October 2006
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Manchester City 1 Middlesbrough 0         Dunne Heads Home
Tuesday October 31, 2006 : Daniel Taylor for GYKO at the COMSTAD

For a manager supposedly in the midst of a personal crisis, Stuart Pearce's only concern after an otherwise hugely satisfying evening may have been the vast expanses of empty seats. With 12,000 empties, 36,720 was Manchester City's lowest crowd for a Premiership match since moving to the stadium just over three years ago. Yet, that apart, this was a cathartic evening for a man who has openly resented his job security coming under scrutiny.

It is an unwritten rule of 21st century football that there must be at least three Premiership managers close to being sacked, and City are usually guaranteed to provide one. On this occasion, however, Pearce is entitled to claim that rumours of City's demise have been exaggerated, not least given the fact they are the only top-flight side not to concede a goal at home. They thoroughly deserved this victory, courtesy of Richard Dunne's first-half header, and it moves them above Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic to 13th position. The truth is that Pearce was never in danger of losing his job, but he will be grateful for the breathing space that should now be afforded him.
Perhaps fittingly for a man who goes by the nickname of Psycho, Pearce had got rid of the fluffy toy his daughter gave him as a supposedly lucky charm earlier this season. Having brought the team about as much good fortune as Alan Ball, Beanie the Horse will not be missed by City fans, most of whom were more concerned with the appearance of the distinctly less cuddly Ben Thatcher, returning to the team more than nine weeks after the act of GBH that left Pedro Mendes of Portsmouth unconscious on a hospital drip.

Thatcher was awarded a standing ovation - why? - as he returned to the scene of the crime, having served an eight-match suspension, and it might have been little coincidence that few visiting players seemed willing to take him on.

It was bewildering, to put it mildly, that Middlesbrough did not do more to take the match to their opponents during the early exchanges. A better side would surely have sought to undermine City's infamously brittle self-confidence. Instead, Gareth Southgate's team opted for a policy of containment and their sterile unadventurous football encouraged Pearce's men to press forward, take a territorial advantage and lift the crowd.

With their previous manager Steve McClaren watching from the stand, Middlesbrough did not muster a single attack worthy of the description during the opening 45 minutes. City, in comparison, created half a dozen presentable opportunities without playing particularly well. Pearce, indeed, was entitled to be disappointed that they accepted only one of their chances, Dunne leaping above a bunch of static Lee Cattermole to head in Joey Barton's corner. From a Middlesbrough perspective, it was a dreadfully soft goal to concede. From City's point of view, the relief was palpable.

The exaltation would have been even greater had the referee Howard Webb penalised Robert Huth's handball when blocking a Claudio Reyna shot shortly after the restart. Instead the penalty appeal was turned down and Middlesbrough slowly began to play with a modicum more adventure.

Even then, they struggled to find any width or penetration, Stewart Downing having a frustrating evening in front of McClaren, though far from the only one to suffer.

City continued to look the more dangerous side, barring a few nervous moments towards the end when the substitute Massimo Maccarone struck the same post on two separate occasions.

It was a victory born of desire, City's attitude epitomised by Paul Dickov, their limited but forever willing striker. But it needs a bad side to make them look comfortable - and Gareth Southgate duly provided one.

Get Your Kits Out View : A win is a win is a win as they say. Not a match to remember but is a match with Middlesbrough as opposition ever a match to remember, I don't think so. The effort tonight was unmistakable but let's not kid ourselves that this was anything more than a hard won contest that could easily have ended up 1-1. Massimo Maccarone demonstrated what a class act he was and I think if he had been on the full 90 minutes things just might have been different. I was dismayed to see Thatcher back in our shirt tonight, he should have been sacked. Beasley and Reyna are clearly not up to standard and am I the only fan who thinks Richards would run riot in midfield. All in all more a relief than anything tonight but, let's judge the team on Saturdays match at the Valley to see if they really have upped the ante or

Man City: Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher, Beasley (Vassell 71), Barton, Reyna (Trabelsi 80), Sinclair, Dickov (Corradi 85), Samaras.
Subs Not Used: Hart, Hamann.

