Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Sunday January 30 2011
The pitch today reminded me of the quagmires we used see in the days before Stan Gibson took a grip at Maine Road and it was in a different world to those prepared by Roy and Lee and their team at Eastlands. Players having to tip-toe through the tulips to keep their footing on a surface that needed pitons rather than studs. Both teams began brightly, County getting a free kick that left Hart scampering across the dodgy surface with the ball going wide.
City's line up had a Europa League look about it, but with Dzeko up front, undoubtedly hoping to get his scoring account under way against lower league opposition.
Yaya should have done better from Richards rampaging run and cross in the eighth minute and Milner should have done more with the corner. Barry was starting to look more comfortable on the ball than he had last week at Villa. But he should against opposition of this nature.
Milner's flattening on the 25 by Harley resulted in Edwards getting a yellow card. It was taken short and came to nothing.
Having got away with the foul on Milner Harley set about Richards down the right and must have been on his way to a 'persistent infringement' caution. Once again Chris Foy was generous.
Vieira was governing the 'guv'nor's' boys with alomst everything starting at his door, but neither team was getting into a real stride. It was true David and Goliath cup-tie stuff. Indeed a team containing the names Bishop, Gow and Hughes wasn't going to lie down was it?
City started to boss possession after the first quarter and a poor touch from Milner closed a door that Dzeko had opened.
The match did flow from end to end, County using a mixture of route one and out wide but didn't really test City. Likewise despite huge amounts of possession and as last week couldn't find anything up top. Milner provided a number of good crosses which didn't find anybody in the box and Jo and Dzeko looked at time to be making similar runs, leaving one stick or the other empty.
County would have been delighted to get to half time on equal terms, City and the 4000 fans populating the popular side were not.
County tried to up the tempo in the early stages of the second half and it was more a case of City playing at their level rather than vice-versa. City looked strong but really didn't threaten. They did however look resolute at the back with Boateng looking far better suited to centre half than right back.
The expensive stars in the midfield were not doing a great deal and Vieira, the cheapest of them all was showing the way. Richards went steaming down the wing but his cross bounced unkindly for Dzeko.
At the other end Westcarr's effort from the edge of the box was straight at Hart.
City lacked creativity as once again the ex-Villa brigade couldn't find any. Why do we still after all these years have nobody outside the far post on corners? It is an area of the field that is often empty and anybody stationed there will get a chance for a header or at least take a player out of the middle.
And there it was just before the hour. Gow to Bishop 1-0. What was Hart doing? More intent on pushing people around than defending his goal. What was Dzeko doing? If you come back Edin get heading it!
Time for Silva, time for something creative...we hoped! Also time to start winding down the clock for County.
Silva started to make a difference straight away and Dzeko had another headed chance. Great performance by Pearce in keeping the shackles on the Bosnian.
Hughes could have ended the tie after 67 mins heading wide under a challenge from Zabaleta with the bigger lads picking up nobody.
Then Richards carved out a chance which Harley blocked, this time legally. Barry put in a good shot which was tipped over by the keeper.
Lescott's doziness almost let County in but he recovered to concede another corner. City cleared but had nobody pressing the County backline. Moments later Milner was lucky to escape with a yellow after jumping at Martin.
So another banana skin was looming in the catastrophic history of City in the Cup. The County fans were in full voice telling Mancini he was 'getting sacked in the morning' whilst the frustrated City fans were patiently waiting to do the Poznan.
Another attacked fizzled out with laziness from Milner. The edge of the County box was getting heavily populated but there was still no threat.
And so in the 80th minute a clever trick by Richards skinned Harley and a peach of a cross to the six yard line found Dzeko who duly opened his account for City setting off the Poznan on the popular side.
It was probably the only time Pearce let Dzeko off the hook. At long last 'Blue Moon' became audible.
County wouldn't lie down. A chance fell to Edwards and Richards did well to put him off. The resultant injury ended Richards day as Kompany came on to try to see out the match but a weak header almost let in Westcarr. Hughes also got in front of Lescott but headed wide from Hawley's cross.
So an Eastlands payday for County who fully deserved a second go at this tie. But questions have to asked of City. Why do we set up so defensively against a team positioned 18th in League One when we have multimillion pound players in every slot and County field a team that cost nothing. If we'd have played wide from the start and got crosses in early Dzeko would in the end have had a hat trick. Why is Yaya not rampaging through the third division midfield and stamping a mark on the game?
Although it made great live TV for the likes of Adrian Chiles this was once again poor from City's point of view. Milner has shown me enough for him to be an early candidate for the exit chute. He is awful. I've said before if he is as high energy as he's supposed to be then he should take over in the absence of Tevez, chasing down and making things happen. He looks like a wage collector to me. Barry and Yoyo should have taken the midfield by the scruff of the neck but they didn't. No Johnson, no supply until that great cross by Richards.
OK it was only against lowly opposition but Richards had a good game. He looks in better shape these days having selected not to become the second Incredible Hulk. I have been his harshest critic but if he genuinely wants to prove me wrong I'm up for that.
I would like to see Boateng play centre half in the Premier League. He looked very comfortable in there.
Mr Hart...concentration is the name of your game. Do not follow someone to push them for a second time then leave your goal unattended.
And the draw?....Aston Villa, if we win! A return to last week?
Date:Sunday January 30 2011
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