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01/02: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 20/01/02
Manchester City
Bad luck
By Tim Tweddell

In 1999, I missed the Play-off Final because of illness; in 2000, I was at the Burnley game which was postponed due to a downpour; in 2001, I was preparing to go to the game at Millwall when it was called off due to a fire; in 2002, I got the local flu which was going around and missed the Arsenal game and the rescheduled match at Millwall.

A steady diet of Dequadin throat tablets and Veno's Cough Syrup for ten days, just about had me fit enough to brave the rain for the match against Manchester City.

My enjoyment of the fireworks was dampened by the announcement of the team. I was looking forward to seeing Okon and Pennant for the first time, but dismayed that we had no defensive substitutes. Why? Is it because we haven't got any to speak of? Issa away on international duty, Robinson injured, Blondeau unavailable for some reason, and no-one in the reserves good enough to risk, apparently, even on the bench. Maybe we can swap two midfielders for a defender.

The early injury to Cox was thus a major embarrassment. Helguson, as usual, was sent on to fill a space, and did his best to fit the bill at right wing back. Interesting that on one of the few occasions he got forward, he set up a goal for Tommy Smith.

A difficult pitch and a difficult opponent, full of tricks and movement, but we played as well as we could, which is all you can ask for. Although City were better than us, technically, our battling performance could have earned a draw. Helguson's unfortunate own goal gave City a win they barely deserved: that's what happens when you ask strikers to play a defensive role.

In the last desperate throw, Galli went off to be replaced by Noble, with Okon dropping back into the defence. Given the way he played throughout the game, and in this last five minutes, this may have been the better option 71 minutes earlier, when Cox left the field.

All in all, a fine team performance. The problems are elsewhere.