Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Wednesday December 27 2006
Stuart Pearce earned himself some breathing space as the blues came away from Sheffield with all three points in what was just their second away win of the season.
The significance of this game cannot be underestimated. Three straight defeats had thrown City onto the outskirts of the relegation fight and defeat here would have left them just 2 points clear of West Ham, City's next opponents. As it is City will now go into Saturday's game 5 points clear with a chance to put clear daylight between themselves and the bottom three. That is probably too simplistic a summation when talking of City but they deserve that chance on the back of a hard fought victory at Bramall Lane.
Despite Neil Warnock's post match bluster that City took a hammering this was a well earned victory at a ground where few points have things there own way. Pearce changed things around in terms of personnel and formation and got a response, albeit far from flowing, after the Bolton debacle.
Both teams had good shouts for penalties in the first half with United's Kozluk particularly fortunate to get away with his punched clearance off the line from a Richards header.
The football on show was far from vintage but City knuckled down and showed some fight, an aspect that was missing on Saturday. No score at half time was a fair reflection with both keepers making saves, Paddy Kenny getting fortunate when a Dabo shot bobbled and smacked him in the face. At least this smack won't have met with disapproval from his manager unlike a recent incident.
United dominated in terms of possession in the second half but it was City creating the better chances. Samaras missed the best chance when he fired wide for a throw in with the goal at his mercy. That perhaps sums up City's strikers this season and it came as no surprise that the goal, when it did come, came from a midfielder. The identity of the midfielder was a little more surprising. For once it wasn't Barton grabbing the plaudits, step forward instead Stevie Ireland with his first senior goal for the blues. Samaras did well to cushion the ball down for Ireland to shoot and the youngster delivered from the edge of the box. He had been threatening to score recently and this will do his confidence no harm.
United huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser but have striker problems of their own if this game is anything to go by. City were able to hang on without to much difficulty for a vital win.
All in all a vital win in a must win game. The pressure is off Pearce for a short while but he really needs his team to deliver in the next two games. There is an opportunity to escape the relegation scrap. City need to take it as they don't do relegation fights very well.
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Date:Wednesday December 27 2006
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