Booked: Dickov, Barton.

Goals: Dunne 23.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Parnaby (Bates 22), Woodgate, Huth, Pogatetz, Euell, Cattermole (Morrison 66), Boateng, Rochemback (Maccarone 74), Downing, Yakubu.
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Arca.

Booked: Pogatetz, Huth, Rochemback, Boateng.

Att: 36,720

Ref: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Wigan 4-0 Man City           Shambles at the JJB
Saturday 21st October 2006 :Andrew McKenzie for GYKO at the JJB Stadium

Wigan took advantage of a dreadful Manchester City performance to secure a first win in seven games.
Manchester City defender Richard Dunne (right) heads the ball past Nicky Weaver

They went ahead after just 67 seconds when Emile Heskey connected perfectly to fire home an Emmerson Boyce cross.

Less than three minutes later Richard Dunne inexplicably headed into his own net from Josip Skoko's free-kick.

Henri Camara took advantage of hesitancy by City's defence to score and Antonio Valencia added a fine fourth with a right-foot drive.

The win gives Wigan some breathing space at the foot of the table but the way the visitors collapsed will raise some questions for Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce. His side have now taken just five points from the 15 Premiership games on their travels since they were beaten 4-3 at the JJB Stadium on Boxing Day last year.

City never looked like improving that record once Heskey had put Wigan in front.

The big striker produced one of the only moments of quality in the game when he swung out his right leg to dispatch Boyce's centre past City keeper Nicky Weaver.

It was the 28-year-old's 96th goal on his 350th Premiership appearance.

And worse was to follow for City with just four minutes on the clock.

Skoko swung a free-kick into the box and, with no Wigan players attacking the ball, Weaver came out to gather  the cross but Dunne inexplicably glanced a header into the empty net.

It took 22 minutes for City to even manage an effort on target, and even that was an ugly effort well wide by the stumbling Bernardo Corradi.

City's frustrations were illustrated by bookings for Joey Barton and Dietmar Hamann for a couple of late lunges.

Paul Jewell's side were not at their best but they rarely needed to be as City's defence repeatedly came to their aid.

Paul Scharner seemed to have the freedom of the City box and could have had a hat-trick of headers.

Darius Vassell came off the bench to provide a brief moment of hope when he was played in by teenager Michael Johnson on his City debut, but the striker shot wide.

Two further goals in just over two minutes ensured just a second win of the season for Wigan.

They beautifully carved out their third but were given another helping hand by the City defence.

Leighton Baines started the move and then made an ambitious run into the box where he was picked out by Kevin Kilbane.

Baines' square ball should have been cleared by Stephen Jordan but Camara pounced on his half-hearted clearance to deflect past Weaver.

City's defence was nowhere to be seen moments later as Heskey picked out Valencia to stride into the box and drive into the bottom corner for his first goal in English football and complete City's misery.

It was the biggest victory for Wigan in their brief Premiership history and the heaviest defeat of Pearce's 19-month reign.

Get Your Kits Out View : After last Saturdays miserable performance you might have expected City to come out all fired up against a weakened Wigan side but no, it was no better. I now feel there are too many players in this team who are just not interested in anything other than picking up their undeserved pay cheques. If these were performance related then they would be drawing family benefit supplements to make up their income. Only Joey Barton for me looked remotely interested although Weaver was not to blame for any of the goals. Next week Middlesbrough at home could see another record low Premiership attendance at the COMSTAD. We are without doubt in big trouble with no solution on the horizon. I personally would unload Corradi, Sinclair, Hamann, Dabo,  Isaksson,  Distin (unless he signs his new contract), Thatcher, Rayna and Beasley and invest in a couple of decent players who don't spend half their careers in the treatment room. I'm well pissed off with them at the moment.

Wigan: Kirkland, Boyce, Hall, De Zeeuw, Baines, Valencia, Skoko, Scharner, Kilbane, Heskey, Camara. Subs: Pollitt, McCulloch, Landzaat, Teale, Webster.

