Date:Saturday February 13 2010
The magic of the F.A Cup has certainly waned recently, none more so than the disappointing attendance at Eastlands today. Only 28,000 endured a lethargic Cup encounter where Ricardo Fuller equalised to earn Stoke a replay. Previously Shaun Wright Phillips had pounced on several calamitous efforts to put the hosts 1-0 up.
Throughout the competition the attendances have consistently decreased across the Premiership grounds. The Premier League looks to have taken priority and with the credit crunch still having a stranglehold on the viewer`s wallets, it`s the magic of the F.A Cup that has taken the majority of the hit.
The recent encounters at Eastlands proved pivotal today with many fans opting to stay home instead of watching the laborious attempts of football. Mancini`s Italian Stallion style consisting of negative football, three defensive midfielders and the reluctance to persist with the creative players hit home today with the fans who decided to brave the cold hitting out at the odd tactical decisions. A home Cup Tie against Stoke should hopefully create a fantastic atmosphere with admirable football being played. The gritty and organised display from Stroke proved too difficult to break down and they were well rewarded as Fuller broke free and his 6 yard header defeated Given.
The tempo and urgency under Mancini has been heavily criticised with our fluent attacking play repeatedly put on hold and substituted for a laid-back and cautious approach.
However, the approach instilled by Mancini for the F.A Cup 5th round tie differed from the usual set-up. An Attacking midfield trio including Ireland, SWP and Petrov brought great reward early on with all three combining to unleash Adebayor and his predatory instinct. The 20,000 waiting at home, expecting the usual set-up would have been disappointed as we had been treated early-on to some breath-taking football. The timely return for fans favourite Shaun Wright Phillips gave the on looking fans something to applaud early on. An exquisite chipped ball from Ireland found the rampaging Wright-Phillips. The winger took the ball in his stride and headed towards goal, cue bloopers of the season. After looking to clear the danger, Shawcross chose this moment to combine an air-kick and a deft header allowing SWP the easiest of finishes from 3 yards.
City continued to press and the fluent football we hoped for was in full flow. Wayne Bridge, revitalised, also added a further dimension to the Blues attack.
With half-tie approaching hopefully we wouldn`t have been left rueing earlier opportunities.
he half time whistle blew, the anxiety and recent bad-will down to depressing home performances looked to vanish quickly.
The team looked destined to enter another Cup Quarter Final this season, the crowd hoping for more of the same. Despite a pleasing and attacking first half display the animosity and nerves looked to set amongst players, staff and fans. One goal certainly looked enough, Stoke performed efficiently but couldn`t boast any superior chances. With 3 players injured for Stoke it was the arrival of hooker Rory Delap that gave the away side the greatest opportunity of forcing the tie into a replay. Delap operated along the right touchline but was desperately itching to take one of his trademark throw-in`s. The opportunity fell to Delap and the usual procedure continued. A deep throw into the City box brought confusion and as no defender wanted to deal with the rocket throw the ball fell to Fuller, who 6 yards home and un-marked nodded home.
The gloom and desperation was back, we retreaded into our shells and the odd break from SWP wasn`t enough. Crying out for more urgency we were dealt a hammer blow. The cautious approach, bewildering substitutions and strange tactical displays were back and unsurprisingly they proved not enough for any strong home chances.
Stoke forced a replay not one our tissue paper squad looks set to relish. Fury as well as the usual disappointment had no crept into the fans armoury, some looking for a Mancini replacement already.
his was clearly not expected and another fixture is not needed in this crucial period especially at the Britannia stadium.
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Date:Saturday February 13 2010
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