Barnsley v Manchester City 2001/02


Nationwide League Division 1

31st October 2001

Attendance 15,159

Scorers Goater(14), Pearce(36), Huckerby(45)

City Weaver, Mettomo, Pearce, Howey, Dunne, Wright-Phillips, Benarbia, Berkovic, Tiatto, Goater, Huckerby – subs Shuker(70), Dickov(77), Colosimo(unused), Nash(unused), Granville(87)

Barnsley Miller, Regan, Morgan, Chettle, Barker, Lumsdon, Sand, Tinkler, Bernard, Dyer, Gallen – sub Fallon(63), Mulligan(45), Neil(45), Gorre(unused), Marriott(unused)


Blues Take One Match At A Time
IT might prove to be yet another false dawn, of course. The only safe prediction you can make about Manchester City is that you never know what tomorrow will bring. So let’s not tempt providence by suggesting that Kevin Keegan’s promotion bandwagon is finally up and running. Let’s play safe, as Keegan does himself,and take it one match at a time until the true pattern of City’s season has been established. And on that basis it is safe, and easy to predict what the future holds for English soccer’s great unpredictables on the strength of last night’s display against Barnsley For if King Kevin’s side can consistently reproduce the display turned on in the first half at Oakwell, an instant return to the Premiership next May isn’t just a possibility . . . it’s a cast iron certainty.
Those dazzling opening 45 minutes were a Halloween performance from the Blues simply bursting with tricks and treats . . . the best sustained burst of inventive attacking soccer of Keegan’s Maine Road reign by a country mile.
Any doubts that Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic could be accommodated in the same side were swept aside as the two little midfield maestros orchestrated a first-half performance which would have destroyed far better sides than Barnsley who quite simply didn’t know what hit them. 
Three-up by half-time and it should have been six. Yes, the gulf in class between the two sides really was that immense. Ali B and Berkovic were running riot. Darren Huckerby was unstoppable. Shaun Goater was deadly Even Stuart Pearce got his name on the scoresheet, which must say something about City’s total dominance.
By the time the interval Bovril was being sipped it was no longer a question of whether City would win . . . but by how many The shellshocked and subdued Barnsley fans would happily have settled for the round half-dozen. The singin’ and dancin’ travelling army from Maine Road were dreaming of double figures. And then the Blues took off their horror masks and devil costumes and decided it was time for the Halloween party to end.
What transformed a first-half feast into a second—half famine? You pays your money and you takes your choice. Keegan rather tetchily insisted that his side hadn’t taken their foot off the accelerator pedal with the comfort of a three-goal cushion and preferred to credit Barnsley for raising their game after the break. That’s as good an explanation as any Whatever the reasons the second half was strictly a non-event. Resembling for all the world a contest between one side which knew it had done enough against another side which had neither the imagination nor the quality to do anything about it.
So let’s not dwell on that mind-numbing second half. Let’s savour instead that opening 45·minute display from Keegan’s side which had “Premiership” stamped right through it. The blistering pace of the jet—heeled Huckerby had already reduced the Barnsley defenders to nervous wrecks by the time the Blues launched yet another sweet-passing attack after 14 minutes to take the lead. Aussie dynamo Danny Tiatto must have been watching Benarbia and Berkovic at work as he threaded a glorious pass to the feet of Huckerby out on the eft. From then on it was child’s play A shift-up of the gears took Huckerby clear of two leaden·footed defenders. A cross to the far post was met by the unmarked Goater And the Goat gobbles up chances like that for breakfast. One sure touch and goal number 17 of the season was in the bag.
For all their dominance, the Blues had their dodgy moments. Referee Joslin kindly chose to ignore Pearce’s obvious handball inside the box from a Barnsley corner And Nick Weaver’s save from a stinging Peter Sand drive was top—class and important. But those were only blips on the – chart because the Tykes were all but dead and buried when Pearce increased City’s lead ten minutes from the interval. Mind you, the intent about the strike from the Blues skipper is highly debatable. Let’s be kind and say he meant to curl his right-wing corner kick through a forest of legs and straight into the net. Yeah. And my name is Tom Cruise.
The game was effectively over as a contest . . . well, literally over as a contest as events proved . . . when Huckerby struck a minute before the interval to underline City’s superiority with the third goal. There was simply nothing on when deadly Darren gathered a long punt up-field with two defenders blocking his path to goal. But when you are in the sort of rich scoring vein that Huckerby is enjoying, all things are possible. He simply chose to ignore his markers. Good strategy that. The two red- shirted defenders were left red-faced as Huckerby raced clear to calmly plant a left-foot volley into the bottom corner of the net. Pace to die for Confidence at sky- high level and eight goals in his last seven outings. I think it is fair to say that Messrs Huckerby and Keegan were made for each other And at least in the first half at Oakwell last night, Keegan’s side looked made for the Premiership.
All King Kev needs to do now is to get his team playing like that for the full 90 minutes every week and . . . bingo! The Big Time here we come.  

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