Man City: Weaver, Mills, Richards, Dunne, Jordan, Sinclair, Johnson, Hamann, Barton, Samaras, Corradi. Subs: Hart, Vassell, Dickov, Onuoha, Laird.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire)


Manchester City  0 Sheffield United 0     Sad excuse for a game
Saturday October 15, 2006 : Stu James & GYKO at the City of Manchester Stadium

This match will live long in the memory for Joe Hart, the 19-year-old Manchester City goalkeeper who made his full debut, although for anyone else forced to endure such poor fare it will be quickly forgotten and, hopefully, never relived. Until the closing stages there was little evidence of the passion and commitment associated with the two managers, whose cuddly toys and lucky mascots accompanying them on the touchline must have wished they could have been spared the punishment.
City did manage to protect their unbeaten home record and have still yet to concede here this season although such statistics bring small comfort when faced with a side expected to be fighting relegation.
The urgency that placed the United defence under pressure in the final 15 minutes arrived too late, allowing the visitors to depart with their first away point of the season and move out of the relegation zone. It might have been more, but Rob Hulse saw his overhead kick rattle the crossbar and Alan Quinn volleyed narrowly over.

City were not without their own chances, most of them falling to Georgios Samaras who endured another frustrating afternoon. His hapless strike partner Bernardo Corradi fared no better and, much to the relief of the home fans, was withdrawn. In his place arrived Paul Dickov, although it was a midfielder and a defender who came closest to stealing a winner for City. Ishmael Miller headed wide from inside the six-yard box and Micah Richards was equally wasteful from a similar position with two minutes remaining.

Stuart Pearce was frustrated. 'I expected us to be better than that,' he said. 'But if I'm being honest, I thought Sheffield United deserved a point.' The City manager bemoaned his side's lack of creativity although it is doubtful

anyone would have taken advantage had the service into the final third improved. There was a lack of energy about City that enabled United, encouraged by their victory over Middlesbrough two weeks ago, to control the early exchanges. Even so, it was not until two minutes before the interval that the visitors threatened.

Hulse created a yard of space where there appeared to be none, hooking acrobatically against the woodwork. It was the first time Hart had reason to be concerned as United, constrained by a five-man midfield that made it difficult to move forward with purpose, failed to turn possession into clear-cut chances.

Indeed, Hart's only save before half-time was a tame shot from Quinn that he could have caught with his eyes closed. More space appeared behind the City defence late on, but United's breakaways lacked a cutting edge. 'I'm disappointed we haven't managed to get the three points,' said Neil Warnock.

He could be thankful to Samaras and Corradi that they at least departed with one. Corradi headed wide from a Joey Barton free-kick when unmarked in the first half and Samaras had one of those days when shots tended to go everywhere apart from on target.

Michael Tonge might have pilfered a late goal for United, but Richards timed his challenge to perfection, before referee Mike Dean brought an end to the misery inflicted on everyone, including 'Scottie' the teddy bear and 'Beanie' the horse.

Get Your Kits Out View : I could quite easily have gone to sleep today and if luck had been on my side I may have dreamt of those far off Maine Road days when things were much simpler. We had a go at the opposition in those times and, if we played well enough,  we had a good chance of winning. We usually had at least one player who was worth the admission money and many more who were proud to wear the light blue shirt. Sadly that is only a dream now, no special players other than our promising youngsters who we will probably sell on and no prospect at all of an entertaining team to watch in the near future. Let's face it we are in debt, in ept and in need of some fresh ideas. Unbeaten at home - I'd rather lose and see a decent performance any day.

Man City: Hart, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Jordan (Miller 45), Trabelsi, Barton, Hamann (Reyna 58), Sinclair, Samaras, Corradi (Dickov 70).
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Johnson.

Sheff Utd: Kenny, Bromby, Davis, Jagielka, Armstrong, Gillespie, Tonge, Leigertwood, Alan Quinn, Hulse, Kazim-Richards (Webber 72).
Subs Not Used: Morgan, Kabba, Kozluk, Nade.

Booked: Jagielka.

Att: 42,192.

Ref: M Dean (Wirral).


