CITY 0 WIMBLEDON 4
Nationwide League Division 1
29th September 2001
scorers Connolly(23 pen, & 35), Shipperley(83 & 90)
City Weaver, Wiekens, Pearce, Howey, Dunne, Etuhu, Benarbia, Tiatto, Granville, Goater, Huckerby – subs Colosimo(69), Horlock(63), Toure(45), Nash(unused), Shuker(unused)
Wimbledon Davis, Holloway, Cunningham, Brown, Darlington, McAnuff, Roberts, Hughes, Cooper, Agyemang, Connolly – sub Shipperley(63), Nielsen(90), Kimble(unused), Leigertwood(unused), Heald(unused)
What The Press Said
KEVIN Keegan’s Maine Road fortress today lies in ruins.
The edifice can be reconstructed but it will not be if the bungling Blues’ display of collective ineptitude against a makeshift Wimbledon is swept under the carpet as a blip.
It would be better for all concerned if that could be the case, but there is something wrong at the heart of a Manchester City side that can win 6-2 on one Saturday and lose 4-0 the next.
And heart could be the key word, for that was one of the missing ingredients from this supine, lolling, lackadaisical almost frigid effort in front of 32,000 customers who, quite frankly, deserved much better.
It was, in essence, a half-hearted effort that threw up a series of questions that demand quick answers.
Chief among them has to be whether the manager genuinely thinks Darren Huckerby is the best man to replace the injured Paulo Wanchope for the next six weeks.
But there are other queries, too.
Fans want to know why Steve Howey is not looking the dominant force he was last season? Is the defensive set-up geared too much around Stuart Pearce? What is Simon Colosimo’s best position? Is it time for Dickson Etuhu to have a rest? What has happened to Nick Weaver’s kicking? And why isn’t Richard Dunne playing in the middle, which is clearly his best position?
Keegan needs time to come up with the solutions but he is also racing the clock in trying to get the Blues back into the Premiership at the first attempt.
Buying to cover deficiencies might be one ansWer but new faces take time to gell. City already have a massive squad and, anyway none of the really top sides have spent their way to the head of the table.
Passion could be the key ingredient to gettng out of the Nationwide League and City didn’t show nearly enough of it against Wimbledon. They have the skill and the technique to win the First Division by a street but that isn’t enough. They have to ditch any superiority complex and battle.
Changing the shape of the side – it was pear on Saturday – could be another answer but players, not systems, win matches.
The striking situation is, though, a conundrum that will not go away now that Wanchope finds himself in need of an urgent cartilage operation. The question on that subject goes something like this.
Does Huckerby’s pace or Alioune Toure’s raw promise really compensate fully for Paul Dickov’s experience, passion and work rate – especially away from home?
Keegan acknowledges that the Scot is one of the best professionals at the club.
He has his deficiencies, City fans know that, but no one would sweat more for the cause and that is what was missing on Saturday
Added to that, Goater and Dickov have a proven track record and with top-class suppliers in Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic they might just flourish. On Saturday, whether by design or choice, Huckerby operated almost as an ersatz winger when he might have been better employed using his pace down the middle.
Wimbledon had a simple plan and it worked. Stop Benarbia and you stop City. The home side’s invincibility thus evaporated. The Algerian could never at any stage impose himself on proceedings, although the Blues were well in command in the opening stages when, but for Kelvin Davis in the visitors’ goal, they might have been two or three goals to the good.
Dunne, Huckerby and Goater were all thwarted at various stages in a bright spell.
After young Etuhu’s blistering 20th-minute shot was blocked inadvertently by Goater, Wimbledon waltzed up the other end and took the lead.
Former Blue Michael Hughes strode clear to drive in a shot that Nick Weaver parried and when the rebound fell to ex-Stockport winger Kevin Cooper, Benarbia caught the Wimbledon man’s ankles.
Referee Mike Brandwood, who was as hopeless as City, pointed to the spot and David Connolly converted.
That advantage had been doubled at the break thanks to Connolly’s free header from six yards.
The second-half revival, eagerly anticipated, never arrived. Toure made his debut as a substitute when Dunne succumbed to a calf strain, but he couldn’t find the final ball to match his trickery and pace.
Substitute Neil Shipperly emerged to score twice late in the game and give the final score an uneven look.
FROM MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS BY CHRIS BAILEY AND PAUL HINCE