relief
Saturday 31st March 2007 :
Kenneth Blackmore for GYKO at St James Park
Manchester City enjoyed life in the North East
during March. Emile Mpenza, in particular, has thrived, scoring the
crucial goal yesterday after finding the target when they won their
previous match, away to Middlesbrough. Manager Stuart Pearce remains
reluctant to say that his team are safe, but his success should
guarantee at least another season in the Premiership for City, who
benefited immensely from Newcastle's approach.
'I said a few weeks ago that any three from eight can go down and I
still think the same,' he said. 'It's a good win for us, but the
pressure is still there for me - it's always there as a manager.
That's the beauty of the job because it means everything to get a
'Perhaps a draw would have been fair, but we put in a lot of hard
work to grind out a result.'
Pearce maintains that Newcastle are among the eight clubs under
threat, a verdict that displeased their manager, Glenn Roeder, who
said: 'Stuart needs to talk for himself only.'
However, it seems that the end of the season cannot come too soon
for Newcastle, whose exit from the Uefa Cup last month effectively
left them without a target, other than respectability. Yet Roeder
had given his players ample incentive to perform better than they
did here, emphasising before the match that only a few are certain
to figure in his plans next season.
He insisted that the final weeks of the season will influence who
stays and who goes. More will go than stay if he bases his decision
on this evidence.
This is also the start of a crucial spell for a club where a
sizeable number of fans are debating whether to renew season tickets
that were once so difficult to obtain. There was little on view to
prompt those supporters to reserve their place for the so-called
'best league in the world'. There are occasions when the phrase
looks ludicrous and the first half comes into that category.
The swirling wind was a factor, but it cannot excuse the countless
misplaced passes, lack of passion and paucity of chances,
particularly in a dreadful opening period. City goalkeeper Andreas
Isaksson was beaten in the seventeenth minute by Scott Parker, who
was marginally offside, but the only genuine moment of enterprise
before the interval came on the half-hour, when Mpenza turned
outside the area and powered an angled shot against the bar.
A crowd that was depressed and subdued until finding the energy to
boo Newcastle off the pitch at the interval brightened during a
second half that was better, but only marginally so. Parker shot
over the bar during early Newcastle pressure, but their impetus soon
faded and the sombre atmosphere returned before turning sour when
City's only threat of the half produced a goal in the 80th minute as
Michael Johnson's through-ball was fired past Given by Mpenza.
Newcastle almost equalised two minutes from time when Steven Taylor
headed against the bar, but it would have been more than they
deserved. The next few weeks are going to be difficult ones for
Newcastle, whose supporters staged a minor protest after the game.
'It's most difficult and frustrating for the fans and that gets to
the players,' said Roeder. 'There are high expectations here, but
they don't understand how difficult it is to cope with teams who are
set up so defensively.'
Get Your Kits Out View : Yet another dire match but
thankfully with a satisfactory result. Survival is the key but for
heavens sake SP if we do stay in the big bucks league this excuse
for entertainment will have to change. If this is what we have to
watch next season then the COMSTAD will only be half full, best
league in the world, you're 'avin a laugh....
Newcastle: Given, Carr, Moore (Onyewu 73),
Taylor, Babayaro, Solano (Milner 76), Butt, Parker,
Duff, Dyer (Sibierski 77), Martins.
Subs Not Used: Harper, Emre.
Man City: Isaksson,
Onuoha (Trabelsi 85), Dunne, Distin, Ball, Jihai,
Barton, Hamann (Samaras 46), Johnson, Vassell,
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Corradi, Miller.
Booked: Vassell, Jihai,
Goals: Mpenza 80.
Ref: G Poll