Everton  1  Manchester City  1        City's late late raid
Sunday October 1, 2006 : Stuart James at Goodison Park for GYKO

STUART PEARCE ought to have been celebrating a much-needed and rare away point but instead the Manchester City manager departed Everton cursing the irresponsibility of Joey Barton. The Liverpool-born midfielder reacted to taunts about his imprisoned brother by dropping his shorts in the direction of Everton fans at the final whistle. It was an immature and ill advised gesture that prompted a police officer to speak to Pearce at the end of the game. The police are expected to receive complaints about Barton's actions.

Pearce later claimed that he had not witnessed the incident, which followed Micah Richards' spectacular equaliser in the fourth minute of injury-time, though he vowed to investigate the video footage. 'I didn't come across it personally,' said the City manager. 'I have spoken to a member of the police force. They will deal with anything that occurs from the game. I think the timing of the goal probably had a lot to do with it. We will deal with anything that comes out from it once we have had a look at it.'
He has had more than enough disciplinary problems to contend with this term, having presided over the fall-out that followed Ben Thatcher's forearm smash into the head of Pedro Mendes during the first week of the season. However, he will awake this morning with his mind immediately focused on another act of ill discipline that will inevitably overshadow the improbable point that City garnered here to check Everton's momentum. In many ways the home side contributed to their own downfall.

The fourth official had signalled that three minutes of added time would be played as the game approached 90 minutes but the delay when Andy Johnson was substituted in injury time - the striker took a while to leave the field as he milked the deserved applause - prompted the referee Andre Marriner to add on another 60 seconds. It was during that period when Richards struck, hooking home a superb volley after Bernardo Corradi flicked on Sylvain Distin's hopeful punt up field.

The match ought to have been well beyond City's reach by then with Johnson, Tim Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Leon Osman all squandering presentable openings to extend the lead Everton pilfered on the stroke of half time. Johnson timed his run to the near post perfectly to meet Phil Neville's fine cross from the right, spearing a volley that took a slight deflection off Distin past Nicky Weaver for his sixth goal in seven matches for Everton. It was the only memorable moment of a soporific opening 45 minutes that had not been helped by City's negative tactics.

With Georgios Samaras foraging alone up front, City carried little attacking threat and it was not until Pearce introduced Corradi and DaMarcus Beasley that they began to push forward with any purpose. Then Samaras was liberated and he ought to have brought parity midway through the second half when Tim Howard failed to cleanly gather Barton's cross. The loose ball dropped to the feet of the Greece striker but he was unable to show the same level of precision as he did against West Ham the week before, steering wide a 12-yard shot wide with the goal gaping invitingly.

Everton were similarly wasteful, Lescott seeing his close-range header tipped over by Weaver and Cahill nodding wide from a similar position from the corner that followed as the home side sought to capitalise on City's need to chase the game. It was Johnson, though, who came closest to a second, prodding the ball goal bound from inside the six-yard box only for Richard Dunne, on the goal line, to turn it behind using his chest. It was a piece of defending as unorthodox as Richards' goal had been unexpected, though Barton, sadly, was intent on having the last word.

Get Your Kits Out View : Very much a backs to the wall performance today with SP's new blank sheet policy. That's OK at 0-0 but no good if you are one down. Weaver continues to impress but for me I would move Mica Richards to midfield, he would be in his element there and wouldn't go missing at the back. The rot seems to have been brought under control but don't hold your breath, this could easily have been 3-0.

Everton Howard, Neville, Yobo, Lescott, Nuno Valente, Osman,Carsley, Cahill, Arteta (Davies 89), Johnson (Weir 90),Beattie (Anichebe 81).

Subs Not Used: Wright, Van der Meyde.

Booked: Cahill, Nuno Valente.

Goals: Johnson 44.

Man City Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Sinclair,Barton, Hamann (Reyna 77), Ireland (Corradi 57),Miller (Beasley 66), Samaras.

Subs Not Used: Hart, Dickov.

Booked: Barton, Sinclair.

Goals: Richards 90.

Att: 38,250

Ref: A Marriner (W Midlands). Best ref of the season so far......



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