CITY 1 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 0
Nationwide Division One
11th December 2001
City Nash, Mettomo, Wiekens, Dunne, Wright-Phillips, Benarbia, Berkovic, Tiatto, Horlock, Huckerby Goater – subs Negouai(67), Granville(45), Ritchie(84), Murphy(unused), Killen(unused)
Wolves Oakes, Muscat, Lescot, Butler, Naylor, Newton, Rae, Cameron, Camara, Blake, Sturridge- subs Proudlock(79), Robinson(80), Pollet(44), Roussel(unused), Murray(unused)
‘SUPER KEVIN HORLOCK’ IS THE HERO FOR CITY AS HE GETS THE ONLY GOAL OF THE GAME
WHAT THE PRESS SAID
Come April, when titles are handed out and Premiership riches stuffed into the bank account, it is a sure bet that more than one game such as this will be logged in the memory Pretty it certainly wasn’t, but a glance at the league table doesn’t provide any pictures and the Blues were eventually value for the three points against a team that looks sure to be one of their main rivals for the rest of the campaign.
Even with ten men for more than half the contest, courtesy of Joleon Lescott’s dismissal for clattering Ali Benarbia, the well-organised visitors made slightly off—key City work exceptionally hard for their win. And, in all honesty Kevin Keegan’s side didn’t help itself much either For 20 minutes City played as if the pre-match fog was still shrouding Maine Road.
Dozens of passes, even of the simplest variety found their way to the feet of grateful Wolverhampton players who, as often as not, quickly returned the compliment.
It was mightily frustrating, but all that changed in the 20th minute with one piece of dead-ball magic from the left boot of Kevin Horlock. The Northern Ireland international bent a 22 yarder around the Wolves wall and in off Kevin Muscat’s flailing knee.
There was some justice attached to the goal, for the free-kick had been awarded when Alex Rae brought down Darren Huckerby in full flight. He was booked for the tackle and then fortunate that he was not despatched back to the warmth of the dressing room when he threw the ball in the face of Eyal Berkovic.
The combative Rae was, though, not the only player to fall foul of the referee’s one card trick. City’s Huckerby was booked for a seventh minute foul on Kevin Muscat when the decision could have easily gone the other way It was the striker’s fifth yellow of the season and means he will not have a merry Christmas, on the pitch at least, for he faces an automatic one match ban for the Boxing Day visit of West Brom.
So it was, not for the first time this season (or even in the past week) the officiating left more than a little to be desired. Indeed, referee Riley was so fussy that when one looked up his forenames one half expected to discover Old and Mother rather than Mike. His whistle contributed to the stop—start nature of the contest, but then so did the fact that the .Blues talented engine room was not firing on all cylinders. Both Benarbia and Berkovic were struggling to exert their creative influence as their toils on three away grounds in eight days began to take effect on their legs. So It was not surprising that both were substituted before the end and that Keegan immediately announced a couple of days off time that will be needed to freshen minds and bodies before the televised clash with Bradford on Sunday afternoon.
The big plus of the night for the City chief, other than the three points that hoisted his team into an automatic promotion slot, was the form of Richard Dunne. The big Irishman’s timing off the pitch has got him into trouble this season, but on it he has been impeccable and Republic boss Mick McCarthy should take note. His heroics last night began early in the piece when he plonked his sizable frame in the way of Shaun Newton’s fizzing volley from the edge of the box and peaked in the 65th minute when, with Mohamed Camara clean through, he made up acres of ground to produce a heroic saving block. Not that Dunne was lighting a lone battle at the back where Mettomo and Wiekens also deserved their clean sheet.
It was the Dutchman who was the saviour in the 18th minute when Nathan Blake got behind Carlo Nash and flashed a centre along the goal-line. All night it was easy to comprehend why Wolves possess the meanest defensive record in the division, for they rarely came out of their collective shell. Even when a goal behind they preferred graft over craft and trying to hit City on the break. How they missed the creative talents of one Mark Kennedy who sat out the game with a bad hamstring and is now to be packed off to Germany for specialist treatment.
Wolves, who have also found it hard to score goals this term, should have been made to pay further for their deep defending when,. within 60 seconds of Horlock’s strike, Berkovic put Huckerby through one-on-one with Michael Oakes, Shaun Goater too, was wide of the mark when Benarbia, otherwise having a rare off-day set Wright-Phillips free down the right to pull the ball back to the near post.
Wolves’ chances of a dramatic comeback all but disappeared down the tunnel with England youth international Joleon Lescott who was sent off for a 42nd minute lunge that sent Benarbia spinning over the touchline. After that, there was plenty of shuffling of personnel but the game didn’t improve. Wright-Phillips brought a scrambling stop out of Oakes with a low shot but one goal proved enough for the Blues to end their 17 year winless drought against Wolves
FROM MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS BY CHRIS BAILEY AND PAUL HINCE